Last Sunday we went to Wicken Fen nature reserve, to join a National Trust #GBWalk bloggers event.
I love Wicken Fen. It’s just at the limits of my drive for a good day out, but it’s completely worth it. It was the first nature reserve the National Trust owned, back in 1899, and at that point was just 2 acres. It’s now approaching 2000 acres, and the Trust has a vision of growth for it, though that isn’t without controversy.
If you aren’t familiar with the East of England, you may be wondering about what the Fen is. Basically it’s a wetland – where there is land, but it’s flooded. There’s very little of it left, because in the 1600s rich landowners came out from London and brought Dutch engineers who drained the land to make it into very fertile farmland. The Fen tigers (terrorists (or freedom fighters?) basically) fought back and made themselves so problematic, blowing up machinery and disrupting the works that the Dutch moved on, leaving Wicken flooded.
(I apologise if I have any of the finer details of this wrong. We had lots of bits of talks throughout the day, but as I was wrangling four children throughout, I wasn’t taking notes. Feel free to correct me with references in the comments.)
Anyway, we didn’t actually go to the fen for a history lesson, though I’m never averse to getting one. We went to get out and about, and take part in the Great British Walk. So after coffee and biscuits, walk is what we did.
One of the benefits of fenland is it’s flat. Very flat. The Trust has put in raised walkways around much of the closer bit of the reserve making it surprisingly buggy friendly. I’d got the buggy in case of small legs getting tired, though I did have Tigerboy in a wrap as well. The first wander however was at a very slow pace, and I think he could probably have kept up if I’d let him try – we explored around for a bit, then stopped to do a mini creature hunt. This wasn’t very successful for us – I don’t think we caught very much at all. Smallest was happy though as she was drawing, so she rode in the pushchair to continue.
We saw a bird hide, where I displayed complete ignorance and identified a young moorhen as a duck. Gah. Well, it was brown, rather than black, and I’m really not that good on birds. Kept my mouth shut after that Then we sauntered back to base for a very lovely lunch.
After lunch, there were a number of activities laid on for us. The first was a boat trip round the Lode – a manmade waterway. Our guide was an absolute mine of information, explaining the way the reserve was managed, the history of the usage of the land, about plants and animals we could see as we were going. He also talked about how families lived off the land, hunting and fishing, and how he’d been fishing there since he was 8. Local lad, in case you couldn’t tell. I loved this part – Tigerboy fed as we were going, and we’d been paired up with Daddacool and Claire from Being a Mummy, who are bloggers I very rarely get to see, but always enjoy spending time with.
Next activity for us, geocaching. Now, many families we know have been huge geocaching fans for years. It’s never really appealed to me – good way to spoil a nice walk but what I hadn’t counted on was the level of excitement exhibited by the 10 year old when he was handed a gadget to do his walking with. Walking? He sprinted, into the distance, so Big went off with another adult, while I did my best to keep up with him. We’d been set a treasure hunt where there were three boxes to pick things up from, to make a something at the end. Huge hit with us, so looks like we’ll be indulging in that as a hobby – I *may* be stalking a Garmin on Ebay, as I don’t want to risk handing my expensive mobile phone to an overexcited Small.
(I honestly don’t know why I hadn’t realised how much he would enjoy geocaching. He probably wouldn’t have done a few years ago, but it’s just right for him now, and I’ve discovered there are lots of caches within easy distance of home. And of course there are plenty at places we go to too, so there will always be an incentive to get active. Excellent stuff.)
And our final activity of the day was pond dipping. I expected this to be highly unpopular, and was very wrong again – Small was absolutely thrilled with it, and wants to do it again. I can probably get nets can’t I?
So, our Great British walk was a family success, and I enjoyed catching up with a couple of friends (Hi Liz!) Huge apologies to the other bloggers I didn’t get chance to chat with, but being rather outnumbered with children, I didn’t try to meet new people particularly. If this glorious weather we’re having holds, you could do worse than getting yourself and family outside for a Great British walk, and if you do go, let me know how it goes for you. And don’t forget to tweet it with #GBWalk
Disclosure: we were invited to Wicken by the National Trust, plied with lovely food and coffee, given some goodies to take away (including a pedometer which is inspiring further exercise in the boy, thank you!) and will be receiving travel expenses. I have not been paid for this post.