The wilderness in the heart of Kent: saving Kent’s last remaining ancient semi-natural fenland

Jayne Mann


A beautiful piece of ancient semi-natural fenland, home to some of the rarest species of plants and animals in the South East, is gradually being restored to its former gloriously wild state as a unique partnership, led by Kent Wildlife Trust with the support of Coca-Cola and WWF, works to improve water quality and quantity in Ham Fen Nature Reserve. Historically Ham Fen was a part of some 700 hectares of peat-rich valley fen, however due to drainage for intensive agriculture over the years, the fenland was reduced significantly which contributed to the regional extinction of hundreds of species: most notably the rare fen orchid and marsh fritillary butterfly. The last remaining five hectares of fenland – an oasis of wilderness in the heart of some of the most intensive agriculture in Kent - continue to be under pressure and at risk from water abstraction and pollution from chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. Supported by a partnership between WWF, The Rivers Trust and Coca-Cola, the project will contribute to The Coca-Cola Company’s ‘replenish’ promise to safely return the equivalent amount of water used in all their drinks and production to communities and nature. The Company achieves this goal annually through supporting hundreds of conservation projects in thousands of communities around the globe which improve the quantity, quality and availability of fresh water in watersheds.
Chloe Sadler, Kent Wildlife Trust’s Water for Wildlife Officer, said: “This funding has really paved the way for the continued restoration of rare fenland habitat both on our Ham Fen Reserve and, for the first time, in the wider landscape. By improving water quality and quantity across our project sites, we are not only enabling the raft of rare and restricted species already present to expand and thrive (such as great-fen sedge, greater tussock sedge, bog pimpernel, bladderwort, water vole, water shrew, otter, Eurasian beaver, marsh warbler and reed bunting) but we are also laying the foundations for exploring the reintroduction of species previously lost, like the fen orchid and marsh fritillary butterfly.”
Other conservation groups supported by the partnership are: Thames 21, who are creating a constructed wetland in Broomfield Park, North London, in order to improve urban water quality, and South-East Rivers Trust, who are tackling urban pollution in the Beverley Brook, South West London, through the installation of an innovative underground water treatment chamber. A new film created through the partnership demonstrates the abundance of wildlife that the fenland now supports. Watch the film now.
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