Friday, 13 December 2013

3000 Trees...

The community woodland at Reach has taken shape after a week of planting by members of the village. 

The woodland is part of the Reach 24 project which started 2 years ago. I actually described the project in my first blog of the year, Reach 24,  so it is nice that the project will also be my last blog of 2013.

The woodland had been carefully planned with sections of Beech Woodland consisting primarily of Beach and Sweet Chestnut, Oak woodland with Oak and Maple and Alder woodland with Alder and Willow. There are also a wide range other native species planted in between, including Holly, Hornbeam, Birch and Yew, all of which make me think of the variety of wands we can make in the future!

Last week a team of volunteers paved the way by auguring the holes for planting. Saturday and Sunday saw over 70 people from Reach village start the planting marathon; it was finished on Thursday and Friday with the added help of pupils from Swaffham Prior Primary School. Years 5 and 6 walked to Reach to plant their own patch of Beech woodland, adding a small but significant contribution of 100 trees to the total.  

One of the pupils asked me when we were planting how long the trees would be there, I told him they would look like trees in 5-10 years and like a woodland in 10-20 years. The reply was 'Thats good so I can show my children!' Hopefully the woodland will provide enjoyment for all that planted for many years to come - I am looking forward to seeing fully grown, unfortunately I am not very patient!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

New opportunity to become part of the Anglesey Abbey community

We’re very excited about the latest community project at Anglesey Abbey – our new community wall display:

It’s the first thing that people see as they enter the gardens from the visitor centre. We are hoping it will become an interactive space where visitors and the Anglesey Abbey team can share photos and news. We’ll keep it updated with the photos we receive, current and forthcoming activities and Community Team news.

It will eventually look like this, as planned by Rachel Bingham during her work placement with us.

We have just one ‘taster’ panel up at the moment, and are keen to have comments and views before going ahead with the next stage of the project.

Please contact us at with your ideas. And send us any photos, artwork or musings you’d like to see in the community display. Thanks!

Community Reporter

Thursday, 21 November 2013

We only came for the twiglets...

The 1960s returned last Friday as local residents joined us for an evening of 60s music, quizzes, snacks and fun in the Royal British Legion Club in Bottisham.

We organised the event to promote the Domestic Wing project at Anglesey Abbey to local people, and give them the chance to find out more and get involved.

Our team of staff, volunteers, interns and local Community Ambassadors are bringing the 'below stairs' rooms back to life in a major conservation project funded by the National Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund, for opening to the public next year. The rooms will reflect how Lord Fairhaven's staff were living and working in 1966, the year he died, and the house passed into the care of the National Trust. We are planning to run activities for visitors in the newly opened rooms and hoping that lots of local people will want to get involved.
On Friday, 'sophisticated' snacks (cheese and pineapple, devilled eggs, twiglets), a 60s soundtrack, and photos of 60s items and local life soon got people reminiscing. "We recognised a lot of the items – we even have a lot of the items!" said Lynn.

We got into the 60s groove ourselves by doing essential research into appropriate fashion and hairstyles, playing Twister and challenging people's memories with music and movie quizzes.

During the evening several people promised us 60s items for the Domestic Wing project and signed up for volunteer roles. Community Ambassadors are promoting the project further by talking to local community groups, distributing flyers and publicising volunteer opportunities.

If you'd like to know more about volunteering opportunities in the Domestic Wing please get in touch with
us at 

Kate Boursnell
Community Reporter
Anglesey Abbey

Friday, 1 November 2013

Recycled Hedge...

The family volunteer team struck again yesterday - doing another great job of an important task at Wicken Fen. 

This time the mission was to plant a new hedge by the car park at Wicken Fen, to finish off the new path way and surface area around the toilets. There was a conservation element as well; before the hedge could be planted the trees needed to be dug up from the ganges field behind the visitor centre. This meant we got rid of invading hawthorn scrub in the field where we don't want it to grow and re-used the saplings in a hedge where we do want hawthorn to grow and wildlife will benefit from both. 

We also set the volunteers the additional challenge of building the tow trug they needed to move everything around in first!

Pics from the day:

Lois Baker
Community Ranger
Wicken Fen 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Sculpture trail and family fun at Anglesey Abbey

Today we opened our new sculpture trail at Anglesey Abbey. The families who've been working on the project since August 'cut the ribbon' and followed the trail through the grounds. Cambridge News sent a photographer, so keep an eye on the local paper - we might be in it!

Strung high in the trees, the giant butterflies look spectacular against a perfect blue sky, while the spider's web and spider have been hung lower so everyone can see the beautiful pewter casts that the children made a few weeks ago.

And we finally got our first sight of the crocodile which the children had dreamt up at the start of the project and which had been brought to life (well, almost) by Angus from the Anglesey gardening team. It's lurking on the bank of the Lode, just near the mill.

