Wicken Fen IPA

Location: Cambridgeshire, south of Wicken on the A1123.

Grid Reference: TL 557 701

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

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of stoneworts in base-rich fens
  • The species richness of vascular plants in base-rich fens
  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitats of:
    Calcareous fens with Great Fen Sedge
  • Wicken Fen is one of the most important remnants of the once huge area of wetland which once covered the lowlands of Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.

    Since the 17th century the vast majority of this land area has been drained for intensive agriculture, with the result that less than 1% of the original wetland habitat survives today.

    The fen is divided by a man-made watercourse called Wicken Lode. The dykes, abandoned claypits and other watercourses carry a great wealth of aquatic plants, many of which are uncommon elsewhere, such as greater spearwort and lesser water-plaintain. The fen also contains drier species-rich habitats but the main botanical interest is in the wetland communities, including the IPA qualifying stonewort flora with species such as dwarf stonewort.

    The original peat fen to the north of the Wicken Lode supports fen communities of carr and sedge. The more open areas of sedge fen are typically of tall grasses, great fen or saw sedge, purple moor-grass, sedges and rushes. The deep peat soils and centuries of traditional management have allowed rich plant communities to develop including milk parsley, meadow rue, marsh pea, Cambridge milk parsley, fen violet, (although this violet has not been seen on the site for some time), tubular water-dropwort, marsh fern, yellow loosestrife, southern marsh orchid and early marsh orchid. To the south of the Wicken Lode the area is of rough pastureland, reedbed and pools.

    The watercourses that are found in this area also support Internationally Important stonewort flora including Nitella tenuissima, the only recent site for this species in England.