Chippenham Fen IPA

Location: Cambridgeshire, 6km north of Newmarket between Chippenham and Fordham east of the A142.

Grid Reference: TL 647 693

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Chippenham Fen IPA has been recognised as one of 165 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitat of calcareous fens with Great Fen Sedge
  • Chippenham Fen is a remnant of the once massive Cambridgeshire Fens and is one of only four extant ‘wild’ Fens still surviving in the enormous Great Fen Basin.

    99.9% of the former Fens have now been replaced by arable cultivation. Unlike the typical Cambridgeshire fens, which are below sea level, Chippenham Fen is 12m above sea level. Its 120 hectares of habitats include beds of saw-sedge and common reed, grazed wet meadows rich in wild flowers, meadows cut for hay, chalk grassland, carr woodland and scrub, and mature woodland.

    There are several ponds on the site and a system of dykes take water from the springs, in the south, to the Chippenham River, near its northern boundary. The fen is fed by rainfall and springs arising from the chalk aquifer, the clean, lime-rich waters of which support a rich aquatic flora plus a significant stonewort assemblage.

    Wildflowers you could see at Chippenham Fen

    More than 400 species of wild flowers have been recorded at the fen and it is the main British site for the very rare Cambridge milk parsley, and one of only 3 UK sites for early marsh orchid.

    The rich fen grassland is home to blunt-flowered rush, long-stalked yellow sedge, glaucous sedge and bog pimpernel. Also present in this community are fragrant orchid, marsh helleborine, marsh bedstraw, marsh lousewort, grass of Parnassus and the locally rare common butterwort, plus fen pondweed.

    To the north lie areas of fen and chalk, and additional species to look out for are narrow leaved marsh orchid, common spotted orchid, and an abundance of herb species including cowslip, restharrow, eyebright and bee orchid. Columbine also occurs sparingly here.

    Image: Chippenham Fen IPA © Peter Wakely