The urn at the south end of the Coronation Avenue is now doing duty as an egg cup for the enormous willow egg, spoon and wooden soldiers. We stopped here for a group photo, but the egg is so big, it was difficult to get everyone in!

The sculpture trail project is the third collaboration between Anglesey Abbey and the Croft Child and Family Unit. Funding from BBC Children in Need through Arts and Minds has enabled children and parents to work with artists, creating some of the features that have helped make Anglesey a popular destination for families and community groups, like the Dream Dome and tunnel in the Wildlife Discovery Area, and the prints in Lime Tree Lookout. This year, artist Jane Frost has been encouraging the children to 'think big', and is impressed with how much they've achieved in a relatively short time. The project has been so successful that the Croft Unit have invited Tabi, who helped the children cast the pewter droplets for the spider's web, to run a workshop at the Unit itself. 

After the launch of the sculpture trail, we were busy down at the Discovery Cabin with hands-on activities for visitors. Susie Turner, who's worked with the Croft previously, showed children how to make beautifully detailed leaf prints. 

Willow weaving was really popular, with quantities of baskets, wands, crowns and birds being made (and a few things that were harder to identify). We also had den building, mini land art and printing with stamps. 

So, a busy day, but a lot of people had a lot of fun and went home happy.

Kate Boursnell
Community Reporter

Monday, 28 October 2013

Walk the Fens

It's the last week of the Great British Walk this week. We had our longest walk of the festival at Wicken and Anglesey on Saturday. Keen walkers set out from Anglesey Abbey for an 8 mile walk and Wicken Fen for a 13 mile walk. It wasn't all hard work though, both groups met up at the Red Lion in Swaffham Prior for a pub lunch half way around. Nearly fifty walkers descended on the pub for a well earned lunch break before walking back. 

I lead the 13 mile route from Wicken, it turned out to be one of the most interesting routes across the fens; it avoided too much road and there weren't any straight long stretches where you can see where you will be walking for miles ahead of you, which often occurs on the fens and is disheartening if you have tiring legs!

The route included Walking along Wicken Lode to Upware, then along Reach Lode to the bridge where we got great views over Burwell Fen which had Lapwings and Redshank gathering along with herds of Roe Deer to spot running around. We took a break at the portrait bench by the bridge sharing our snacks with the figures of the entomologist, eel catcher and fen skater. Then it was across Tubney Fen and long a slightly muddy track to Swaffham Prior where we saw a confused Tawney Owl. 

The return journey took a long Devils Dyke to reach so we got our history fix whilst admiring the views you get from being a few feet higher, then walked along Reach Lode back to the bridge and followed the cycle path to Wicken, passing the Highland Cows on Burwell Fen.

Lois Baker
Community Ranger
Wicken Fen 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Orfordness Rangers Day

Today I am at our annual rangers get together for the East of England where we visit another property and find out what they're working on and share ideas and experiences.

We are at Orfordness on the Suffolk coast which a really interesting place. It used to be owned by the MOD which results in a really unique landscape where there is a very rare shingle habitat with delicate plant communities and marshes with important wetland birds combined with ex military buildings and the danger of unexploded ordanance if you step off the tracks!

We have been finding out about the EU LIFE project at Orford which has worked on managing water levels and subsequent habitats on the marsh and raising local awareness of the importance of the habitats on the ness. We have also been discussing the challenges which future sea level changes and erosion will bring to the site in the long term. There are a lot of community aspects to the projects, last year I spent a couple of days here helping with a community consultation around access to the point.

To find out more visit

Lois Baker
Community Ranger
Wicken Fen

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Soggy Scouts....

Today, on what has to be the wettest day of the year so far I am getting drenched in a field with the only group of people mad enough to be outside the scouts!It's Newmarket District Scouts activity day so 400 scouts are braving the weather to have a go at a range of activities including archery and canon races. We're here to give them a chance to have a go at geocaching, we've hidden some caches at the site specially. Geocaching is just one of the activities scouts can have a go at Wicken. We are also giving out fifty things to do before you are eleven and three quar ters scrapbooks too, I think we can tick off run around in the rain! The successfull cachers are collecting things to make some wild art can you tell what it is? The Chief Scout Bear Grylls has also come to visit, can you spot him the picture?! Lois Community Ranger Wicken Fen

Friday, 11 October 2013

Families create giant art for half term sculpture trail at Anglesey Abbey

Children and parents from the Croft Family Unit are transforming willow, fabric, metal and natural materials into four amazing wild art sculptures for Anglesey Abbey.  
This Inside Out project, funded by Children in Need through Arts and Minds, gives families an opportunity to create art together in a safe and supportive environment. Activities are facilitated by artist Jane Frost who’s been working with the families once a week since August. The children decided they wanted to make giant butterflies and bees, an enormous egg and spoon and an oversized spider and spiders’ webs, so Jane’s been helping them turn their ideas into reality.

