Trio of local councils plan the future for Whittlesey’s 120 acre Kings Dyke Nature Reserve
- Credit: Archant
It is one of the jewels in the Fenland crown – the sprawling bird watching, fossil hunting, and pond dipping Kings Dyke Nature Reserve – and now a trio of local councils have decided its time to plan its future.
Cambridgeshire County Council, in partnership with Whittlesey Town Council and Fenland District Council, is inviting bids from companies to carry out a review of the facilities at the 120 acre Kings Dyke Nature Reserve in Whittlesey, and recommend options for improving its future offer for visitors.
Hundreds visit the reserve each year ranging from school and community groups to individuals and families with a love of the unique Fenland landscape.
A feasibility study into options for the Must Farm archive identified that developing the Kings Dyke Nature Reserve as a community, local area, and wider tourism asset in addition to those sites, would also offer significant natural and historical benefits. Therefore it is expected that the study will explore the links between any development of Kings Dyke Nature Reserve and the development of the Must Farm archaeological archive.
Kings Dyke reserve dates back to the 1920’s when clay was dug by pick-axe and shovel. The site was worked out in the 1970’s and was finally restored in 1995.
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It now offers a wonderful example of how industrial land can be transformed to benefit both wildlife and the local community
The councils are working in association with Forterra PLC, one of the largest manufacturers of building products in the UK, who own the site.
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The site lies in an area of particular geological significance, as the Oxford Clay was formed in the Jurassic period 140 million years ago when a warm tropical sea covered much of southeast England.
Fossilised remains of large marine creatures from this sea are found at depth, and shellfish, smaller fish and marine mammals are frequently found in the clay occasionally delivered to the nature reserve’s fossil hunting area.
Managed through consultants to Forterra and maintained by contractors, plus many local volunteers, Kings Dyke Nature Reserve is of great significance for its flora and fauna, many of which are of national importance and a number of habitats and species that are listed on the “Habitats and species of principal importance”.
The Fenland area between Peterborough and Whittlesey (the Flag Fen Basin) has already revealed internationally important archaeological sites. These include extensive excavations of prehistoric fen-edge settlements at Fengate, Peterborough and the discovery and small exploratory excavation in the 1980s of a well-preserved Bronze Age timber causeway and platform at Flag Fen.
Excavations in Kings Dyke quarries of Bradley Fen and Must Farm have also revealed important ceremonial sites, funerary monuments and well-preserved Bronze Age settlements, along with log boats and river management systems within ancient river channels.
There is an existing project for the redevelopment of a Peterborough Museum site to house and display the Must Farm artefacts and for the redevelopment of Flag Fen visitor attraction.
Councillor Chris Boden said: “This project is an exciting opportunity to enhance a very important local site, that will be recognised nationally and internationally, and develop its links to the significant archaeological excavations that have taken place nearby.
“I look forward to seeing what proposals emerge from this work, and the benefits that they could bring to Whittlesey.”
Councillor Michelle Tanfield, cabinet member of Fenland District Council, said: “Kings Dyke Nature Reserve is a much-loved, award-winning reserve already enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. The opportunity to develop it further and enhance the links with Must Farm and Flag Fen are really exciting and would offer significant benefits to Whittlesey and Fenland as a whole.
“I have supported this project from the very beginning and look forward to seeing how it develops.”
Councillor David Mason of, Whittlesey Town Council, said: “We are thrilled to have significant evidence of Bronze Age life so close to Whittlesey. The current education curriculum includes this time scale – therefore we anticipate great interest from schools across the country.
“Well-designed development at King’s Dyke will be a focal point that will bring opportunities to the area.”