Willow Tree Fen

permanent waterways that edge the farm and the willow woodland 2012

We went to an agricultural show in June 2012 which was very wet and, although incredibly quaint and old fashioned with vintage tractors, rare breeds and country craft demonstrations, the rain drove us indoors eventually.

We took the exhibition tent and got talking to some interesting people at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

the ground is still partly drained by the grid of dykes across the fens 2012

Where we are based in South Holland, there are very few public footpaths because of the extent of the privately owned agricultural land.  We know there are some places that you can go to but they all involve a drive and sometimes into the next county.

Imagine our delight to discover some incredible and readily accessible nature reserves right near us.

flora and fauna 2012

Giddy with the joy of it, we joined the LWT at an annual fee of ONLY £33 and walked away with a comprehensive map of the local reserves, a book about all the reserves in the Wildlife Trust’s arsenal across the UK and a car sticker (should have handed that back as we won’t ever use that).

The following day, the weather perked up considerably and off we trotted to one of the newest reserves that happens to also be the closest. Willow Tree Fen

jews ears or woodland ears on fallen rotting willow 2012

Unfortunately most of the reserve restrict dog access but we did happen upon dog walkers on this one and wished we had brought the furry one.

one of the many varied damsel flies that we spotted 2012

Willow Tree Fen is exactly what it says it is.  It is a fenland farm where Willow trees grow in abundance and it is one of the last farms that was run as a traditional fen farm where the seasonal water level changes are allowed to occur in the low section of land.  This in itself, gives rise to all the splendid wildlife and fauna that goes with it:- Willow Trees are in their element, sometimes standing in water for months at a time, the wetland meadows or meres are teaming with flowers, the permanent water ways that edge the farm are home to lots of interesting insect life such damsel flies that are so numerous in types that we got lost counting them, there are water birds, sand martins, swifts, swallows and many more.

kings cups with the new flower heads growing towards the water surface 2012

It was peaceful and a total delight to have found.

We spent a wonderful afternoon there once we found it (as the directions are a little sketchy) and it is tucked out of the way so is unlikely to get very busy (we only saw half a dozen or so visitors in a whole afternoon).  The original 2 hides have posters of the birds that have been seen and visitors are asked to record the breed and numbers that they see when visiting for the reserves records.

resting cattle in the fen meadow with the mere in the background 2012

Nearly all the work undertaken to build hides and walkways is done by volunteers and there was evidence of some of that work in progress as we meandered around the reserve.

acres of meadow and mere stretch out across the farm 2012

The farm itself was sold to the Wildlife Trust in 2009 after I imagine it became unviable as a business but when you look around the acreage, it is easy to see why if was kept in it’s traditional state but how that would mean low yields and limited options for making a living out of the farm.

It is a great thing that it is being maintained and that is thanks to the foresight of organisations such as the Wildlife Trust.

the wet meadows with the willow wood in the background 2012

Since first exploring the reserve, we have been back a number of times and see changes every time we do.

tree clearing 2014

tree clearing 2014

There is a new hide that sits between the 2 original ones and right on the edge of water that is punctuated with trees that were clearly planted in neat little rows at some point in the farm’s history.

logs piles from tree clearing

logs piles from tree clearing

These are currently being cleared as they have mostly died in the deep fen water but before this is completed and while we were enjoying the peace and quiet of the new hide, the trees provided a perch for a kingfisher that we were delighted to see.

a beautiful kingfisher

a beautiful kingfisher

In a flash of blue it appeared from behind the hide and stayed with us for a few minutes before flying around the front of the hide and disappearing behind the other side with as much flourish as it arrived.

reed bunting

reed bunting

We listed the numerous birds that we have seen this week (some more interesting than others but wonderfully varied all the same) and managed to photograph some of them:-





Mute Swan



Wood Pigeon

Great Tit

Blue Tit

off as quickly as it arrived

off as quickly as it arrived

Marsh Harrier

Crows (numerous)


Swallows (still here)

little egret

little egret

Little Egret

Kestrel (x2)

Snipe (not confirmed as not 100% sure)

Reed Warbler

lapwing display

lapwing display

Nuthatch (also not 100% sure)

Reed Bunting (numerous)

Jays (x2)

lapwings flocking over the marshes

lapwings flocking over the marshes




Grey Heron

coots and moorhens in amongst the drowned trees

coots and moorhens in amongst the drowned trees


Sparrow Hawk


House Sparrow

woodland walk

woodland walk

There is a new woodland walk, a new path along the drain which takes you lower and nearer the meres, there is an education centre, new benches dotted around and at some lovely viewing spots and a wonderful bug hotel at the visitor’s centre that would be the envy of many and has certainly made my little palace look wholly inadequate.

5 star bug hotel

5 star bug hotel

There are other reserves that we need to explore too but we will continue to come back to watch this one through it’s seasonal changes and improvements.

It is a lovely place!

horseboarding UK

leaning into that corner

greens – leaning into that corner

It’s about 18 months since I first ‘discovered’ horseboarding. I now follow it on FB and enjoy the odd post from the hard working teams.


purples - clearing the gate

purples – clearing the gate

I would like to eventually do more to support the sport as I just love it but for now, I remain an enthusiastic spectator.

dare devils - 9 and 13 years old

dare devils – 9 and 13 years old

It is fun, funky and very, very exciting.

norfolk and good

norfolk and good

I’m not lucky enough to feed my interest in it often but it does’t diminish my enthusiasm.


Today, I got my fix at Sandringham Game Fair and it just gets better and better.

fast and exciting

fast and exciting

To the uninitiated, it probably just looks like a lot of very fast fun but there is some serious skill involved. There are polo players, championship snow boarders, olympia qualifiers and some very good jockeys.

I know that they perform as often as they can and I also know that they practice hard. There are long days on the road to get to where they need to go and I’m sure they have a wonderful associated social life but there will also be some massive sacrifices.

raising some dust

my favourite ‘dead pigeons’  raising some dust

And they rescue horses!! What’s not to love?

balance going

balance going

My favourites are still Dead Pigeon but there are some great new teams.

uh oh!

uh oh! Poor Tom took a tumble just before the end

I just love the sport and wish I was still a rider….. I might just think about taking it up!!