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Open Country
Sat  6.10 - 6.35am
Thurs 1.30 - 2.00pm (rpt)
Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
This week
Saturday 15th September 2007
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Wicken Lode Cambridgeshire
Helen Mark visits Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire, a very special place, at a very poignant time and in the company of one of the pioneers of modern conservation.
Boasting around seven thousand eight hundred species, with about eighteen hundred of those being flies, Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire is perhaps one of the most important wetlands in Europe. Owned by the National Trust, not only is it the one of the UK’s oldest nature reserves, it is also one of the most studied, since its vicinity to Cambridge makes it an ideal outdoor laboratory for research.

Helen’s visit is made even more special because her boat journey through the reeds is in the company of  Stuart Warrington of the National Trust and Norman Moore, a world authority on dragonflies and as a contemporary of the late Sir Peter Scott, one of the pioneers of the modern conservation movement. His book ‘The Bird of Time’ has made a major contribution to the scientific and political debate of nature conservation over the last 50 years.

This is also a very special time for Wicken Fen because the National Trust is in the process of acquiring more land, so that amongst other reasons, rare species might have a chance to survive climate change and residents in the rapidly growing city of Cambridge can enjoy its wildness.

Unlike many areas further north, the fen men at Wicken were able to resist any attempts to drain the land and they continued to live off the fens, shooting wildfowl, digging peat and cutting reeds. Its rich wildlife was then recognised by the Victorian entymologists who soon realised that this one of the few remaining areas where they could collect their specimens. The fen men would gain an extra income by acting as guides and they also set up a postal service which involved sending live pupae in the post which on arrival would hatch and then be pinned to a collector’s board, but in pristine condition!

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