A landscape strategy to rewet the entire area of the Fenlands over a 100-year period.
This strategy acknowledges the agricultural industry as a key component within the ecosystem, to ask:
In the context of soil erosion and flash flooding of the Fenlands, how can rewetting the Fens provide a sustainable land management model for both wildlife and farmers?
In England, over half of the country’s Grade 1 soil sits within the Fens, a 4,000 square kilometre area on the east coast of England. 88% of the fenland is cultivated, producing 37% of England’s vegetables.
The area used to be a lowland-fen wetland, one of the most naturally biodiverse ecosystems in Britain. It was drained in past centuries to accommodate agriculture. Draining led to the ground sinking 4m in just under 100 years. Nowadays, the entire area is exposed to flash flooding and wind erosion, sweeping away the topsoil used for agriculture.
My design strategy involves rewetting the entire area of the fenlands over a 100-year period. The agricultural industry is changed from arable and vegetable farming, to paludiculture: farming the top layer of sphagnum moss and using it as a growing medium. Vegetables are grown in vertical greenhouses, with sphagnum replacing the need for soil.
The landscape is not worked or manipulated apart from an annual harvest farming the top layer of sphagnum moss. It will not be restored to a natural lowland fen, but instead rewilded to become a new form of hybridised landscape. Industrialised agriculture becomes recognised as a component within the ecosystem.