The Wicken Fen Vision will create a vast space, not only for wildlife, but also for walkers, cyclists and horseriders to enjoy, with traffic free routes being joined by a series of new bridges, that will link Wicken Fen to surrounding villages, Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge and Ely. The main long distance cycle and bridle path, known as Lodes Way, after the local waterways, was opened in September 2010.
The National Trust originally bought 2 acres of undrained fenland at Wicken, in 1899, for £10. The motive was to preserve a natural area, principally for academic study.
The holding now extends to several hundred acres, across several parishes, which is mostly managed by extensive grazing. The scheme is not without it's opponents, amongst local people, with objections ranging from loss of valuable arable land and traditional access routes to concern about the proliferation of weeds, flies, mosquitos and tourist traffic.
On the plus side, there is a considerable increase in the range of wild birds visiting and nesting in the area, which many people find is a welcome break from the intensive farming techniques employed in the fen.
However, the National Trust seem to have little regard for local people, as they continuously attempt to obstruct the existing paths through the fen that link local villages. They seem to take the view that creating a single vast grazing area for their Highland Cattle and Koniks should take preference over the needs and existing rights of the local peasants.
Whilst claiming these animals are the best choice for managing the land, they have consistantly failed to answer requests to provide any sound scientific evidence for this. The fact is that Koniks and Highlands were conveniently available at the time. There is nothing to suggest that indigenous breeds like say, New Forest, or Dartmoor ponies would not do just as well, or even more exotic creatures such as zebra or giraffe!
Whilst few people would object to the notion of a nature reserve, the way it is being imposed on the local people, with the loss of access to so many paths, is causing a huge amount of resentment. The National Trust have even had the cheek to suggest putting cattle grids on Harrison's Drove, which has recently been won as a bridlepath after many years of campaigning.
The National Trust may do a reasonable job of managing stately homes, but they seem to have little idea when it comes to creating a nature reserve compatible with the existing needs and rights of the local population!