WALKERS, cyclists, horse-riders, anglers and boaters are all set to ­benefit from the Great Fen Project.

WALKERS, cyclists, horse-riders, anglers and boaters are all set to ­benefit from the Great Fen Project.

But don't all rush out to the site between Huntingdon and Peterborough straight away because the scheme is going to take decades to create, according to the project masterplan which is available for public scrutiny on Friday (September 3).

The aim of the project is to create 9,000 acres of fenland habitat, including linking the nature reserves of Holme Fen and Woodwalton Fen.

Nature will be allowed to re-take arable farmland while other areas of the site will be managed to create new pieces of open water (up to 1km across), reedbeds and grazing land.

As well as becoming a green tourist destination, the Great Fen is envisaged to become a huge and diverse wildlife haven and a protected area for rare habitats, trees and plants.

The masterplan includes:

l A visitor centre to act as the gateway to the Great Fen

l New networks of cycle and walking paths and bridleways that will tour the Great Fen and link with nearby villages

l A wide range of habitats such as fenland, bog, reedbed, marsh, grassland, woodland and scrub

l Areas that can be used by farmers for grazing animals

l Protection for listed structures on the land

l New meres (large shallow lakes) providing habitats for fish and food supplies for other birds and animals, such as otters

l Improved access along the waterways for boaters - and potential for a new waterway

l Business opportunities for B&Bs, cafés and cycle hire

While the project team (in which Huntingdonshire District Council is a partner) is planning on making plenty of provision for visitors to arrive at the Great Fen by greener methods (bus stops are planned, but no promises of a service are yet in place), the surrounding villages could be invited to play their part.

The masterplan suggests a park-and-ride could be considered for villages, along with tourist information areas, but it adds that detailed proposals have not been drawn up and close consultation with villages would be carried out.

A car park would be built at the visitor centre, which is planned for a site off the current B660 between Ramsey St Mary's and Holme.

The project is a slow burner - it has been eight years from the inception of the Great Fen Project to the creation of the masterplan. And the scheme is not going to speed along now that the masterplan has been created.

The document adds: "The landcape and habitat vision for the Great Fen will take decades to achieve, partly because arable farming is expected to remain in the Great Fen for many years. Elsewhere, restoration has started: approximately 1,000 hectares of land will be under conservation management by the end of 2013."

INFORMATION: The masterplan, which was drawn up following a public consulatation, will be available at the Countryside Classroom, Chapel Road, Ramsey Heights, where staff will be on hand to answer questions. The public can visit from Monday (Septemebr 6) to Friday, between 9am and 4pm (until 8pm on Thursday).

The masterplan will on www.greatfen.org.uk from Friday.