Monday, 8 May 2017

30 Touches of Nature

The month of June is fast approaching and it's a great time to get outdoors and enjoy nature - it's good for your health and wellbeing.  Why not take up the 30DaysWild challenge?  Here Norfolk Widlife Trust's Head of People and Wildlife, David North explains how going wild in June can make you feel good.

'One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.'  (William Shakespeare)
 


 There is much talk today of the benefits of ‘mindfulness’ as a way of coping with the seemingly ever-increasing stresses and strains of modern life. But ‘wildfulness’, simply spending time in nature, can also bring great rewards.

Bar-tailed godwits by David North
I was lucky enough over the recent Bank Holiday weekend to spend time walking on the Norfolk coast beneath the wild, eroding cliffs of Mundesley. It was a windy day, windy enough to blow your troubles away, and as the waves crashed against seaweed-encrusted, wooden groins masses of bubbly sea foam was flying into the air then bouncing along the beach in foaming masses. In my book, time spent walking along our wonderful Norfolk coast, with its diverse wild landscapes of sand, sea, shingle, mud and marsh, is never wasted.  A walk along the shore is a great place to gain a sense of perspective, to see things both literally and metaphorically in a new light.  And as with any walk in wild places there are always surprises: on this walk winging their way through the flying foam came a small flock of bar-tailed godwits.  They rested briefly on the beach, just long enough to see some were in full ‘red’ breeding plumage and others, perhaps non-breeders or younger birds, still winter grey. With them flew one, extremely smart, black and white spangled, grey plover. What a delight. Today Mundesley beach, next stop, perhaps the Arctic circle! 
 

Spending quiet time in nature, sitting or walking, listening and looking, without rushing or getting distracted by thoughts of jobs I need to do, not only helps me see details in the landscape and natural world that I would otherwise miss, it also helps me make sense of my life.  How often do we simply give ourselves time to ‘tune-in’ to the sounds, smells and textures of nature around us? But at least for me this time is vital: vital to health, happiness and sanity.

Perhaps you need an excuse to simply spend a few moments outside allowing yourself to connect to nature around you?  Well the good news is the Wildlife Trusts are offering the perfect excuse.  It’s free, like the wild world around us, and it’s called 30 Days Wild.
 

The aim is to get as many people as possible to do one small thing – one Random Act of Wildness – which could be as simple as going outside on a clear night and spending a couple of minutes star gazing, find a wild space in a lunchtime and sitting quietly for five minutes tuning in to the living things around us that we share this world with, or getting up early and listening to bird song, really listening so that all your attention is attuned to what you are hearing. It’s happening in June but if you visit the website now, we will send you a pack (by email or post) full of ideas for Random Acts of Wildness to try out in June.  These small actions – walking for a minute barefoot though grass on a dewy morning, taking time to touch the rough bark of a tree, following a bee or butterfly for a minute and observing its life – may sound trivial, but give it 30 days and I suspect you will be surprised at the power that spending time connecting to nature has to change the way you feel.  It should of course come with a health and happiness warning. After 30 days you may well have formed a lifetime habit!

Explore the boundaries between land, sea, sky, earth and nature. In doing so you may begin to discover your own connection to the timeless cycles of nature which in reality, without or without our conscious awareness, we are all participants in.  Is that wildness inside us or outside? Are we part of nature or separate from it?


If ‘one touch of nature makes the whole world kin’ just think what 30 touches can do for you!   To join in visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/30dayswild  You are never too old or too young to enjoy the nature around you and if you are a family and would like to interest your children in wildlife then taking part in 30DaysWild is a great way to start. 

Do you want some help in reconnecting with nature?
The Wildlife Trusts have a saying, ‘All our lives are better when they are a little bit wild’ and have developed hundreds of ‘Random Acts of Wildness’ which are easy and free to do and can help you engage with nature wherever you are. For details visit 30 Days Wild.
 

The Wildlife Trusts believe that people are part of nature; everything we value ultimately comes from it and everything we do has an impact on it. We believe that each year, there should be more wildlife and more wild places, and people should become closer to nature.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sedge warblers return

Naturalist and Norfolk Wildlife Trust volunteer Chris Durdin welcomes the return of the sedge warbler as spring is much in evidence at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Thorpe Marshes reserve on the edge of Norwich in Thorpe St Andrew.  
Sedge warbler, Derek Longe
April 8th and my first sedge warbler of the year at Thorpe Marshes is singing, half-hidden, in last year’s reeds. It makes me wonder why it’s an exciting moment. The scratchy song has a relentless energy, which appeals to me, though that description also applies to the wren singing close by.

