Our main fundraising event of the year- our Race for Wildlife- is now just ten days away on the 13 October and we are getting everything ready for the big day! Our warden Emma has been out spray-painting 1km markers along the routes and preparing our plastic-free water station! There are so many little jobs that need doing ahead of the event but it’s something we all love as there is such a lovely atmosphere on the day- it’s almost like Christmas!

The 5km route is shown below, but it begins at the start of New Fen North, which runners will see on their right. In the summer season this is an area that hobbies and kingfishers love. At this point you’ll have Trial Wood on your left, an area which was planted up by Bryant & May before the reserve existed with hybrid black poplar trees- the perfect tree for making matchsticks!

After 1km or so you’ll see things switch- the wet stuff will now be on your left, which is New Fen- the area first planted with reeds during the creation of the reserve in the 1990’s. Then, you’ll join the Washland footpath, and head back east along a rise which borders the river Little Ouse. It seems a bit surreal, but across the water from here is Norfolk! The river represents the county boundary between us in Suffolk and the county north of us. This part of your run will offer you expansive views across the reserve, views of big skies and open spaces. It’s easy to forget, but what you will see on the day used to be arable farmland used mainly for cultivating carrots until it was transformed in the 1990’s- into a habitat designed primarily to attract breeding bitterns. So much other wildlife has benefitted since then from the habitat created too.

Above is the 10km route- the first part of this is the same as the 5km route but at the point of the Washland footpath 10km participants will instead head westwards, and loop around an area called Norfolk Fen. In recent years our reserve team have been trying to diversify the wooded areas here with more of an understorey of different tree species, aside from the black poplar, to make the wood more attractive to nightingales, woodpeckers and warblers in the breeding season. On your route back you’ll pass Joist Fen which is a hotspot for bearded tits and bitterns here on the reserve, and both routes will enter Brandon Fen on the approach to the finish line, an area which is more even and firm and for which weary feet might be grateful!

When you reach the finish line, where I (and Karen, one of our lovely volunteers) will record your time and you’ll receive a medal and a goody bag (see below) as a thank you from us for your efforts- every sign up for the race really does mean the world to us at Lakenheath because it directly supports the running of the site. Without runners turning up on the day we wouldn’t be able to protect wildlife and habitat here.

Afterwards, we’ll have a stand of delicious homemade cakes and hot drinks back at the visitor centre for competitors and their supporters. It’s our volunteers who bake the cakes and many are very talented when it comes to this! They’ll have had their ovens on all across Norfolk and Suffolk the night before, cooking up a variety of delights. We are all very much looking forward to the event and it would be wonderful to see some new faces joining repeat competitors. It’s an ideal event for all abilities- for beginners just getting into running or for seasoned athletes that might want to add something a bit quirky and different event to their calendar.

So far we have just over 80 people due to attend but we have room for plenty more, so if you’d like to book a place, head here: http://bit.ly/RaceforWildlife2019

I hope this blog has provided a bit more detail on what the event will be like, for anyone who wanted to know more, but if you have any other questions do get in touch at lakenheath@rspb.org.uk

by Heidi Jones

Visitor Experience Officer, Lakenheath Fen