Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve officially opened to the public over the Easter 2011 weekend with four well attended guided walks.

Visitors were treated to good views of buzzard, lapwing and yellow wagtail, with sedge and reed warbler singing from the reed fringes of the waterways. The first dragonflies emerged on cue with large red damselfly on the 18th April and common blue damselfly spotted on Easter Saturday.

The wetting of the site over the winter months attracted good numbers of waders with 1200 lapwing, over 1000 golden plover, oystercatcher, redshank, ruff, black-tailed godwit, green sandpiper, snipe, woodcock, both ringed and little-ringed plover and greenshank.

Wigeon moved onto the fields as the grass sown last autumn began to grow and they were joined by good numbers of teal with shelduck, shoveler, gadwall and mallard making use of the new water bodies. A single male garganey was a welcome addition in April too.

Raptors continue to be in good numbers with up to four buzzard over the site at any one time, the resident kestrels and sparrowhawk being somewhat upstaged by marsh harrier, red kite, and peregrine.

The wetland creation not only enhanced the site for birds but provided an unexpected wildlife spectacle, with large numbers of pike moving from the borrow pits and out onto the flooded fields that only last year had wheat growing on them.

At the time of writing (May 9th), today's highlight is the pinnacle of success so far: breeding lapwing.

Several visible lapwing nest sites have been monitored over the last couple of weeks but today was the first sign of movement with two precocious Willow Tree Fen lapwing chicks making their first foray out into the open. Simply Brilliant!

The 3-year project to develop Willow Tree Fen now moves into its third year, with the site open to the public and a good number of milestones complete.

The next months will see cattle introduced to the site, a significant amount of fencing being erected and work on the classroom and interpretation centre starting, following the successful planning application.

Site access remains a priority task with boardwalks, viewing points and hides to complete and associated interpretation signs and materials to be designed and provided.

If you have not yet visited the site, it's definitely time to add Willow Tree Fen to your list of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Reserves to visit.

Discover the delights of Willow Tree Fen nature reserve at their Open Day on Sunday 15th May from 10:30am to 4:00pm

Activities include pond dipping, den building and a variety of crafts. Take part in guided walks, enjoy tractor rides around the reserve, or simply enjoy the peace and tranquillity and beautiful fenland views.

Find us between Tongue End & Pode Hole on the back road from Bourne to Spalding. For more details visit the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Website or look for Willow Tre Fen on Facebook

Come along & enjoy a great family day out.

The launch event is perfect for the whole family and will include several short, guided walks around the site; crafts; den building; mini beast hunts, pond dipping; nature detectives, dissection of owl pellets and much more! There will be a children's trail from the car park to the visitors centre.

Join us at Willow Tree Fen visitor centre from 12:00 for our launch walk , led by Ray Bowden who is the Healthy Walks Co-ordinator for South Holland 1Life. This moderate 5.5 mile walk goes through the nature reserve and onto the Macmillan Way.

Funds have been raised to purchase Willow Tree Farm in South Holland and restore the fenland landscape creating a new nature reserve. This will increase Lincolnshire's remaining fenland by 200%.

In Lincolnshire, only a fraction of the extensive wetland that once covered the whole region now remains. Over 99.9% of Lincolnshire's wet fenland has been lost to drainage. The plants and animals associated with this habitat are now rare or threatened with local extinction.

The restored wetland nature reserve at Willow Tree Farm will create ecological conditions that will help these species to spread. These include rare aquatic plants, insects, fish and birds, such as lapwing, redshank, snipe and marsh harrier.

Critically, Willow Tree Farm is linked to the last remnants of the wild fenlands in Lincolnshire by the River Glen and Counter Drain. Covering just 55 hectares, the Baston Fen and Thurlby Fen nature reserves shelter the last of Lincolnshire's natural, inland fenland landscapes and some of its special wildlife. They are too small to support some of the larger fenland birds and animals, and to cope with the changing climate, but from here the fenland species will be able to colonise Willow Tree Farm.