It’s looking like an advanced season for nature with the recent warm weather, for now at least. It’s certainly a good time to visit NWT’s reserve in Thorpe St Andrew on the eastern edge of Norwich. As well as spring bird song, marsh marigolds are in full flower and lady’s smock is coming out, too. Around the latter are orange-tip butterflies – for both nectar and as it’s a larval food plant – which also means the start of the survey season for some of the reserve’s volunteers. For a third year we are counting orange-tips (essentially in April and May) and Norfolk hawker dragonflies (June and July). So if you see someone on the reserve with pen and paper it may be Derek, Susan or me – but feel free to stop us for a chat, we can all multitask!
Orange tip butterfly on cuckoo flower, Derek Longe


My focus on the sedge warbler is for two reasons. One is simply as it’s a new arrival from sub-Saharan Africa, a reminder of the miracle of migration. The second links, I think, with keen birdwatchers’ constant search for the new or different. Yes, they’re back – like seeing an old friend after many months of absence. I haven’t heard a sedge warbler for ages.

What strikes as noteworthy is framed by both timing and place. For example, at Thorpe Marshes in 2017 to hear a Cetti’s warbler is routine, the strident song of this resident species much in evidence through much of the year. But go back a couple of decades and this bird would have been the surprise and across the UK – including in spring at Thorpe Marshes – it’s still scarcer than a sedge warbler. So unusualness depends on where and when.
 

Marsh marigold, Chris Durdin
I start to think: if I’d been there yesterday or the day before, could I have recorded an earlier sedge warbler? This train of thought, on reflection pointless competitiveness, is broken by the sight of male marsh harrier, with tri-coloured wings, flying low over the marshes. The harrier flushes a snipe, twists over the reeds where the sedge warbler was singing and heads up the valley towards Norwich. Moments later the call of a lesser black-backed gull encourages me to look upwards to where the gull is harrying a buzzard. 

Chris Durdin leads monthly wildlife walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. Details of monthly walks on http://www.honeyguide.co.uk/thorpemarshes.htm

Monday, 27 March 2017

On the verge...

Primroses and violets David North
Spring is good time to brush up on your plant identification skills as the hedge banks, lanes and roadside verges begin to blossom.  Here Norfolk Widlife Trust's Head of People and Wildlife, David North encounters some of our spring species as they emerge from winter.

Early April and nature seems pregnant with possibilities. Along the lanes close to where I live trees – oak, ash, beech and sycamore – are still winter bare, branches stark and darkly silhouetted against spring bright skies.  Birdsong and wildflowers - spring would not be spring without them, and both are in evidence as I walk my dog along familiar verges now brightened with the golds of  primrose and celandine, sky-blue speedwells and the unassuming greenish-yellow flowers of dog’s mercury. 
White dead nettle David North
 
This is the time of year I make my annual resolution to learn my wildflowers. Of course now it’s easy, the list of what’s in flower is comparatively small.  Red dead nettle is in profusion on road verges, forming magenta patches along the lanes.  Everyone knows dandelions and daisies and although both can be spotted in flower throughout the winter, their flowers are now abundant.  They do say spring hasn’t properly arrived until you can cover seven daisy flowers with a single footprint: well by my count spring is clearly here.   

More hidden are the flowers of other arable weeds, escaped from the fields onto my local road verges.  The diminutive white flowers of hairy bittercress, dull yellows of groundsel, the white stars of common chickweed and mauve-blues of ground ivy are easy enough to spot if you stop, bend and look a bit more closely among the grass.  I have some wonderful, shady sunken lanes to walk along. The banks here are festooned with literally hundreds of primroses and looking more closely amongst them I can find the black spotted leaves of early purple orchid and, already in flower, delicate white petals of barren strawberry. Woodland escapees on these shady roadside banks include the first red campion in flower, dog’s mercury, dog violet and ‘lords and ladies’ (wild arum).

'Lords and ladies' David North
The next few weeks in April will bring many more species into flower along our verges.  Look out for greater stitchwort, lacy-white cow parsley, and one of my favourites, growing on just a few local verges, the meadow saxifrage. I must dig out my wild flower guide and remind myself of how to distinguish creeping buttercup from bulbous and meadow buttercups and take on the annual challenge of speedwells: now is that one germander, field, slender, wall or ivy-leaved?

