Let’s guide you to Fen Drayton Lakes on the super Stagecoach Guided Busway!

The Guided Busway between Cambridge and Huntingdon is a journey with such an array of fascinating things to see, that’s it’s hard to decide on a favourite part of the route! A trip onboard the bus is an attraction in itself, just by nature of it being a ‘guided busway’, which is a dedicated path that enables the bus to glide unimpeded along a key part of the route – it’s like a railway track, minus the sleepers and rails, if you get the gist!

So, with iconic Cambridge at one end, and its hub-hub of University life and amazing, first-class heritage, and Huntingdon, the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell at the other extremity and also the enchanted Hinchingbrooke Park, there’s enough to magnetise customers on-board. Oh and St. Ives with its eclectic collection of independent shops two thirds of the way on the journey is a ‘must visit’ too! This is a rollercoaster of a journey of incredible contrasts in Cambridgeshire’s finest of settings.

A paradisical retreat

One of our favourite locations on the route, though is Fen Drayton Lakes, located a few stops before St. Ives. It’s a mosaic of lakes, rivers, meadows, and woodlands that offers a rich tapestry of wildlife and habitats. This nature reserve, managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), spans over 400 hectares and provides a sanctuary for numerous bird species, aquatic life, and diverse flora. Stunning, simply stunning.

This wetland wonder of a site was originally a network of gravel pits, which were actively quarried until the late 20th century. Once quarrying ceased, nature gradually reclaimed the landscape, transforming it into the thriving wetland ecosystem seen today. The RSPB has enhanced this natural recovery, creating an environment that supports an array of wildlife and offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in nature.

Birdwatching is one of the primary attractions at Fen Drayton Lakes. The reserve is home to a wide variety of bird species, making it a key site for ornithologists and nature fans. In spring and summer, visitors can spot breeding birds such as common terns, tufted ducks and reed warblers. Autumn and winter bring large flocks of waterfowl, including wigeons, teals and pochards, as well as the spectacular site of murmurations. The lakes also provide habitat for bitterns, a species of heron that is particularly elusive and celebrated among birdwatchers.

Guided busway and wildlife walks

Beyond birdlife, Fen Drayton Lakes supports a rich biodiversity of plants and animals. The lakes and their surrounding areas are home to various fish species, amphibians like newts and frogs, and invertebrates including dragonflies and damselflies. The meadows and woodlands around the lakes host mammals such as otters, badgers, and roe deer, as well as numerous butterfly species.

The reserve is well-equipped with facilities to enhance the visitor experience. A network of trails and paths meanders through the site, allowing for leisurely walks and extended hikes. Information boards and bird hides are strategically placed to provide educational insights and prime viewing opportunities without disturbing the wildlife. Additionally, the guided walks and seasonal events organized by the RSPB offer deeper engagement with the site’s natural wonders. There are many guided nature walks and educational talks to suit all age-groups, including, in particular, for kids, pond dipping, bug hunting and craft workshops. Fen Drayton also serves as an outdoor classroom for local schools and the RSPB organises educational programmes here that align with the national curriculum, providing hands-on learning experiences in topics such as ecology, biology and environmental science.

Fen Drayton Lakes also plays a crucial role in conservation and environmental education. The RSPB’s management strategies focus on maintaining the delicate balance of habitats, ensuring the continued health and diversity of the ecosystem. Conservation efforts include monitoring bird populations, managing water levels, and controlling invasive species. These actions are vital for preserving the reserve’s ecological integrity and for the ongoing research conducted by scientists and conservationists. Regular conservation volunteer days also take place where members of the community can get involved in conservation work. Activities include habitat management, such as clearing invasive species, planting native plants and maintaining pathways and facilities.

A ton of fun at the Three Tuns

Meanwhile, for a brief break from the delights of nature, there’s a fab place to eat in the heart of Fen Drayton and it’s The Three Tuns, which is a delightful Tudor pub and restaurant with a lovely thatched roof. It has cosy high back armchairs in front of an open fire and can trace its history back to continuing use as a pub for hundreds of years. The garden is a welcome summer venue for families with its children’s play area and smoke free Hunter’s Lodge in which to dine, or simply while away the time enjoying the real ales and multi cultural food provided by the ever welcoming staff.

Fenland Lodes and Creepy Crawlies

Back to the Fens and an obscure fact about Fen Drayton Lakes is that the site was part of the medieval drainage system known as the “Fenland Lodes.” These man-made waterways were constructed during the Middle Ages to manage water levels in the low-lying Fens and support agricultural activities. The historical use of these drainage systems is a testament to the long-standing human intervention in the landscape, which has shaped the hydrology and ecology of the area long before it became a nature reserve. This ancient network of water management significantly influenced the site’s development and continues to play a role in its current wetland habitats.

With Oliver Cromwell and former Prime Minister John Major growing up in Huntingdon and no shortage of luminaries associated with Cambridge, at the other end of this fantastic route, it’s comforting to know that Fen Drayton also has its own figurehead. Dr. John H.P. Gibbins, a renowned entomologist lived here and he made substantial contributions to the study of insects and the ecology of the Fens. His work has been influential in understanding the biodiversity of the region, particularly concerning the insect populations that thrive in wetland environments like Fen Drayton Lakes.

No guidance needed – get on-board!

All in all, Fen Drayton Lakes is a fabulous stop off on the Guided Busway. We’re racking our brains here at Great Scenic Journeys HQ and within our collection of over 230 routes, we don’t actually think there is one as varied as this, or a route that gets so close to unique countryside as that being showcased at Fen Drayton Lakes. The Guided Busway, with its lack of traffic is the most unobtrusive and environmentally friendly way to penetrate through the heart of this wonderful landscape. It really is breathtaking and it’s a brilliant experience that simply must be devoured! Top and tailed by Cambridge and Huntingdon, there’s no place like Fen Drayton!

To plan your journey, check out….

Cambridge to Huntingdon on the Busway – Great Scenic Journeys