Restoring our Fenland Heritage - the purchase and restoration of the Holmewood Estate

Volunteers working on the Great Fen landscape

Making a difference

How the project achieved HLF’s outcomes for heritage

  • Around 1,229 hectares of new habitat has been created, including reedbed, fen, open water, grazing marsh and lowland meadow. The pace of rewilding is dramatic with key species quickly colonising newly restored habitat.

  • Rare breeds are being conserved through graziers’ choice of cattle such as British White, Red Lincoln and Belted Galloway.

  • The project is helping to develop strategic approaches to dealing with climate change. The improved physical access has led to new practical solutions for water storage and water movement, not only for habitat management but also for flood control. The project is part of a European initiative to create new responses to climate change thanks to its work in piloting innovative wetland agricultural practices while achieving conservation management outcomes.

How the project achieved HLF’s outcomes for people

  • Volunteers have taken part in activities including habitat and species monitoring and recording, as well as conservation skills. They have given around 6,500 volunteer hours each year, and there is high demand from volunteers for training in specialist skills, such as biological recording.

  • Each year around 1,500 students have learnt about the fen landscape. A lively education programme has included themed interactive events involving stories, sounds and images, a Great Fen Superhero Award, a ‘Little Bugs’ programme for toddlers, and an award-winning ‘Fen Time Travellers’ programme.

  • More teachers have confidence to deliver heritage-based learning as a result of the project’s ’Step Outside’ teacher training programme, which includes training sessions, individual support and free resources.

  • More people have enjoyed the Great Fen project through a range of engagement activities. These include a regular e-newsletter, an interactive website, regular rambles and talks, woodcraft days, a Great Fen archaeology group, a Great Fen local history group and one-off events for a variety of different audiences.

  • People have improved access opportunities following the development of routes for all-terrain wheelchairs, better signage, links between paths and car parks, seven walking and cycling trails, and a new look-out observatory.

How the project achieved HLF’s outcomes for communities

  • Older people have shared in the project through regular reminiscence sessions in local care homes.

  • The local economy is beginning to benefit through new opportunities for farmers and graziers as well as employment opportunities through small rural enterprises and tourism. A Great Fen Business Forum has been created, contributing to a shared economic strategy for the Great Fen. Visitor infrastructure is being increased including a Great Fen information point and marked trails.

Lessons learnt

  • Communicating the benefits of rewetting and rewildling at a landscape scale by removing land from food growing was challenging.

  • The need for a sound understanding of the hydro-ecological needs and workings of the wetland system was essential, as well as strong governance for such a complex project.

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