Like many of Norfolk’s habitats, Catfield Fen is a result of both natural conditions and a long history of human management, including the control of water levels. The site contains a number of very wet fen communities, many of which are supported by the most exacting hydrological and substrate conditions to create a delicate balance of wildlife and environmental diversity.

It is a fen associated with low fertility, base-rich and calcareous water tables – resulting in a mosaic of different plant communities that are very species rich. No surprise then that Catfield Fen is recognised with the highest national and international conservation designations.

The reserve is a typical fen mixture of open water, reed, sedge and carr woodland. The reed and sedge are cut on regular cycles and are used for thatching. This process produces an ideal range of vegetation structures for a huge amount of wildlife.

Many uncommon and rare plants and animals are found on the reserve, including milk parsley and crested buckler fern, and dragonflies such as the Norfolk hawker. The dykes and ditches support rare plants such as frogbit and stoneworts. Old peat cuttings on the reserve provide the perfect conditions for water beetles – Catfield Fen is one of the top national sites for them in the UK.