Few wildflower meadows remain in Norfolk but we probably all have a roadside verge close to where we live and these can be a haven for wildflowers.  And where there are flowers there will be butterflies and bees to spot. In the longer grass small mammals such as shrews and voles can thrive and their predators, barn owls, kestrels, foxes, weasels and stoats all hunt along grassy verges. So our roadside verges are like long, thin nature reserves and help wildlife move across the landscape

Red campion David North
Our roadside verges, if managed sensitively, can be hugely important for nature and our living landscapes. There are 238,000 hectares of road verge grassland in Britain with Norfolk alone having around 20,000 kms of road verges.  Across Britain verges support over 1,000 species of flowering plants including some species only found here.  With the loss of so many natural meadows in Norfolk today you are more likely to see a cowslip growing on a road verge than in a wild meadow. Even many orchid species, from common spotted to the early-purple and bee orchid, may be found thriving on road-sides. So why not take a walk on the verge and see what’s in flower in your local patch.  If you find something unusual don’t forget to let us know or send a photo to our gallery.    


If you, like me, would like to get to know your local wild flowers better then here are some to look out for along Norfolk’s roadside verges in April.  

  • Common daisy
  • Dandelion
    Violet David North
  • Celandine
  • Common vetch 
  • Cow Parsley

  • Garlic Mustard

  • Greater Stitchwort

  • Lords and Ladies (Cuckoo Pint)

  • Red campion

  • Red dead nettle

  • Self heal

  • Dog and Sweet Violet

  • White dead nettle


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

'The times they are a-changin’ - NWT Thorpe Marshes

Naturalist and Norfolk Wildlife Trust volunteer Chris Durdin reflects on 'new nature' and how wildlife responds to climate change at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Thorpe Marshes reserve on the edge of Norwich in Thorpe St Andrew.

Approaching dusk in February, and there’s a loud burst of song: a Cetti’s warbler
Cetti's warbler by Elizabeth Dack
. It’s an unremarkable record in 2017 for this bird, unusually among warblers a resident species.

But it’s a reminder of how wildlife responds to changes in climate. Cetti’s warblers first bred in Britain in Kent in 1973 and they soon moved into the Yare Valley. Broadland is now a stronghold and they are also found in wet scrub in much of the south and east of the UK.

There are plenty of other examples of ‘new nature’ on my local patch. We see little egrets fairly regularly. The first little egret I saw, in my student days, was in the Camargue in the south of France, and I can clearly recall my first in Norfolk, on Breydon Water, years later. Today it’s a distinctive and easily-recognised Broadland bird. Like Cetti’s warblers, numbers can be hit if there is a long cold spell, but how often do we get weather like that?

The Migrant Hawker dragonfly was once known as Scarce Hawker, and the new name came after regular appearances in the UK in the 20th century. Now well-established as a breeding species, it’s often the commonest dragonfly at Thorpe Marshes in late summer and with luck you can see them laying eggs. 


Speckled wood butterfly by Elizabeth Dack
More recently arriving still is the Willow Emerald damselfly, breeding in Britain for just a decade, but in good numbers at NWT Thorpe Marshes, elsewhere in the Broads and beyond. The northward spread of the speckled wood butterfly is another example.  


Losses related to climate change can be more difficult to pin down. Snipe used to ‘drum’ – their distinctive breeding display – at Thorpe Marshes when I first knew the area but have stopped breeding here, as in much of lowland England. Climate is probably partly at issue, but also subtle habitat changes. Willow warblers are getting scarcer, and cuckoos too, but for these and other birds that winter in sub-Saharan Africa other factors play a part.
For me, spotting how wildlife responds to changes in climate is obvious: what my eyes and ears reveal backs up what climate scientists say. Perhaps the climate change sceptics are less in tune with the natural world. Writing here, I hope I am preaching to the converted … and that naturalists everywhere will use the evidence of nature to challenge the cynics and doubters.

