Friday, 26 September 2014

Living Landscape activities: now every week

Mark Webster, Living Landscape project officer

Norfolk Wildlife Trust staff are breaking out of their Roydon Common nature reserve to help local communities to create a ‘Living Landscape’ in and around King's Lynn.  Focusing on the Gaywood River and its surrounding Valley, NWT’s Gemma Walker and I will be running activities at the same time every week from October onwards, based at Reffley Community Centre on Reffley Lane. 

Volunteering, photo by Tony McKie
Kicking things off at 10am on Monday 6 October will be a Fungi Foray with expert (and enthusiast) Dr Tony Leech, who will lead us out from Reffley Community Centre car park round the nearby woods, searching for and identifying as many mushrooms as possible. 

From then on, the group will be meeting every Monday morning at 10am (with a short break for Christmas and New Year) always starting at Reffley Community Hall car park, Reffley Lane, Kings Lynn, PE30 3EQ, at 10am. Activities in October and November include visits to ‘hidden gem’ wildlife sites in the area  (a minibus is provided if it’s too far to walk), work to improve local woodland habitats, and the chance to learn more about the Gaywood River and the history of Kings Lynn.

Sessions generally last until 1pm but you can leave earlier if you need to. Most sessions will include the chance to try practical conservation work and/or learning about wildlife, but you do NOT have to be physically fit to take part. Tea and biscuits are usually provided, as are any tools equipment and training needed. 

Anyone can just turn up and join in (under 18s need to be accompanied by an adult) and all you need to bring are old outdoor working clothes. There’s usually no need to book but Gemma and Mark are happy to answer any questions you may have before you give it a try: call 01603 598333 or email You can also find out more about the new Living Landscape approach at

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A gem of an emerald

Chris Durdin, NWT Thorpe Marshes
Is nature predictable or unpredictable? Discuss, as exam questions used to say. A recent discovery at NWT Thorpe Marshes was, you might say, a predictable surprise… so perhaps the best of both.

That discovery was a new damselfly for the reserve on the edge of Norwich. Willow Emerald is name of the species, or Western Willow Spreadwing in the European field guide. ‘Spreadwing’ is from the position at rest of this and related species, as the photo shows. This damselfly perched on a sallow twig, a typical pose.

Willow Emerald Damselfly Chalcolestes viridis

The Willow Emerald is a recent UK colonist, first found in Suffolk in 2007. It’s now fairly widespread in the right habitats in our neighbouring county, and spreading. It's been at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen for a few years, and was seen well on the River Yare at Cringleford in 2013. As NWT Thorpe Marshes is midway between Strumpshaw and Cringleford, I mentioned Willow Emerald on my September guided walk as a damselfly to lookout for.  Hey presto … one of that group returned and found it. I hear they’ve also been found in several other places this year.

It took me three attempts to see the Willow Emerald for myself, but warm autumn days meant there were many dragonflies on the wing to keep me company. And, on one visit, a whinchat, too: an autumn migrant, so when you might expect to see it, but far from predictable.

Incidentally, the Willow Emerald brings the reserve Odonata list to 19. That’s slightly fewer than Strumpshaw Fen's 24 (22 breeding species, 2 vagrants). Do any blog readers know how other Norfolk sites compare? In another role, as a soccer coach, I know I must keep the lid on the ‘competitive dad’, but I can’t help but wonder how my local patch ranks against more famous nature reserves.

Would anyone like to predict what we’ll find next at NWT Thorpe Marshes?

More wildlife news and details of monthly walks on