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: 

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)


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

Please donate today:

  •  Call: 01603 625540
  • Text LAND26 TO 70070 with the amount of your donation (£)*

    *(Please  note that you may incur a standard network message charge based on your service provider rates).