The project has been made possible with financial support from Natural England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Lincolnshire Waterways Partnership, Environment Agency and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust's members. Once the landscape has been restored, the nature reserve will be open to the public. Facilities such as viewing screens, bird hides and interpretation panels will be installed alongside regular bulletin boards at information centres which will inform people about the species that are currently on the site. The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust will lead outreach programmes in local schools and communities to raise awareness of the ecological heritage of the area.

Don Wright, Chairman of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, said:

"This is a long held aspiration for the Wildlife Trust and its partners. Our project will enable people to witness, understand and participate in the transformation of these arable fields into an exciting new nature reserve with a diverse and wildlife-rich landscape of meres, reedbeds and grazing marshes."

"It will reconnect people to this vanishing heritage and provide access and activities that will encourage learning, exploration and discovery of the natural, cultural and historical features of this traditional landscape."

Emma Sayer, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East Midlands, said:

"The purchase of Willow Tree Farm will enable the restoration of 114 hectares of fenland, making a significant contribution to the UK's Wetland Vision. This project presents an excellent opportunity to help preserve the special natural heritage of Lincolnshire's fenlands. Alongside the huge benefits for wildlife, local people will have the chance to get involved in the nature reserve through volunteering programmes and other public activities."

Speaking about the purcahse John Hayes MP said:

"It is fantastic news that Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust has raised over £1million to buy Willow Tree Farm in South Holland to create a brand new reserve. This new wetland reserve will bring numerous benefits to South Holland, not least in terms of tourism and the enjoyment it will provide for many people living in our area. My congratulations to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust on their success in securing this grant and bringing this project forward in South Holland."

Geoff Sansome, Natural England's Regional Director in the East Midlands said:

"We are really pleased to be supporting this local conservation project through our national Wetland Vision programme. Converting arable land into a rich, diverse landscape, which supports rare species, is a key achievement for the area and a vision of the conservation we would like to see in the Fens in the future. The restoration work also has wider benefits than purely conservation; it will create a key tourism asset, increasing public access to a high quality site and raising awareness of this important historic landscape."

Nick Bromidge, Environment Agency's Environment Manager said:

"The successful purchase of Willow Tree Farm will not only help to secure the future of fenland habitats and species, but will also provide an opportunity to involve the local community in a major conservation project. Many congratulations to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. We shall look forward to continuing our partnership with them on this fantastic project."

Notes for Editors

  • The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and wild places throughout the historic county of Lincolnshire - from the Humber to the Wash.
  • The Trust is Lincolnshire's leading nature conservation charity with over 25,000 members and around 100 nature reserves.
  • The Trust is a member of a nationwide network of 47 local trusts which work to protect wildlife - The Wildlife Trusts.
  • We are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. With 765,000 members, we are the largest UK voluntary organisation dedicated to conserving the full range of the UK's habitats and species, whether they be in the countryside, in cities or at sea.
  • Visit: lincstrust.org.uk
  • HLF enables communities to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage.
  • From our great museums and historic buildings to local parks and beauty spots or recording and celebrating traditions, customs and history, HLF grants open up our nation's heritage for everyone to enjoy.
  • They have supported more than 26,000 projects, allocating over £4billion across the UK, including £211million to the East Midlands alone.
  • Over the last fifteen years the Heritage Lottery Fund has bought land equivalent to more than 100,000 football pitches for nature conservation and has funded over 2,000 projects to raise awareness of and conserve threatened habitats and species.
  • Website: www.hlf.org.uk

1. Reaction to Project Proposals

  • 91% are supportive of the project
  • 60% registering as 'very supportive'.
  • 1.6% are undecided
  • 5.8% object or consider the project unimportant

2. Residents and Visitors Returns

  • 77% are residents to the area (within 10 miles)
  • 23% are Visitors

Visitors are from Boston, Long Sutton, Barton and Lincoln from within the county and Nottingham, Rutland, Derby, South Yorkshire, Bedfordshire and Suffolk from outside the county.