Today we made shiny droplets for a giant spider’s web. Jane’s daughter Tabi, a professional metalsmith, showed us how to make moulds from acorns, berries and leaves and pour molten pewter into them. The children made lovely things, it was brilliant fun . . .  and we all got to have a go!

At the end of the session, the children were asked to reflect on how their experience had helped them achieve some of their aims, and it’s clear that the whole project is getting a definite thumbs up from everybody.
If you’d like to follow the sculpture trail and have a go at creating some art yourself from natural materials, we are running sessions at 11am and 2pm on Wednesday 30 October. Normal garden admission charges will apply but it’s free to take part, and there’s no need to book.
Our giant wild art sculptures will be around for a few weeks, weather permitting, so come come along for an autumn walk in our lovely grounds, and be inspired!

Kate Boursnell
Community Reporter
Anglesey Abbey

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Brambles, Brambles, Brambles

The Cambridge National Trust volunteers are a group of volunteers that support National Trust properties in and around Cambridge, doing various conservation tasks every Sunday. They last helped at Wicken in February  clearing out a barn.

Today we did things slightly differently and instead of getting CNTV to help with a task at Wicken I asked them to help me out at  one of the local schools we work with. We've been working with Waterbeach primary school  since 2008 and they have a great outdoor space for forest school lessons. The advantage of a large outdoor nature area is looking after it and around a third has been inaccessible for the last dew years due to being overgrown with brambles. So CNTV came out today to help me and a teacher clear the brambles away. Thanks to their hard work we opened up a lot of new spaces for den building, created a new path around the in accessible part of the outdoor area and tidied up the existing . It was a bit scratchy but there were lots of berries to eat while we worked!

Pics Below!

Community Ranger
Wicken Fen

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Woodland Tidy

Today was the first working party at the Gutterbridge Plantation, the woodland by Swaffham Bulbeck that will be leased to the Parish Council of Swaffham Bulbeck as a community woodland. In the meantime, while all the lease paperwork gets sorted we had a first opportunity for people from the village to come out and get hands on with practical tasks at the site.

 As it has been un-managed for a number of years there is plenty to do in the woodland. We decided the best place to start was by creating a glade, clearing an ear to allow some light in and removing the Ivy cover. There were lots of volunteers form the village and it only took an hour so before we were making progress. 

The working parties will be a monthly event to keep on top of the management tasks.


Lois Baker
Community Ranger
Wicken Fen 

Friday, 6 September 2013


The National Trust walking festival kicked off for the third year running on Sunday. To celebrate we invited some families who write blogs of their activities to come to Wicken Fen for the day to find out more about the Great British Walk and Wicken Fen. 

We had a fun morning, I gave a guided walk to the Butterfly Trail, our 'secret walk' for the festival, a place on the fen you can only access by foot. We were following in the footsteps of Victorian Entomologists who used to come out to the fen to hunt for insects, with butterfly nets and moth traps to 'Catch 'em All'. They realised how important Wicken was for wildlife and purchased areas of land which they later sole to the National Trust in 1899, making Wicken the National Trust's first nature reserve. When we got to the plantation we got hands having a go at bug hunting ourselves with sweep nets and a butterfly net. 

The afternoon was a chance for families to have a go at Pond Dipping, Geocaching and take a ride on the Boat....

To find out more about the Walkign Festival which is taking place at NT properties across the country visit

Community Ranger
Wicken Fen

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Back to Backs

Last week we went to the Back to Back properties in Birmingham. They have done some fantastic community work over the last few years and Anglesey Abbey and Wicken Fen staff were keen to know more about how it was all undertaken. We met Mukith Miah, a very busy man, who is Education & Learning Manager at the Back to Backs and also Birmingham Sub Regional Strategy Offsite Volunteer Development Manager. He has been responsible for initiatives such as the Summer Challenge from which young people receive volunteer training and work collaboratively with current volunteers and staff. At the end of their training they are able to deliver a tour to visitors. Mukith gave us a lot of his time and an insight into his operations which certainly gave us a lot to think about. 

After a rather strange Chinese lunch, which I’m sure none of us will forget for one reason or another, we took great delight in exploring the wonders of the Back to Backs sweet shop. During our visit the shop was doing a roaring trade and we were happy to partake in the experience! After copious amounts of fudge, chocolate covered stem ginger, cherry bon bons and coconut mushrooms had been purchased we were taken on a property tour by one of the guides. He took us on a journey which spanned from the 1830s – 1960s, from a Jewish family to a Caribbean tailor and back to the present day. Such a span of time and different stories was very interesting and highlighted why the property is so successful. With so many different avenues to explore in terms of residents alone, a guide can pick and choose which information he should deliver to his group, I am sure that should I visit the Back to Backs next week I would receive a different experience. An enjoyable visit was had by all, though perhaps a few too many sweets were eaten on the car journey back to Cambridge… 

Rachael Morley 
Community and Interpretation Intern at Anglesey Abbey
Anglesey Abbey