The RSPB’s Ouse Fen nature reserve consists of three sections – the Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project, Barleycroft Lake (part of what is also known as Barleycraft Gravel Pits) and Berry Fen.
In time, the reserve will include further parts of Barleycraft Gravel Pits (or Needingworth Settlement Lagoons as they are also known), part of the Hanson quarry at Needingworth.
At the Hanson-RSPB wetland project, Hanson and the RSPB are working together in an innovative partnership to restore Needingworth Quarry to the largest reedbed in the UK demonstrating how carefully planned restoration following large scale mineral extraction can benefit wildlife. Some 28 million tonnes of sand and gravel will be extracted over a period of 30 years to create a 700 hectare wetland reserve on the east side of the River Great Ouse in a triangle between Over, Earith and Willingham. Some 460 hectares of this will be reedbed, the largest reed-bed in the UK. The reedbed will be in 20-40 hectare blocks divided by low earth banks that enable each block to be managed separately as necessary. Following each phase of extraction, the new reedbed landform will be constructed, planted with reeds and then handed over to the RSPB to manage in perpetuity. Up until 2014 there has been 6 reedbed cells constructed, 130,000 reeds planted and 85 ha of reedbed created. Eventually there will be up to 32 km of pathways around the completed reserve. The new footpaths will enable good viewing of the reedbeds and link up with the Ouse Valley Way.
Ten years into the project, the site is already attracting a wealth of wetland wildlife including bitterns, marsh harriers and bearded tits and occasional rarities such as red-footed falcon and glossy ibis. Ducks, grebes, swans, wading birds, birds of prey and farmland species can be seen at almost any time of year.
As the project is located on an active quarry the whole of the site is not yet accessible. Access will be further developed as the project progresses. There is a reserve car park 500m east of Needingworth village from where two visitor trails, one of 5 miles (8km) and the other, which covers the new reedbed sites is a 6 mile (10km) round trip. Barleycroft Trail leading to Barleycroft Lake also links with the Ouse Valley Way which overlooks Berry Fen wetlands to the north, an area particularly good for breeding waders and wildfowl. This site can also be accessed on foot from Bluntisham. Another useful route is the bridleway that has been created by Hanson overlooking the newly created reedbeds east of the Great Ouse opposite Bluntisham and Earith. The waymarked route runs just west of Brownshill Staunch (TG371727) to No 18 Drove near Hermitage Lock, Earith (TG391744) along the perimeter canal.
Further information from the website link below:
(Adapted from a Bulletin article written by Bob Scott)