Nature reserve to double in size

A further 96 hectares of restored land at Needingworth in Cambridgeshire has been handed over to the RSPB as part of a 30-year partnership project to create a wildlife nature reserve from a working sand and gravel quarry.

The new land will double the size of the Ouse Fen reserve, making it bigger than 200 football pitches and setting it on the way to becoming the UK’s largest reedbed.

The Heidelberg Materials-RSPB wetland project at Needingworth is the largest planned nature conservation restoration scheme of its kind in Europe. It began in 2001 and is primarily being created for bitterns, a species that until recently was very rare in Britain. The reserve is also home to other scarce species such as marsh harriers, bearded tits, otters and water voles.
When complete, the site will incorporate the UK’s largest freshwater reedbed, recreating some of the lost wetland habitat that once dominated the Fenland landscape but was lost due to drainage and land use changes. The reedbed will cover around 1.5 square miles, almost doubling the natural wetland habitat.

RSPB project manager Matt York said: “Ouse Fen is an important link in the wildlife chain. It has been highly successful, with double the numbers of bittern we expected being recorded, a phenomenal achievement in only 14 years. This latest land transfer will help to ensure bittern and other scarce species continue to thrive.”

Principal landscape architect David Southgate said: “Ouse Fen is a fantastic example of progress through partnership – not just with the RSPB but with many other national, regional and local organisations, most notably Cambridgeshire County Council.

“The transformation from intensive arable farming to a nature reserve shows the positive contribution that quarrying can make to the UK’s landscape, its wildlife, its habitats
and its biodiversity.”

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