Tuesday, 19 September 2017

What’s wrong with the centre of Norfolk?

Mark Webster, Project Officer

Join us for a bat walk in NWT Foxley Wood
It’s a part of Norfolk that doesn’t get the attention it deserves but at least NWT hasn’t forgotten it… and neither have the Heritage Lottery Fund. A series of free events in central Norfolk (with more around North Walsham too) could be the ideal time for you to discover some hidden gems.

Ask people to think of wildlife in Norfolk and most of them will conjure up images of wading birds flying over our Northern coastline, or perhaps acres of reeds beside the world-famous Broads.  But there are lots of NWT reserves - and many other great places to see wildlife – right in the heart of the county. So often people get stuck in traffic jams heading for the seaside and they are going straight past some really wonderful woods, wetlands and heaths.

I often do a talk entitled “Rough and Common – the hidden wildlife gems of Mid-Norfolk” and every time I find that even people who have lived in the area all their lives are not aware of all the great places that they can visit on their doorsteps. I’ve been working in this area for two years now, and I’m certainly still discovering new places every month.

Many people come to Foxley Wood for the bluebells in spring – well, I can certainly understand that, they are absolutely stunning – but they miss out on seeing orchids there later in the year.  And there are lots more NWT reserves to see check out the cluster of sites between Dereham and Reepham, but you can also enjoy many other beautiful green spaces, including these:

Mayfields Farm
  • Mayfields Farm at Themelthorpe is somewhere I have visited and worked at many times. There’s a great variety of habitats including grassland, a number of very different ponds, a small woodland and lots of species-rich hedgerow. 
  • Bawdeswell Heath County Wildlife Site near Swanton Morley is one of my favourite places, as I have a particular fondness for heathland restoration projects. Walk through the birch woodland, passing some veteran oaks, and you will come to two open patches where heather is thriving despite the constant pressure from bracken, gorse and tree seedlings coming in. There’s a car park on the busy Swanton to Bawdeswell road, making this site easily found. 
  • Carbrooke Millenium Green near Watton is a very impressive site for a relatively small village, with growing woodland, a maze, an orchard and a lovely pond. 
  • Other great places to explore in central Norfolk include Dereham’s own Neatherd Moor and the 60 acres of Litcham Common.

Bawdeswell Heath
If you still don’t fancy wandering around these places alone, why not come with us?  As part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project, Norfolk Wildlife Trust in partnership with TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) are running a series of free short courses in central Norfolk (and, I should say, around North Walsham too).  Between 27 September and 10 November there are 11 chances to learn more about a wide range of different local flora and fauna, including bats, fungi, mosses, as well as discovering how to take great wildlife photos. 

There will be a bat walk at Foxley Wood, giving you the rare chance of exploring Norfolk’s largest ancient woodland at night. There are also two Mushroom Forays led by county fungi recorder, and real enthusiast for his subject, Tony Leech. 
Indoor events will include renowned wildlife cameraman, Jerry Kinsley showing some of his stunning nature photos, and sharing the secrets of his success, which includes the somewhat surprising use of a skateboard. Meanwhile, back outside, there will be two chances to find and identify some fascinating if oft-forgotten plants, the mosses, and see how marvellous these tiny plants really are! Just like the wildlife sites of mid-Norfolk themselves, we have all just gone past these ‘primitive’ organisms on the way to see something bigger, but they really repay closer inspection with a hand lens.

I’m really pleased to have got some real experts who are also great communicators to lead these sessions, so I do hope that you may be able to take advantage of some of these free opportunities to learn about local wildlife (and the history of the railways around North Walsham). 

For more details about how to join any of these walks and talks, please contact me via markw@norfolkwildlifetust.org.uk  or 07843 069 567, or see the What’s On pages of the NWT website.

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