Workshop 1: Wicken Fen


Date: 5 – 7 November 2010

Venue: Wren Building, Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire. See
View programme | Wicken Blog posts

Loadin Sedge

Loading Sedge at Drainers Ditch, Wicken Fen. Source: The National Trust

Wicken fen is on of Britain’s major wetland reserves, a remnant of the extensive Fens of eastern England that have been almost entirely drained for agricultural use since the seventeenth century. It represents a landscape that was once common in the region, combining meres, sedge fens, reed beds and woodland, and was once a major source of food and fuel for local communities. Wicken was one of the very first properties to be bought by the National Trust in 1899. It has been a wetland reserve since this date, unparalleled in the United Kingdom as a specific environment managed for conservation purposes for over a century. In this time it has been subject to major shifts in managerial organisation and practice, with varying degrees of involvement from local communities, naturalists, scientific researchers, and the National Trust.  Now the Fen stands at the heart of a controversial proposal to radically expand the area of managed wetland around the River Cam to the north of Cambridge by attempting to return arable land to its former condition as fen.

Wicken Fen was bought by the National trust on the recommendation of Victorian entolomologists, and assisted by its proximity to the University of Cambridge has been a major site for botanical, zoological, entomological and ecological study, especially since the 1920s. It remains a unique site for historical investigation, and a site of eminent contemporary importance for local communities, conservationists, leading research scientists, and tourists.

Wicken Fen has also been the inspiration for numerous artworks. The workshop will involve and discuss the work of leading landscape painter Carry Akroyd. See her website at

Workshop organiser: Paul Warde, University of East Anglia.

Project Partner: The National Trust


Darby, H.C., The Medieval Fenland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1940)

Darby, H.C., The Draining of the Fens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1940)

Summers, Dorothy,  The Great Level. A History of Drainage and Land Reclamation in the Fens (Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1976)

Map Wicken Fen

Seamless historical map provided by the National Library of Scotland.
The map is composed of map sheets from Ordnance Survey map series:
1:1 million, Great Britain, 1933; Quarter-inch to the mile, England and Wales, 1919-1921; One-inch to the mile, New Popular edition, England and Wales, 1945-1947