Fenland once covered 380,000 hectares in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. It was a landscape of slow, meandering rivers and streams, wet grasslands and woodlands, raised bogs, reed beds and fens. Over time, 99% of this fenland has been lost through agricultural drainage works, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Purchasing the Holmewood Estate, 80% of which was under intensive arable production, was a key part of restoring the fenland landscape. It enabled 749 hectares of wetland habitat to be created and provided opportunities for people to take part in conservation work while exploring the rich history of the fen landscape. This large-scale restoration included two fragments of original fen, on Woodwalton Fen and Holme Fen National Nature Reserves, helping them to recover and thrive.
The project area included land managed by Natural England and the local wildlife trust. This allowed access and interpretation work to be integrated throughout the wider Great Fen landscape. Plans were developed to improve physical access in an area that had very few public footpaths, and to provide activities that would help people understand the cultural, environmental, economic, historic and social significance of the fens.
A three-year extension to the project allowed the timely purchase of an additional farm tenancy and the restoration of a further 182 hectares of fenland habitat.