Discover Thorpe Marshes
Chris leads monthly wildlife walks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. Details of these and recent sightings on the reserve are on www.honeyguide.co.uk/thorpemarshes.htm. The website also has the 15-page NWT Thorpe Marshes Wildlife Report for 2016.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Winter wildlife magic at Hickling Broad

Wildlife enthusiast, blogger and NWT Volunteer Barry Madden braved the bitterness of the east wind on a February evening to watch the spectacular wildlife at Stubb Mill Raptor Roost at Hickling Broad.
A fly past of common crane at Hickling Broad Nick Goodrum

It is cold here. Bitterly cold. A raw easterly wind whipping in from the North Sea a mile or two away; the boundary between the flat lands of eastern Norfolk and the miles of cruel grey water marked by a line of raised dunes seen as a smudge of dull green on the horizon. The scene before us a patchwork of reed bed, course grazing marshes and fen, interspersed with twisted and stunted hawthorn. The closest you can get to a barren wilderness in this part of the world for there are but scant traces of human activity: a forlorn and long abandoned wind pump, its skeletal sail arm pointing defiantly skywards; a single distant house rendered almost invisible by its light-coloured walls blending seamlessly into the gathering murk. Nothing else, just the wild open landscape unique to this Broadland haven at Norfolk Wildife Trust’s Stubb Mill Raptor Watchpoint at Hickling Broad

Us five friends have trudged to this spot, nothing more than a raised bank bordering a drainage dyke, to witness one of nature’s most thrilling and humbling spectacles; the winter roosting of the harriers. We are quite early, 90 minutes before true dusk, but already the leaden, squall-laden skies are casting their shadows over the marshes. Light is poor, visibility far from ideal, but we know the birds will come to seek out this quiet sanctuary to spend another bitterly cold night. And we don’t have long to wait before harriers sail in. First a dark marsh harrier, then a brighter male both gliding on slightly raised wings, buffeted this way and that as they cruise low over the boggy ground. Then delight; a ringtail hen harrier, its bright white rump shining as a beacon through the gloom. A flock of fieldfares appears in a nearby tree and jinking parties of smaller birds, perhaps finches or maybe yellowhammers, are flushed by a buzzard which perches atop a bush before joining another pair of harriers purposely heading towards their roosting zone.

Whilst our attention is focused on the raptors, a pair of common cranes glide over us, dropping down into a hidden pool where they are instantly consumed by the tall ranks of thick reed; lost to sight. These birds are doing well here, naturally arriving as a party of 9 nearly 40 years ago they found the place to their liking and took up residence. Slowly and painfully, with many false starts, the birds began to breed until we now have over 40 gracing the rich and fertile acreage around Hickling and Horsey. In recent years maybe 10 or so pairs attempt to raise young with varying degrees of success, allowing the birds to expand their range into other Broadland reserves and further afield into neighbouring counties. This success story owes all to the sterling efforts of NWT, other local conservation bodies and landowners. Cranes have recently been artificially reintroduced to Somerset, but it must be remembered that in this remote corner of Norfolk where the harriers circle over the reeds and the bittern still finds refuge, we have had majestic cranes for decades. And they always manage to thrill us.


Hen harrier by Elizabeth Dack
Things begin to hot up now with more harriers drifting into view, amongst them a simply beautiful, ghostly grey, resplendently perfect, male hen harrier. What truly gorgeous creatures they are, these birds of wild open spaces. This one drops to the ground seemingly finding his supper, an unlucky pipit perhaps, before he reaches the roosting zone. Through my telescope I can just make out his head tugging at the flesh of the prey he has caught. Such rare birds these and we are privileged to be able to see them in such a setting.

On past visits, on milder, sometimes even bright, winter evenings, the harriers, merlins, barn owls and cranes can put on a wonderful show with massed spiralling as a new bird joins the throng. Merlins arrow into the roost and will happily harass the much bigger harriers, chasing them across the vast open sky in sport. They choose to spend the chill of the night perched atop small hawthorn bushes whereas the larger raptors will roost on the ground or on low branches of dead and broken willows. The owls quarter the fields silent and relentless whilst the sky slower darkens and the stars come out to play. Not today though; the wind chill is numbing our hands, cutting through coats, hats and gloves and making our eyes water. We decide we have seen enough and head back along the narrow, lonely lane to the reserve centre where it is evident much activity is taking place to update and refurbish ready for the coming summer season.

Before this place became more well-known, I used to walk back alone along this lane, bordered by high dark hedges, with all kinds of ghoulish fancies running through my mind. I defy anyone to make this lonely journey and not look over their shoulder every 100 yards, just in case there may be something following; a darker shadow amongst the gathering gloom, an echo of footsteps or an unnatural rustling in the bushes. Hard not to speed up against all reason to reach your car before darkness falls complete. It is the workings of M R James; the fleeting glimpse of something unholy, for nobody knows you are here and your screams will be lost amidst the howl of the wind.

