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Fulbourn Fen

Ancient grassland, bursting with flowers and insects

The old meadows here have never been intensively farmed, so they have kept the high diversity of plants and insects which traditional farming techniques produced. Six species of orchid have been recorded in the varied grassland lying over complex geology and archaeology, while the woods shelter the reserve and harbour birds and fungi.

The sweeping boughs of two old oaks grace Ox Meadow, where cowslips carpet the ground in spring. This is the driest meadow and the chalky soil supports calcareous grassland, where sprays of lady’s bedstraw and purple flowers of stemless thistle bloom among the anthills. In adjoining Moat Meadow, the defensive earthworks of a Medieval manor house are a reminder that the old village of Fulbourn once lay over much of the site.

In East Fen, the wettest meadow, hundreds of orchids bloom in early summer. Chalk-laden water from higher ground drains onto this fen and the lowest areas are wet year round, making perfect conditions for fen vegetation such as rushes and water mint. Humps and dips created by freezing and melting during the last Ice Age increase the range of habitats. Early marsh and southern marsh orchids thrive here, sending up tall purple flower spikes in spring – our annual orchid count shows that thousands bloom here. In summer lizards and grass snakes sun themselves on the grassy tussocks. In winter snipe probe the soft mud for invertebrates.

Chiffchaff and great spotted woodpeckers live in the wood, while kestrels hover over the grass hunting for voles and crickets.

The meadows are grazed with sheep and cattle, and we lay the hedgerows to maintain their size and encourage nesting birds.

This nature reserve is part of the Cambridgeshire Chalk Living Landscape.



Nearby nature reserves

Cherry Hinton Chalk Pits
3 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
3 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire
Trumpington Meadows
5 miles - Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire

Nature reserve map

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2012. For indicative purposes does not show exact boundaries.

Reserve information

Fulborn 6 miles from
Map reference
TL 526 557
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Opening Times
Daylight hours only
31.00 hectares
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Living Landscape schemes
Cambridgeshire Chalk
Stonebridge Lane, Fulbourn
Small car park on Stonebridge lane
Dogs must be on lead
Grazing animals
Reserve manager
Tel: 01954 713500