Monday, 31 October 2016

Tony Juniper: a President for people and wildlife

Emily Kench
Cley Marshes Marketing and Community Intern

We are currently witnessing one of the craziest presidential elections in history. It seems to me that in amongst the profanities, the personalities, and the politics, the true cause of the campaign – the people – has been forgotten.

Tony Juniper: The Wildlife Trusts' President
Staying in, watching the TV and despairing at international news has become a daily ritual. So on Friday evening, I opted for a change of practice. Rather than tut and groan at events playing out on the other side of the world, I thought I’d see if more local events could offer me any hope. I donned my walking boots and wandered down to the Norwich Science Festival at the Forum to hear the President of The Wildlife Trusts plea.

Tony Juniper, bestselling author and committed conservationist, added Wildlife Trust President to his extensive list of achievements back in 2015. After inspiring millions with his book What has nature ever done for us? and the sequel, What Nature Does for Britain, over 100 like-minded people came together to hear the man of the moment speak.

It is fair to say that in amongst the recognition and the accolades, Tony has not forgotten his ethos which truly resonates with Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s vision. We must create a future where wildlife is protected and enhanced through sympathetic management and people are connected with and inspired by wildlife and wild spaces.

Tony did not preach, he did not patronise, he purely highlighted simple conservation principles. The talk focussed on the positives, the solutions, and the opportunities available to us.

In conservation, it’s common to hear that we’re too late and we’ve missed our chance. We have become accustomed to the concept that we can only conserve what we have at present, and even then we may have missed the boat. However, Tony challenged this thought process. He emphasised the importance of rewilding and restoration. He highlighted how ecosystem services can help us to value our natural resources in a way that is compatible with the markets.

Most importantly, in our wave of post-Brexit uncertainty, where neither the implications for wildlife or people are understood, Tony offered assurance that conservation practices can improve. We must not focus on what we have lost, but instead what we can gain. If as a nation of consumers, we speak of our desire to protect our wildlife, we can make change happen. Forward-thinking can put us ahead of the game. Proactive engagement with businesses and politicians right now can help us to influence policy-making in the future.

Tony Juniper inspiring an audience at the Norwich Science Festival
This kind of insight can only come from someone who not only knows British wildlife like the back of their hand, but who can also connect with people from all walks of life. The audience was in awe, and even a few people munching on garlic bread in Pizza Express above stopped to listen.

By the end of the talk I was filled with a sense of heart-warming hope. Forget Trump and Clinton, in Tony Juniper I had found my own president: a president of people and wildlife.

Monday, 24 October 2016

The Ovington Ramblers: Syderstone Common and Ringstead Downs

In celebration of 90 years of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Ovington Ramblers have been visiting all of the Trust's reserves in Norfolk.  Here is news of their latest visit.

Willow herb at Syderstone Common

The weather was miserable when we set out towards Hunstanton, windy and pouring of rain. However after nearly an hour's drive and a cuppa in the car, the sun came out and gave us a beautiful autumnal day.  

We started at Syderstone Common which provided a lovely walk in glorious colour, particularly from the red leaves of a profusion of willow herb, the soft lilac colour of the heather and the straw coloured wavy hair grass. The signs of autumn were all around us with acorns and beech nuts galore and the beautiful sight and sounds of flocks of geese honking their way across the skies. We also spotted a number of light brown furry caterpillars, possibly from the tiger moth?

Our second stop was at Ringstead Downs. This was another excellent walk, quite different from the former, along a steep-sided valley where the trees grew one above another from bramble, gorse and hawthorn right up to hazel, beech, oak, ash and pine.  Mother Nature is such a clever landscape gardener! High above the treetops we watched a very large buzzard scaring away all the rooks.

Ringstead Downs

We spent quite a while looking at the amazing number of wildflowers in the chalk grassland.  There were many we didn't know but we did recognise red clover, harebell, rock rose, buttercup, dandelion, scabious, campion, wild thyme, knapweed, lady's bedstraw, gromwell, dwarf thistle and poppy.

Rock rose

Next week, weather permitting, we plan to spend the day at Hickling Broad.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

The Ovington Ramblers: Barton Broad and Alderfen Broad

Once again we visited two NWT reserves on the same day as they are both only a short car journey from Neatishead and about 10 minutes apart.

Greater Tussock Sedge
The northern end of Barton Broad is approached through the pretty village of Barton Turf.  There is only a short footpath walk here, so we drove on to the car park on Long Road at the southern end.  We then followed the well laid footpath to the board walk trail.  We took our time walking this circular trail around Heron's Carr as there was so much to see, with lots of useful information along the way.  The plant life took on gigantic proportions as we walked past giant Royal Ferns, enormous rushes and sedge tussocks 2-3' high.  The sedge thrives in the damp conditions and the tussocks provide multi-level homes for a variety of spiders and insects.

Halfway round there is a platform giving excellent views across the broad, where we watched lots of cormorants sunning themselves in the autumn sunshine.

Back at the car we had a quick coffee and home-made biscuits (courtesy of Joyce) and then it was off to AlderfenBroad.  A long rough track from Threehammer Common leads down to an excellent little car park. Unfortunately there are no NWT signs from the road and this track could easily be overlooked. However, we are glad to have found it as it proved a most enjoyable and varied walk. 

Part of the walk is beside a stream, along a grassy woodland path which leads round to a damper area of reeds, pink hemp agrimony, sphagnum moss and greater tussock sedge. There were lots of dragonflies all around us, with some actually landing on our heads! Good views across the broad can be seen but be very careful as you near the water's edge because the “ground” is actually not earth but feels like a raft of dead vegetation with water beneath. Beware! 

At the beginning of the year, we decided to try to walk round all the NWT Reserves in the Trust's 90th year.  I believe we have so far managed to walk about three-quarters of the reserves, so are on track to achieve our goal by the end of December.

Common Darter Dragonfly