For us five folk though, chatting as a group, we had no such concerns. We instead were lucky enough to see three more cranes, a family party probably, fly towards the broad before we sought welcome refuge ourselves in the warmth of the local pub. Back to civilisation, cosy and comfortable, whilst close by there were the harriers roosting in the reeds, steeling themselves silently against the chilling bitterness of a moonless February night.   


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Please donate today:

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Exploring layers of history in the Norfolk Claylands

January may not be abundant with wildflowers but there is plenty to discover on a winter's walk as Helen Baczkowska, Conservation Officer with Norfolk Wildlife Trust records in her Claylands Diary for January.
 

Although I am an enthusiast of wild flowers, January walks are strangely a joy; for once I am not distracted by the delights of stitchwort or speedwell, by trying to sort greater from lesser bird’s foot trefoil.  Instead, I can look out on landscapes, study bare trees and cold winter ponds with a different eye.

On a walk through the heart of the Claylands Living Landscape, my brother, an archaeologist, slowed us down by lightly kicking at molehills. One revealed the treasure he sought – a thin, curved blade of flint I would not have looked twice at.  The chipped edge he showed me was human made, one of the thousand upon thousand Mesolithic flint tools discarded across these lands.  Most, he explained, were found on dry sandy soils, the reasons uncertain, yet how, he asked, had they recognised these places?  For an ecologist, this one question begs many more about how the vegetation of Britain developed as the last glaciers retreated to the north and as herds of large herbivores, from prehistoric bison, to deer and ponies, spread out across the cold steppe grasslands and scrub.
Gorse by David North
   


One thing I could certainly say is that even today, the patches of sandy soils left on the edge of the ice sheets can be easily distinguished amongst the ground up chalky clay of South Norfolk; earlier walking over the County Wildlife Site at Wood Green, we had crossed an area of gorse and fine grasses, visible even in winter.  In summer, heath bedstraw and heath speedwell grow here, although most of the common is clay, with meadow vetchling, meadow buttercup, cowslip and black knapweed.

Nearby Fritton Common is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with orchids and ponds were great crested newts breed, but in the bleakness of January, my attention was drawn to the almost straight rows of oak trees, most noticeable on the western boundary.  Some of these are huge old trees, the largest in the south-west corner showing signs of pollarding – a way that small wood was once produced by cutting and re-cutting above the height of grazing stock. Collecting small wood from pollards was often the right of the commoners, whereas the timber trees themselves were the property of the lord of the manor. 


Old oak tree by Brian Beckett
In the centuries when barns and houses and especially warships were built on oak frames, these trees were valuable, their management and planting central to a farm’s income and survival; it is likely that the amount of oak across many English counties is not a virtue of ecology, so much a legacy of old economies and the insatiable need for timber for ships.  Today, being winter bare, these trees make curious shapes, with a large, gnarled trunks and many holes; invertebrates inhabit the crevices and barbestelle bats, which are have been recorded hunting over the common, no doubt find a roost in the cracks and fissured bark.

The lines of pollards continue south of Fritton Common, along a sinuous path, known locally as Snake Lane.  Hedges in the Claylands are often tall, with mature trees and a flora suggesting these are old fragments of woodland. The wide hedges of Snake Lane indicate long generations of woodland management, with pollards of oak and field maple; between them the pale slender trunks of hazel show signs of past coppicing.  Like pollarding, this produced small wood for hurdles and tool handles by cutting and re-cutting, but this time at ground level; the re-grown trees have many stems and a distinctive stump or “stool”.  A few hornbeam grow here too, their bark smooth and twisted into long creases, their timber once famed for its hardness.

Returning home, across Morningthorpe Common, a whisper makes me look up.  With a sound like the lightest of summer breezes in tall trees, a flock of fieldfares is heading to roost.  I have spotted a lot of these large, grey-backed thrushes over the past week, no doubt forced briefly south by cold weather. 
Fieldfare by Elizabeth Dack
 

By the end of our walk, dusk is wintry, grey and damp; warmth and hot tea beckon, but so do more days of walking the quiet, hidden tracks of the Claylands, exploring the endless, inseparable layering of human and natural history.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Gathering gadwall

St Andrew's Broad with tufted duck and gadwall Chris Durdin
Regular NWT blogger, local resident and wildlife enthusiast Chris Durdin puts the seemingly 'dull' and overlooked gadwall in the spotlight. Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Thorpe Marshes reserve is in the Norfolk Broads, yet on the edge of Norwich in Thorpe St Andrew. Local resident Chris Durdin writes.

