For those who have never been, Wicken Fen is a National Trust owned nature reserve in Cambridgeshire fens. You can find it between Newmarket and Ely. Fens are natural marshland, most of which were drained for agriculture. Wicken fen is managed to maintain the native habitat.
What is there to see at Wicken Fen?
Aside from acres upon acres of flat fen and farmland, there is actually quite a lot to see. If you choose to walk around the boardwalks (see below), you will see one of the wind pumps that in past times covered the landscape to prevent the land from flooding. There are several bird hides and a lot of reed beds. There are many walks and cycle routes around Wicken Fen.
If you head out further from the gift shop, you may find the semi-wild horses brought in to maintain the land. All manor of ditches and drains crisscross the reserve, and you will probably bump into a few sculptures along the way. The National Trust also maintains several geocaches across a wide area.
How to Visit Wicken Fen
We live really close to Wicken Fen (on drained farmland), so we’ve been a few times. Most recently, in September, we rented bikes and a trailer to explore. I thought I would share with you three of the best ways to experience Wicken Fen. I’ve indicated the level of difficulty based on being a family of four that doesn’t exercise enough.
1. Wicken Fen – Walk Around the Boardwalks (Easy)
The easiest way to get around (especially if you’re a National Trust member) is to head through the gift shop and onto the boardwalks. If you are a member, it’s free. It’s a pleasant walk, taking in wind pumps and bird hides. Plus it’s completely flat and almost entirely along boardwalks, so accessible to all in all weathers. The boardwalks are the best way to see the fenland habitat.
Recently they have extended the network of pathways in the part of the reserve to include a woodland walk and den building area. All the Wicken Fen walks are short and child-friendly. Ideal for a crisp winter walk or for some serious exploring in summer. The de building area (50 Things Area) has a playground formed from natural building materials. The kids loved it here, despite the mud.
Before you head out on your walk in this part of Wicken Fen nature reserve take a minute to stop by the kids’ area in the visitor centre. There is a table with crafts and colouring for the little ones. Better than that though is the microscope set up with interesting things from nature to look at. There are also bags to borrow with spotter’s guides and kid’s binoculars.
2. Wicken Fen – Walk Along the Cycle Paths (Medium)
This is actually really easy too. The main difference from the first way is you can walk much further. The National Trust owns a lot of land in this area, so the cycle paths are extensive and being cycle paths they are flat and well maintained. The other difference from the boardwalks is the cost. If you are not a National Trust member, you will have to pay to use the car park but other than that it is free to walk here.
3. Wicken Fen – Cycle Along the Cycle Paths
We rented bikes from the entrance and headed out on what I thought would be an easy route along perfect, flat cycle paths. I made a terrible choice of route. Also, the kids weren’t quite as happy in the trailer as I expected. We had fun (mostly), but it’s not an exaggeration to say we were thrilled to find ourselves passing one of our favourite pubs so we could stop for a well-earned rest towards the end. The lesson here – don’t be over-ambitious with your route if you haven’t ridden a bike in a while.
Facilities at Wicken Fen
- Car Park (Free to members only)
- Gift Shop
- Cycle Hire
Cambridgeshire National Trust
Cambridgeshire has many National Trust properties to visit, including nearby Anglesey Abbey. It is well worth becoming a member if you enjoy getting outdoors and love history and nature. I have a post on all the special places to visit in Cambridgeshire here.
For more information about attractions in and around Cambridge click here.