Winners – Build the Fantastic Fens

Ella - second place under12's
Henry – winner: “Really shouts out the Fens”
Nathanael – winner: most original model
Hollie – third place under 12’s
Louie – winner: over12’s

Build the Fantastic Fens Competition

The competition is closed, the judging done and the winners announced. 67 entries were hard to choose from but by adding two extra prizes for the under-12 category (so many excellent models) we managed.

As part of the entry requirement entrants were asked to describe how their model demonstrates what they value in the Fens:

 My model shows how much greenery, water and wildlife there is in the fens.

My model shows how fantastic the Fens are because it’s beautiful and relaxing. We take our dogs for a walk by the river and see people fishing and it’s so peaceful. The Fens are Fantastic and I love living here. 

The water ways are an important part of the history and future of the fens as without the pumping stations and rivers the fens would be unusable for farmland and they are an important habitat for lots of species of plants, animals, insects and migrating birds.

The Fens is home to a variety of land uses and activities, all of which are crucial in contributing to its future. In my model you’ll spot agricultural fields which are such a key part of the local economy, but I also created some wetlands complete with peat soils, gravels and forests that showcase the diverse natural spaces and value of the area. I also included a small representation of the homes, high-tech business and a certain famous landmark that all help make the Fens such a thriving place to live, work and visit! 

Who is “Fascinating Fens”?

Who is “Fascinating Fens”?

Saturday 20 June was the first ever Celebrate the Fens day, organised by “Fascinating Fens”.  Fascinating Fens is the Twitter name for Karen Merrison, a Fens resident who really loves where she lives.  Karen works full time as an occupational therapist and in her spare time she works hard to share her appreciation of the fens with everyone.

As Fascinating Fens, Karen has a large Twitter following but she does so much more;  she has a website, written and illustrated a series of books for children featuring her fens characters –  Eeli Eel and Muscovy Duck (and other animals) who teach children about the fens including the history and tradition of the area.  The books area available from Ely Tourist Information, Babylon Arts and Soham Bookshop. Karen has also produced a video about her love of the Fens:

Celebrate the Fens Day

Fascinating Fens latest venture is Celebrate the Fens Day, a day to promote the Fens through celebrating heritage, creativity, nature, well-being and accessibility. Fens venues, groups and individuals enthusiastically lined up a range of activities, which then had to be converted to an online format due to Covid-19 restrictions. The day was a great success with live music, virtual tours, blogs, podcasts, quizzes, and crafts all organised through Twitter, Facebook or websites with a wide range of partners taking part.   

Karen was very pleased with how the day went and told us:

The first Celebrate the Fens day was a wonderful day. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people and groups who got involved in the day, all sharing the same love of the fens. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who got involved”.

The Fens Biosphere took part in Celebrating the Fens and asked people to send photos to illustrate the question “What do the Fens mean to you?”. This is the video of the answers:

Next year’s Celebrate the Fens is set for 18-21 June 2021 – see you there!

Who is supporting the Fens Biosphere nomination?

Credit: David Levison

Fens Biosphere Ambassador, Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of Emmanuel College
Dame Fiona has always been a great enthusiast for the fens area and keenly supports the nomination of the Fens for Biosphere status

“The Cambridgeshire fens are one of our most significant landscapes, full of history and meaning yet sadly diminished in their value for nature.  We need to put that right, by pursuing a vision for sustainable land use that works for people, nature and the economy in the long term.  The Fens Biosphere project provides an exciting opportunity to find solutions for this incredible landscape that respect the past and honour the future.  I’m delighted to be involved.”

Initial support
In 2019 a partnership hosted by the Wildlife Trust for Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire (WTBCN) was awarded funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery Postcode Dream Fund Trust to do two things: trial wet farming on the Great Fen and develop a UNESCO Biosphere nomination for the Fens. Cambridgeshire ACRE (CACRE) was one of the partners involved and is now working to achieve Biosphere status for the Fens.

Our Steering Group
However, this cannot be achieved in isolation. A Steering Group was established to make key decisions about how the Biosphere nomination should progress. Originally the Steering Group had strong representation from conservation groups, farming representatives and statutory bodies but has since been widened to include Water Resources East, the Middle Level Commissioners, the University of Cambridge and the Yaxley Partnership. It is now looking for partners from the world of research and development and business.

Other supporting organisations
As well as the Steering Group, CACRE and Steering Group members have met with a range of stakeholders to explain what the Biosphere could achieve for the area and establish interest and support. To date support consists of 57 organisations actively involved in Biosphere development and 79 who are at least showing an interest in being involved. Examples of organisations/partnerships actively involved include: Natural Cambridgeshire, Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT), Ely group of IDB’s and the North Level IDB.