Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Ovington Ramblers: Hockham and Wretham

Maureen Simmons

A small group of friends (5 of us in all) have decided in our 20th year of walking together that we will try to visit all the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves in their 90th Anniversary year. So we braved the cold wind and showers and started out on our adventure.

Turkeytail fungus at Hockham Fen
We first went to Hockham Fen, which includes Cranberry Rough. This is quite hard to find, but we met a kind Thetford Forest Warden who pointed the way. He explained that about a thousand years ago Cranberry Rough was a huge lake, which silted up over the next 500 years and was eventually filled in. Now, however, the land is reverting to its original marshland and is the home of a variety of newts and wildfowl. Cattle graze the area in a way that supports the wildlife and benefits the ecology. We had to tread very carefully as the bogs can be very deep and dangerous. We stood and watched a buzzard overhead whilst listening to the geese honking.

We continued on to East Wretham Heath. Not many rabbits were brave enough to venture out today, but we did see a few white tails bobbing about. It's amazing to see how low they crop the grassland, helping to make the Brecks so unique, with a population of rare birds, plants and insects found virtually nowhere else in England.

Ringmere at East Wretham
We arrived at Langmere (one of the two large lakes at East Wretham) and looked out of the hide to see it completely dry – after all the rain we have had recently!  The level of this mere fluctuates in an unusual way with the underground water, reaching maximum depth in Summer and slowly dropping again through Autumn and Winter. Luckily the other lake, Ringmere, provided water for a variety of wildfowl including swans and mallards. The NWT flying flock also arrived for a drink.

A bracing day, with much to see, even in mid-winter. Next week we are off to Thetford Heath.

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