The Fen is one of Europe's most important wetlands and the National Trust's oldest nature reserve. It was pretty easy to get to, being only a short car ride from Ely which has trains coming in regularly from London Kings Cross.
Our first challenge on getting there was actually picking which route to walk. Lois and Howard from the Trust were on hand to point out a whole range of routes to us, so we had to ponder over them for a while to decide what was the best plan. In the end, we decided to follow the Lodes Way, which would bring us - after a walk through fenland, and a slight detour through the village of Reach - to Anglesey Abbey, another Trust property.
We really struck it lucky with the weather. We set off under a beautiful blue sky, but with a fresh breeze keeping us relatively cool.
It was clearly a good time of year to be there. The plant life was luscious and we saw lots of wild flowers, while the air was teeming with a wide variety of butterflies and dragonflies, among many other things.
We followed Wicken Lode and then Monks Lode over the first mile or so of the route, before heading south-south-west with Baker's Fen to our right. We then reached the crossing over the Burwell Lode, which runs down to Burwell village and was used during the late 19th and early 20th centuries for transporting phosphate fertiliser from the Burwell Chemical Works.
Another mile's walk brought us to our next lode of the walk - Reach Lode - which, as you might expect, runs to the village of Reach. The path crossed the lode via a beautifully designed bridge, which I can only assume is quite new, that sprang in a vault over the lode, offering a commanding view over the fens.
We took a rougher path which led us almost parallel to Reach Lode, heading straight for the village, which we reached after about a mile.
The fields full of hay bales and the balmy late-summer weather certainly left us feeling like we had come on a 'Great British Walk' - it felt quintessentially English in fact, and just the ticket for a relaxing Sunday.
The area where we ate our lunch is White Fen, where the National Trust are working with the Woodland Trust, East Cambridgeshire District Council and the parish of Lode with Longmeadow to create a community woodland. The work was in clear evidence, as lots of knee-high trees surrounded by protective wire were planted on either side of the path as we carried on our way.
We made our way down through White Fen towards the Bottisham Lode, and came across a surprise! We heard a lot of squeaking first, and then noticed that the undergrowth by the path was rustling violently. As we crept closer, we could see two small, brown-furred animals locked in what I can only really describe as a wrestling match! As they twisted and turned we caught the flash of white on their stomachs and throats and I realised that they were weasels!
This was a real treat, as not only had I never seen a weasel fight before, I'd never actually seen a weasel full-stop. They were smaller than I'd expected, but otherwise looked exactly like I'd always thought a weasel would look. At a couple of points the fight broke up, they both ran a short distance and there poked their heads out of the undergrowth meerkat-style.
Eventually, I think one of them must have won, as the other ran pell-mell right across the path in front of us and disappeared into the grass on the other side. I just wish we'd managed to get a better photo, but they were so fast, the best we managed was the one below. (Honestly, they are in this - the brown thing right in the middle is actually two weasels!!)
The Abbey itself is an impressive building of yellow stone, but perhaps its greatest attraction is its beautiful garden, with sweeping lawns and majestic old trees aplenty. From what we could see when we wandered around, there will be an impressive conker haul to be had come the autumn!
And I'm certainly pleased to know that Wicken Fen is protected. It's a great place for a walk and I can even see the appeal of cycling there (shock, horror!!) as the routes are so good. It's so important to have places like this available to people to let them get out and about in the countryside, and while I love the wilder places in the UK, it's great to have more accessible places like Wicken Fen too, which I imagine would be great for kids and those less able to do more challenging walks.
Hopefully the Trust's Great British Walk will encourage even more people to get out and about and enjoy places like Wicken Fen to the full. Going there has certainly got me thinking about where else I can get to easily from London over the next few months.
As always, happy walking!
Pssst...you can see more photos from this walk in my Country Walks gallery.