Get closer to nature than ever before at RSPB Ouse Fen

Becca Smith

Thursday 22 July 2021

Get closer to nature than ever before at RSPB Ouse Fen

  • New visitor facilities at the Cambridgeshire reserve promise to bring walkers, families and wildlife enthusiasts alike closer to a host of reedbed-dwelling wildlife
  • The newly expanded reserve sees a nationally important population of bitterns call RSPB Ouse Fen their home, amongst many other species seen from the trails

Brand-new visitor facilities have been opened at RSPB Ouse Fen nature reserve to enable the public to visit the latest restored areas of this vast wildlife-rich wetland. Together with their project partners, Hanson UK (6), the RSPB are creating the UK’s biggest reedbed right here in Cambridgeshire, transforming a huge aggregates quarry into a blossoming nature reserve.

Visitors are invited to come and enjoy the newly expanded wildlife haven and take a peaceful walk in the wilderness. Providing accessible routes to the heart of the developing nature reserve through a new entrance way and two new trails, take a walk along winding paths lined with wildflowers and gaze over swaying reeds for a chance to spot the wildlife that calls the reserve home.

This summer, visitors can spot a fantastic array of wildlife from the reserve trails, from dazzling dragonflies hovering over pools to impressive marsh harriers flying overhead. What’s more, keen eyed visitors may also spot water voles and otters at the water’s edge, or even an elusive bittern, whose distinctive ‘boom’ from the reedbed has become a regular highlight of this site in recent years.   

Accessible throughout daylight hours, the new entrance provides a short access-for-all path to a viewpoint and picnic area, with onward routes to two new trails and connections to long-distance public rights of way. With many trails to choose from, everyone from families and wildlife enthusiasts to hikers and walkers can enjoy the reserve.

Talking of the new additions to the reserve, Jonathan Taylor, Senior Project Manager at the RSPB said: “We’re excited to be opening new visitor facilities here at the reserve as part of our 30 year partnership project with Hanson UK. We’re hopeful that in opening our new entrance and trails, more people can enjoy easy access to some time in nature, after it has given us all so much solace in the past year.

We can’t wait to welcome more visitors to see what this wonderful reserve has to offer: tranquil walks, awe-inspiring wildlife, and some great views across the fens to admire while enjoying a picnic.”

The creation of RSPB Ouse Fen nature reserve is the result of a partnership between the RSPB and Hanson that brings industry and conservation together, in a way never seen before on this scale.

Speaking of the project, Hanson UK Unit Manager, Hilton Law, said: “We’re proud to be a part of this important project with the RSPB to create thriving new habitat for wildlife. With the project being the largest of its kind in Europe, it’s great to see the new entrance opening to allow visitors to enjoy the site as much as we have enjoyed working with the RSPB to create it.”

Over the lifetime of the project, Hanson will extract over 28 million tonnes of sand and gravel at Needingworth Quarry. As quarrying is finished, Hanson will restore the land to wildlife-rich wetland habitat and then hand it over to the RSPB to be managed for and enjoyed by wildlife and people alike.

To find out more about the reserve, it’s ongoing expansion, and how to make the most of your visit, visit





For more information and to arrange interviews please contact: 


Our video, explaining the reserve creation project with Hanson and showcasing the wildlife that calls it home, can be viewed here. Please contact us should you wish to access any of this footage of the reserve to support this story.

Editor’s notes:

1.    RSPB Ouse Fen lies between the Cambridgeshire villages of Earith, Bluntisham, Needingworth, Over and Willingham, with the new entrance accessible from the B1050. Find the new entrance, which is just 10 minutes from St Ives and only 30 minutes from the centre of Cambridge, by searching wacky.dabbling.enjoy on the what3words app. Entry to and use of the reserve is free.

2.    About RSPB Ouse Fen: Where the River Great Ouse spills into the Cambridgeshire Fens, the UK’s biggest reedbed is coming to life. Hanson and the RSPB are working together, transforming a working sand and gravel quarry into Ouse Fen nature reserve. The swaying reedbeds are home to marsh harriers, bearded tits, otters and the secretive bittern. A visit at dawn or dusk may reveal a barn owl hunting over the grassland and scrubby margins. Ducks, grebes, swans and wading birds gather on the floodplain wetlands from autumn through to the spring.

3.    Reedbed is now an extremely rare habitat in the UK, much of which has been lost. Reedbed is home to the rare bittern that can be heard ‘booming’ at sunrise in the Spring months, looking for a mate. 2007 was the first year a bittern was sighted on the reserve and numbers have grown in strength ever since. So far this year, our volunteer surveys have shown there to be around 10-11 boomers - a nationally important population of bitterns.

4.    The Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project is leading the way for landscape-scale conservation by bringing industry and conservation together in a way never seen before on this scale. The project is the largest planned nature conservation restoration scheme following sand and gravel extraction in Europe, and as a result, RSPB Ouse Fen will become an expansive mosaic of wildlife-rich wetland habitat which will be over 980 football pitches in size (700ha) by 2030. When complete, it will include the UK’s biggest reedbed, recreating some of the lost wetland habitat that once dominated the entire Fenland landscape. To find out more, click here: Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project

5.    The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again.

We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

6.    Hanson UK is a leading supplier of heavy building materials to the construction industry. We are part of the HeidelbergCement Group, one of the largest building materials manufacturers in the world, the global market leader in aggregates which also has leading positions in cement, concrete and other downstream activities.


The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity.
In England and Wales, no: 207076.
In Scotland, no: SC037654.

Last Updated: Thursday 22 July 2021

Tagged with: Topic: Walking Topic: Shopping Topic: Activities for children Topic: Activities for families Topic: Activities for school children Topic: Grassland Topic: Wetland Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Conservation Topic: Getting involved Topic: Giving Nature a Home Topic: Habitat conservation Topic: Water and wetlands Topic: Youth Topic: Ouse Fen