I’m in two minds. The mild winter means that there has been no big hard weather influx of wintering ducks at NWT Thorpe Marshes. That must be good for the birds’ survival.

On the other hand, the birdwatching on St Andrews Broad, the gravel pit, is therefore largely routine: tufted ducks, teals scattered around the edges, an occasional shoveler or wigeon alongside the many gulls, the regular great crested grebe and a cormorant or two.

A constant, though, is that the most obvious dabbling duck species on St Andrews Broad is the gadwall, with some 50 or so regularly present. They like to feed by waiting for coots to surface with waterweed and then snatching it. But coots are relatively scarce so this bullying tactic is the exception and mostly they feed for themselves.

A new birdwatcher’s first impression of gadwalls is often that they are dull-looking. Then a close view, perhaps through a telescope, causes a conversion to admiration when much of the grey plumage is revealed as rather dapper black and white mottling. 

Gadwall by Elizabeth Dack
Flashes of white when loafing or swimming expand when gadwalls flap or fly: the distinctive white speculum, part of the trailing edge of the wing. Not that identification at Thorpe Marshes is a challenge: mallards all but disappear here in winter.

Normally a wintering bird at Thorpe Marshes, last year gadwalls also bred with young seen in spring and summer. The highest count of gadwalls on the reserve in 2016 was 114. These are two of many nuggets of information in the NWT Thorpe Marshes Wildlife Report for 2016, which is now online at on www.honeyguide.co.uk/thorpemarshes.htm along with details of monthly wildlife walks.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Your voice matters

Why now is a good time to take positive action for the future of Norfolk's wildlife by David North, Head of People and Wildlife.  
Swallowtail by Tim Melling


If you are reading this then the chances are that you, like me, care about Norfolk’s wildlife.  Fortunately huge numbers of people in our county do value nature and now is an important time to make our voices heard.

 
Norfolk Wildlife Trust is making its voice heard by writing to our MPs asking them to sign a ‘Pledge for the Environment’.  The Wildlife Trusts, along with many other conservation organisations, including RSPB, WWF, and CPRE, are all asking MPs to support measures to ensure protection for the environment and wildlife. The full text of the pledge can be read here:http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/GreenerUK
 

There are real concerns that the protection of our environment may suffer when we leave the EU and it’s not just environmentalists that are raising this concern.

You may have heard on the news that in a recent report,  The Future of the Environment after the EU Referendum (4 January 2017),cross-party MPs from  the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have warned  the Government of the very real risk that vital protections for our environment, countryside and wildlife could be weakened  through the process of leaving the EU. This Committee of MPs is therefore calling on Government to introduce a new Environmental Protection Act before we leave the EU.


Currently around 80% of our environmental laws are tied in with the EU so ensuring these protections for our wildlife and countryside are not weakened during Brexit is absolutely vital if we want a positive future for our wildlife. Currently more than 170 MPs nationally have signed up to the ‘Pledge for the Environment’ but only three of our Norfolk MPs are on this list.


Water vole by Kevin Anderson
If you care about wildlife then now is the time to write to your MP raising your concern that protection for wildlife must not be lost when we leave the European Union.  Let’s show our leaders that protection of the environment is not a side-issue to be thought about only after other concerns, like the economy and immigration, have been addressed but is an issue that is fundamental.
 
 

We all know and understand that a healthy environment rich in wildlife is actually essential to human well-being and the bedrock on which a sustainable economy can be built.  Let’s make sure our MPs understand this too and that they know we want Britain to set a world standard in environmental protection ensuring that our wildlife recovers from current declines.

To see a list of MPs that have signed the Pledge for the Environment and to check if your MP is on the list visit: http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/GreenerUK http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/GreenerUK http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/GreenerUK 


Please add your voice now by writing to your MP asking them to sign this pledge if they have not already done so.   For the Wildlife Trust’s top tips on how to contact your MP visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/Greener-UK/Take-Action www.wildlifetrusts.org/Greener-UK/Take-Action   Decisions made in the next two years are likely to determine the fate of our wildlife and countryside for decades to come.



