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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 20:16 GMT
UK's lowest spot is getting lower
Holme Fen, Cambridgeshire
The cast-iron post shows how much the land has sunk
Conservationists have raised concerns that the lowest land spot in the UK is sinking.

Holme Fen, a national nature reserve near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, has sunk by about four metres since draining work began in the 1850s, leaving it about 2.75 m below sea level.

Now conservationists are hoping to buy up surrounding farmland and stop the drainage, to preserve the area as an important wildlife habitat.

Chris Jerrard of Cambridgeshire Wildlife Trust said: "If we don't conserve places like this we are going to be losing species."

Jonathan Papworth
Mr Papworth would consider an offer to buy
The level of sinkage has been measured by a cast-iron pole sunk into the ground in 1852 so it rested on the clay beneath the peat.

Initially it was completely hidden - but now it is exposed as the drainage has caused the peat to disintegrate.

Farmer Jonathan Papworth, who could be asked to sell up if the conservation project goes ahead, said: "We are aware that the land is sinking year on year."

His great-grandfather bought Middle Farm at Connington in 1922, but Mr Papworth said he would take "exceptionally seriously" any offer to buy the place.

"I can understand the project," he said.

'Full cycle'

However, tenant farmer David Collett, who could be left landless if his farm's owner agrees to sell up, said he opposed such "big projects".

He said generations of his family had worked to convert the area from "wash" into farmland.

Alan Bowley, from the government conservation agency English Nature, agrees the drainage has been important over the decades for farmers.

"But now we've come full cycle," he said.


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11 Mar 02 | England
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