Sutton Fen

Sutton Fen (12 June 2015)

Red deer

Four-spot chaser

Ragged robin

Highland cattle for grazing

Early marsh orchids

Swallowtail butterfly

White waterlily

Ditch with waterlilies and bladderwort

Yellow flag iris


/Narrow-leaved marsh orchid

Norfolk hawker

Sutton Fen has been called the best bit of fen in western Europe, according to our guide, Ian Robinson; he is the Broads Area manager for the RSPB, and was involved in the acquisition of the fen by the RSPB in 2006; as an RSPB reserve, Sutton Fen is unusual in two respects; it is more about the plantlife than about birds, which is not to say that the bird populations are not carefully monitored, but it is full of red data book plant species; and it is not generally open to the public, as the environment is too fragile for many feet; also in many places, there is the danger of disappearing through the surface.
On a brilliant and warm morning, 9 of us met at the fen, mostly wearing wellingtons, as we had been forewarned that it might be wet in places, and set off. On the way, Ian told us about need to maintain the flow of water and minerals across the fen, and habitat management; the RSPB had cleared 14 hectares of trees, being careful to burn the trees on a tray and remove the ashes. Ian also told us that the saw sedge was commercially harvested on a rotation basis; it is used for capping thatched rooves. Patches of scrub are left to provide habitat for birds.
As we set off, our first butterfly was a Painted Lady, the first of the day's migrants; later we found several Silver Y moths, and a Hummingbird Hawk Moth.
Ian crossed a ditch on a plank bridge, then proceeded to demonstrate the limited amount of surface by bouncing and creating undulations; he returned across the plank bearing otter spraint. Everywhere, the warmth had brought out dragonflies and damselflies; a (non-exhaustive) list of species is here ; Sutton Fen was the last known location of the Norfolk damselfly, but has not been recorded since 1957; however, Ian is still looking. Above us, Marsh Harriers floated; amazing how we tend to take them for granted. A curious red deer observed us from the safety of the reedbed.
  Sutton Fen has orchids, and its speciality is the Fen Orchid; within a radius of one hundred yards is to be found half of the British population of the Fen Orchid, and those at Sutton Fen are considered monsters of their species. We also saw Southern Marsh Orchid, Early Marsh Orchid, and a Narrow-leaved Marsh Orchid.
We would like to thank Ian Robinson for showing us this very special place, and Richard Mason for arranging the visit.


         Fen orchid