Thursday, 23 June 2016

Wild in the City

Barry Madden, NWT Volunteer

As part of Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s celebrations of its 90th anniversary it took over Norwich Forum for a fortnight during May and early June. Who could have foreseen how far the organisation would evolve over the nine decades it has existed; such a transformation and maturation from when in 1926, Dr Sydney Long decided to form a trust to purchase an area of land just east of Cley village to put aside for the protection of its natural bounty. Yet here we are reaping the benefits of an exceptionally successful nature conservation body, still working tirelessly for the benefit of Norfolk’s wild places and the wild creatures that inhabit them. But it is more than that because people are an integral part of the plan. Wildlife needs people and people need wildlife; mutual exclusivity is not an option: co-existence is vital. What a well-run event it was and congratulations are in order to all involved. From storytelling sessions to magnetic pond dipping, from badge making to live artists at work; there was something for everyone. And of course the underpinning message was to cherish the wildlife. Always cherish the wildlife.

My minor role in all this was billed as a simple meet and greet volunteer for the day but turned into something a little more substantial courtesy of a young lady from BBC Radio Norfolk who sidled up and asked whether I would be prepared to say a few words about the event. Being a modest sort and prone to sudden panic I declined and instead pointed her in the direction of the day supervisor who luckily came into view in the nick of time. They toddled off for a chat and I stepped back into my comfort zone - but not for long. Only a few minutes passed before the said young lady complete with microphone, headset and tablet appeared by my side once again to ambush me. But it was fine, in fact I rather enjoyed it because the subject matter was wildlife gardening related to a set of leaflets I had helped produce when gainfully employed by NWT. With those leaflets in front of me as a prompt and no audience to worry about we giggled our way through 5 minutes or so and she seemed quite happy. If you're interested you can listen to my waffle here. I'm on at about 1:30.

Turtle dove, photo by Barry Madden
But of course there is still much more to do; an ongoing programme to acquire more land of conservation potential, connect more people with their natural heritage and develop what has already been gained. To illustrate how NWT is always aiming to enhance its reserves, I visited NWT Weeting Heath recently amidst the swelter of early June. This Breckland oasis  has always been a productive place to spend a little time, and until recently a little time is perhaps all most people would spend there, for once the stone curlews had (or had not) been seen it was time to pack away the scope and move on. Not any more. Now there is an excellent woodland trail that takes you on a loop along rides adjacent to the northern heath where butterflies dance over strips of unmown grass liberally scattered with wildflowers. The stone curlews on the main heath seem to have had a tough time of it this year and it is quite noticeable how the drastic reduction in the rabbit population has resulted in very tall grass covering much of the area. However another pair are well through their incubation of a clutch on the northern side and their piercing calls could be heard echoing across today's sun baked heathland as I progressed. Heartening too was the sighting of a turtle dove, the first I've personally seen in the UK for two years. A singing garden warbler was also nice to find. A whole new dimension to the visitor experience has been created enabling a much better appreciation of the flora and fauna inhabiting this part of Norfolk. The peace and quiet was also most welcome.

 NWT really have done a good job with promoting themselves and local wildlife conservation this year. It is well worth a peek at their website for details of the multitude of other events they are organising during the remainder of 2016. Get yourself along to one or two if you can, or maybe you should think about becoming a member or volunteering. If you care about Norfolk’s wildlife there is, in my opinion, no better way to invest.

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