Reedbeds and pools at RSPB Lakenheath Fen nature reserve

The Fens

The Fens

Formerly a vast, impenetrable marshland, the Fens now help to feed the country.

Devastating flooding in previous centuries earned this low-lying landscape its name the “drowned lands”, but thanks to modern drainage our arable farmers now benefit from the fertile soils. Alongside agriculture a rich array of wildlife and natural habitats flourish, many internationally important.

People are at the heart of this landscape. We’re working alongside farmers, businesses, local communities and many organisations to keep the Fens special for wildlife, local people and visitors.


PDF, 2.98Mb. Date: 5 September 2014

Futurescapes - The Fens

Explore the area

Find out what’s going on near this Futurescape, including places to visit, news and local events, plus how you can work or volunteer for us.

Dingle Marshes, Suffolk. View across saltmarsh towards sandymount covert. 12/98
Dingle marshes

Nearby reserves

Reserves and other protected areas are a key part of Futurescapes. They provide core areas for nature to thrive and eventually repopulate the surrounding landscapes. The key RSPB reserves within this Futurescape are:

Fen Drayton Lakes

This complex of lakes and traditional riverside meadows next to the River Great Ouse used to be gravel workings. It's a fantastic place to explore and watch birds with huge numbers of ducks, swans and geese on the lakes in winter. In summer, terns, hobbies and a variety of dragonflies are regularly seen. Otters also live here, but to catch a glimpse of one is rare. 

Lakenheath Fen

At Lakenheath Fen, the RSPB has converted arable farmland into a large wetland. There is a new visitor centre where you can find out more about the reserve, its wildlife and history. An events programme is run throughout the year and family explorer backpacks and trail guides are available. 

Nene Washes

The Nene Washes is one of the finest areas of floodplain meadows in the whole of the UK with large numbers of breeding wading birds, including snipe and black-tailed godwits.

Ouse Fen

In the Cambridgeshire Fens we're working with Hanson on an ambitious scheme. We're transforming a working sand and gravel quarry into a vast nature reserve with open water, grassland and, when complete, the biggest reedbed in the UK. 

Ouse Washes

In the heart of The Fens, the Ouse Washes forms the largest area of washland (grazing pasture that floods in the winter) in the UK. The reserve attracts thousands of ducks and swans in winter. In spring hundreds of snipe, lapwings and redshanks return to breed. 

Lakenheath Fen RSPB reserve, view across pools and reedbeds
Lakenheath Fen
Far Fen Lake. Fen Drayton RSPB reserve, Cambridgeshire. Former gravel pits, now important habitat for wildfowl & waders. January
Fen Drayton
Nene Washes RSPB reserve, drainage dyke and grazing land
Nene Washes
Ouse Washes RSPB reserve, general landscape, panoramic view
Ouse Washes

Featured projects

We're working to safeguard and improve special places for nature. Each Futurescape contains a range of initiatives in addition to our reserves. The combination of these creates better conditions for wildlife across the countryside.

Farmland Bird Friendly Zone

The Thorney Farmland Bird Friendly Zone (TFBFZ) is an ambitious landscape-scale farmland bird conservation project. It's aimed at tailor managing arable farmland across a large area of Cambridgeshire countryside for the benefit of farmland birds and other wildlife.

Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project 

The Hanson-RSPB Wetland Project is an ambitious partnership project that will deliver the RSPB Ouse Fen nature reserve in Cambridgeshire.


Yellow wagtail, Motacilla flava flavissima, adult male. Catching insects (hoverflies etc.) at farmyard midden. Norfolk, England
Yellow wagtail
Rushes and reeds, Ouse Fen RSPB nature reserve, Needingworth, Cambridgeshire, England
Ouse Fen

Our partners

Futurescapes is all about collaboration. There are many organisations and people involved in managing land in The Fens. Our challenge is working together to find ways of making more space for nature. To achieve this we’re working with:

Saving special places