Flagging the Fens


JNCC staff get their hands dirty in practical conservation initiative

JNCC staff put their practical skills to use at Flag Fen ©JNCCJNCC is charged with carrying out its nature conservation functions having regard to the desirability of contributing to the economy and society. This sustainable development context is at the heart of the Committee's current work to develop a UK Vision for nature conservation, acknowledging that, in the future management of our landscapes and urban areas, nature conservation will be closely linked to historic, cultural and aesthetic values, and to the wider needs of society.
In September 2006, JNCC had an opportunity to apply some of its thinking in a very practical way. Peterborough, in which our headquarters are located, is a flourishing multi-cultural city of 168,000 people which dates back to the founding of a Saxon abbey in the 7th century.  Before that, the Roman town of Durobrivae, the centre of a thriving pottery industry, was located to the west of the modern city, while, to the east, the fens provided human communities with grazing, thatch, wood, fish and wildfowl for thousands of years.
JNCC staff hard at work at Flag Fen ©JNCC
A remarkable archaeological site, Flag Fen is located on the outskirts of modern Peterborough. Hidden within the peat, is a palisade comprising five rows of wooden posts extending one kilometre into the fens, and also an extensive timber platform. The palisade and platform were constructed in the Bronze Age, between 1350 and 950 BC. Their purpose is still uncertain, but, beside them, the Bronze Age people made offerings to the spirit world, casting domestic and hunting implements into the dark water. As a result of the drainage of the fens, the wooden structures are in danger of drying out and crumbling, and part of the area has been re-flooded to halt this process. The resultant site is a wonderful mix of archaeological excavation, prehistoric reconstruction, museum and restored wetland. It also provides ecological support to the nearby Nene Washes, an important waterfowl area.
Although a major educational and recreational asset for the people of Peterborough, funds for the upkeep of Flag Fen are limited. JNCC staff spent a day last September helping to renovate former garden areas, and erect picnic tables, to provide extra facilities for children taken to the site from the city's schools. Flag Fen’s team were delighted with JNCC's contribution to its work, and, for JNCC, it provided a unique opportunity to help its local community enjoy a fascinating outdoors experience and to link up with their local wildlife and history.
Contact file:
Kirsty Meadows
Communications Officer
Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866886