Peatland Progress: A New Vision for the Fens

Peatland Progress: A New Vision for the Fens is a 5-year National Lottery Heritage Fund project bringing hope for wildlife, the climate, farming and communities in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

The project is tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and the anxieties of the next generation head-on through the restoration of Speechly’s Farm, bringing together the north and south ‘halves’ of the Great Fen. By creating new wetland habitat for wildlife on this new land purchase, Peatland Progress is allowing the core purpose of the Great Fen to be achieved by buffering, protecting and linking two precious fragments of fen habitat: Holme Fen and Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserves in the western part of Cambridgeshire.

The project will also be demonstrating a new system of land management, wet farming – or paludiculture – at farm-scale, a UK first. In this 120 hectare area, Peatland Progress will feature crops such as typha bulrush and sphagnum moss, building on successful three year trials. Typha has many applications including lightweight insulation and filling for clothing; sphagnum is a growing medium capable of retaining 20 times its dry weight in water. This work will inform and inspire both conservation and farming practice on peat soils across the UK and further afield, with the new wet landscape preventing the loss of peat soils and locking in carbon dioxide. Experience gained could also be applied in parts of East Cambridgeshire.

The partnership project will work to further develop a model of agricultural production that inspires and changes farming practice on peat soils across the UK, as trialled in our Water Works project. This innovative approach to farming on peat soils will keep carbon locked in, improve water quality, transform the landscape and secure the future for people, soils and wildlife of the Fens.  Focusing on sustainable wet farming, the ambitious project will help prevent soil erosion by locking in carbon. It will offer hope for the future of farming and will be a mainstay of local prosperity, wellbeing, employment and Covid-19 recovery.