3. How important is local wildlife and the countryside in deciding where you would choose to live?

  • 82% of respondents considered local wildlife and the countryside to be one of the main 3 considerations in deciding where they choose to live.
  • 35% consider this the primary factor in deciding where they choose to live.

4. The features which responders were seeking when visiting the countryside were:

By volume: Percentile of visitors seeking:-

  1. 90% Quiet countryside
  2. 89% General wildlife
  3. 74% Good footpaths
  4. 71% Rare or unusual wildlife
  5. 70% A wild place
  6. 69% A nature reserve
  7. 66% Local history / archaeology
  8. 58% Good parking
  9. 53% Information boards
  10. 47% Bird hides
  11. 46% Good cycle paths
  12. 45% Visitor centre
  13. 40% Tea room cafe
  14. 30% Place to walk the dog

5. 67% of responders considered that information about local wildlife and historical heritage to be 'Not readily available' or 'Hard to find'.

Visit the last of Lincolnshire's wet fenlands and take a car tour of Thurlby, baston and Deeping Fens (20 or 32 miles 4-6 hours) - 4 nature reserves and guide to visiting, food and acomommodation.

Download the South Lincolnshire Fens Questionnaire

For further details see: Visit Lincolnshire Fens

The first South Lincolnshire Fenlands Walking Festival was launched at Willow Tree Fen on Saturday 26th September. Heritage Lincolnshire have organised the festival, with walks on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays throughout October. For more information on walks in the South Lincolnshire fenlands & other areas, visit the South Lincolnshire Walking Festival website.

Willow Tree Fen organised by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. Experts from Lincolnshire Bat Group accompanied a group around the reserve with bat detectors. It was a beautiful crisp October evening and we heard two pipstrelle bat echo locating on site. Our guides told us that bats go into hibernation as the weather starts to cool although it is still possible to pick them up on warmer evenings at this time of year. A moth trap was set up on site and we were able to see moths and other insects attracted to the light. The evening was rounded off with hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows around a camp fire.

18 March 2016

A Great White Egret regularly sighted at Willow Tree over the last week.. A first for Willow Tree Great White Egret at willow Tree Fen

Two drake Garganey - one to watch as there are less than 100 UK breeding pairs Drake Garganey at WIllow Tree Fen

500 + whooper swans - impressive numbers flying over

Willow Tree Fen has featured in the Times - quoting Willow Tree in the top ten in its "Review of 30 best wild places to visit".

In the BBC Wildlife magazine Willow Tree features as reserve of the month!

Events at Willow Tree - To find out more visit http://www.lincstrust.org.uk/whats-on

Wildlife Wednesday 30-Mar 10:30-14:30 Free Wildlife Wednesdays run every Wednesday during the school holidays, drop in sessions/activities run by the Wardens; pond dipping, mini beasting, crafts, field tracts and signs etc
Wildlife Wednesday 06-Apr 10:30-14:30 Free
Bird Mosaics Workshop 10-Apr 10:00-16:00 £50
Stained glass workshop 16-Apr 10:30-14:30 £50
Froglife wildlife workshop 23-Apr 11-13:00 Free
Bird Mosaics Workshop 24-Apr 10 - 12.30pm and 1.30 - 4pm £30
WTF open day 15-May 10:30-16:00 Free
Wildlife Wednesday 01-Jun 10:30-14:31 Free
Stained glass workshop 21-Jun 10:30-14:30 £50
Bat & newt Evening 23-Jul 9:00-11:30 Donation
Wildlife Wednesday 27-Jul 10:30-14:30 Free
Wildlife Wednesday 03-Aug 10:30-14:30 Free
Moth Morning with Tim Bagsworth 06-Aug 7:00-8:00 Free
Wildlife Wednesday 10-Aug 10:30-14:30 Free
Wildlife Wednesday 17-Aug 10:30-14:30 Free
Willow Weaving Birds 20-Aug 10:30-16:00 £50
Wildlife Wednesday 24-Aug 10:30-14:30 Free
Wildlife Wednesday 31-Aug 10:30-14:30 Free