Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Churchyards, rabbits, rain and rising water levels

Angela Collins, Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Volunteer Coordinator has just met up with some of our committed and hardworking Visitor Centre Volunteers for an end of season get together and update on the year's progress.

"This week I had the pleasure to meet with some of our Visitor Centre volunteers at an end of season event.   The day started in the village hall in Thompson. Nick Morritt, Visitor Services Manager gave a very interesting review of each centre and highlights of the year together with plans for next year.  It was great to hear that visitor numbers have been good across all the visitor centres this year with the majority showing an increase, sales have gone well, particularly our specialist wildlife/nature themed books collection, which rivals any on the high street. The special duck and swan feed being sold at Ranworth this year was a huge success and flew of the shelves, with the double benefit of good for fundraising but also hopefully preventing wildfowl being fed with more harmful white bread and cake.

Then Emily Nobbs, Conservation Officer, told us all about the NWT Churchyard Conservation Scheme.   Churches and their grounds, which have been there for years and experience little change, are important wildlife refuges in the landscape, protecting a huge number of species, including flowers, bats, butterflies, birds, lichens, slow worms, and veteran trees.   Emily explained how the scheme helped churches to survey the church grounds to find what is there, and then give focused management advice and support to help the churchyard to be managed sympathetically for people, remembrance and wildlife. 

Hardy NWT volunteers at NWT East Wretham Heath

By this time the weather didn’t look quite as bad as the forecast, with only light showers, so we checked everyone was still happy to go out, some understandably chose to leave, but the rest of us headed to NWT East Wretham Heath, where we were met by the warden Matthew Blissett.  Matt explained about the history of the heath and the importance of wild rabbits to its management; the way they are able to create the short cropped sward which is so important for the biodiversity of the site, including the rare wildlife found in the Brecks such as stone curlews and many rare plants.   

Unfortunately, rabbits across the UK are being infected with rabbit hemorrhagic disease which is causing a big decline in their numbers in some areas, including the Breckland heaths, this is something we need to continue to monitor to better understand how this will affect our heaths.   

Taking in the view at Langmere
Matt then took us to the Sydney Long memorial alongside Langmere, which is an interesting mere with fluctuating water levels fed by rising ground water, there is a long delay in months of how the mere fills after rainy conditions, it was dry in February this year, but was looking very full now after a dry summer. Matt helped us understand how this might work; imagine an empty bucket with holes in the bottom, being placed in a bath full of water, the bucket would slowly fill but it wouldn’t fill straight away, well that’s how Langmere works.   

The rain continued and got a little heavier but we were not to be deterred and carried on round to the hide with more discussion about the management of the heath and the wildlife found there.

An enjoyable and interesting day for all I think.  Thank you to all of our volunteers for their tremendous support in our visitor centres over the summer, and we look forward to seeing everyone back again when Hickling, Ranworth and Weeting reopen in the Spring, and of course Holme and Cley continue year round with winter opening, with the much appreciated support of so many volunteers there."


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