Help us protect Hickling Broad – the heart of the Norfolk Broads

Please donate today:

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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Little gems: Roadside Nature Reserves (RNRs)


Roger Jones, Norfolk Wildlife Trust Volunteer Surveyor puts the spotlight on some special but often overlooked and special places for nature.

Meadow saxifrage at the roadside. David North
There is a little known, and underloved, set of nature reserves in Norfolk. There may be one on a roadside near you. Yes, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, along with Norfolk County Council, has recognised a whole series of Roadside Nature Reserves (RNRs). However, they are under publicised, though they support many interesting wild flowers. 

Whilst the rest of you whizz by at 70mph (OK 30mph – this is Norfolk) I have long harboured an affection for some of them. My interest was kindled around 25 years ago when the marker posts appeared outside a local supermarket. Over the years I have been visiting several which have particular specialities. This summer my wife Jenny and I set out on a semi-organised survey of RNRs. We’ve found pepper saxifrage, stone parsley, 500+ common spotted orchids (yes, on one verge!), knapweed broomrape, spiny restharrow (ouch!), danewort, sheepsbit and many more fascination and uncommon wild flowers.

On one of the survey days I became troubled by what I saw just outside Taverham on the A1067. A sign advertising the works for the Northern Distributor Road (NDR) had been neatly placed right over the RNR marker post. After contacting Norfolk County Council to find out the fate of this RNR I was informed that it was (as I suspected) due to be lost by the NDR works. However, the County Council already made great efforts to collect seed from this RNR last summer, and this will be used to establish a new grassland verge in the vicinity in 2017, which should hopefully be larger than what will be lost.

  
Pyramidal orchids by Roger Jones

In total we surveyed 40 of the 111 Roadside Nature Reserves in the county. We hope to carry on exploring and surveying our road verges next year! 

To find out if you have a roadside nature reserve near you, please contact Norfolk Wildlife Trust or simply look out for the distinctive roadside markers when you are driving in Norfolk.  


To view list of the RNRs in Norfolk please visit the NBIS website: www.nbis.org.uk/designated-sites 


Friday, 2 December 2016

Ovington Ramblers: Buxton Heath and Holt Lowes NWT Reserves


On 22 November 2016 - we fulfilled our ambition to walk every possible NWT owned or managed public access reserve in their 90th Anniversary year!

Our first stop was at Buxton Heath, six miles north of Norwich just off the B1149.  By the time we arrived the early morning drizzle had ceased and the sun was pushing through the clouds.  We began our walk to the right of the car park through low lying heather and scattered gorse bushes in full flower.  There were lots of different mushrooms to see and the moss in all its emerald glory was a stunning sight.

A 'Cromer Crab-like' giant mushroom

Afterwards we walked straight ahead in a different direction from the car park, a more wooded area full of oak and silver birch.  It was here we had our first site of the wild ponies that graze the area and couldn't resist the photo opportunity. The animals were very obliging and didn't seem to mind our presence at all. Buxton Heath is managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust in partnership with the owners, Hevingham Fuel Allotment charity.  A wonderful reserve where the silver-studded blue butterfly was reintroduced in 1985 and where you can also find purple hairstreak and white admiral butterflies in summer.
Wild Konik ponies on Buxton Heath

Back at the car we had a quick coffee break and then drove north up the B1149 to Holt Country Park, where there is a large car par and toilet facilities.  You can walk through the lovely wooded area and eventually out on to Holt Lowes. The Lowes is a botanist's delight, with lots of rare plants, which are obviously scarce at this time of year.  However, it is still a picture in November with the last leaves of autumn hanging on the trees. The abundant heather is particularly tall as it vies with the gorse bushes and spruce saplings which are springing up everywhere. The walk on this bright, windy day certainly blew the cobwebs away and we thoroughly enjoyed it. This special reserve is managed by NWT in partnership with the owners, the Holt Lowes Trustees and is a wonderful reserve for dragonflies with over 20 species recorded including the rare keeled skimmer.

A view of Buxton Heath
Sadly, after visiting nearly 40 reserves this year, we have now come to the end of our mission. However, we have enjoyed every minute and will still have very many happy memories to keep. I am sure we will be visiting all our favourite reserves again in the future.  (Photos courtesy of  Maureen Simmons)



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