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Wildlife News from Suffolk Wildlife Trust


Suffo Broa lk issueds SUFFOLK WILDLIFE


Living Landscapes Living Gardens Living Seas









A dream job

Meet the new hedgehog officer

Suffolk's dormice

Populations are on the up at Bradfield Woods



Picture perfect

The stories behind this year's photography competition winners

26 A farm where nature thrives

Vine House Farm in Lincolnshire is both profitable and abundant in wildlife


20 Flying high






From gun batteries to old battle fields, military landscapes are often some of the best preserved for nature

12 Gateway to the Suffolk Broads 16

Writer Simon Barnes on the Trust's bid to rescue a precious corner of East Anglia

A magnet for wildlife An insight into the Broads National Park, the UK's largest protected wetland

30 10 ex-military reserves


32 Advertising directory


22 Can the UK find a way?

The Wildlife Trust's challenge to every MP

25 Brexit and nature: where next? Tony Juniper argues we should all be ambassadors for the natural world

A brighter future for the county's marsh harriers





Suff Broaolk issueds




Wildlife News from Suffolk Wildlife Trust


On the cover

Short eared owl Patrick Endres Alamy

Suffo lk Broad issue s SUFFOLK WILDLIFE

Last summer, on a perfect, clear blue early morning, I had the chance to view Suffolk from a different perspective. My flight out of Stansted had just taken off when a cursory glance out of the aeroplane window revealed a typical pattern of fields and villages. A sequence of settlements had a familiar look and I recognised first Sudbury, then Long Melford and Lavenham. It was as if an Ordnance Survey map had come to life – a map I knew well. My eyes traced our journey towards the coast picking up familiar places. Before long we were high Julian Roughton above the Blyth estuary and the mudflats, marshes, Chief Executive reedbed and heaths of the Suffolk Coast National Nature Reserve. And to the north – it seemed hardly any distance at all – the Trust’s Carlton & Oulton Marshes reserve on the River Waveney. Since we were negotiating to purchase land alongside Carlton & Oulton Marshes this was a unique opportunity to see how this fitted into the landscape. It was striking how inter-connected Carlton and Oulton Marshes are, not just to the wider Broads, but to a chain of nature reserves along the Suffolk coast. Creating 1,000 acres of wild space in the Broads will provide a home for wetland species such as bittern, Norfolk hawker, fen raft spider, Desmoulin’s whorl snail and the huge variety of species that make this the UK’s most important National Park for wildlife. But this birds-eye view also revealed what an invaluable refuelling point this wetland expanse will be for migrants passing along the east coast on their journeys across Europe and the globe. I could not have imagined whilst flying over the Blyth, that weeks later the Blythburgh Estate, along with most of the Suffolk Coast National Nature Reserve, would be up for sale. The diversity of this estate makes it of unique importance for wildlife so we have been working, in partnership with others, to purchase not just the National Nature Reserve but land beyond to expand the habitats for wildlife. By the time your magazine reaches you, we should know whether we have been successful and will share the news in the local press. Over recent years Suffolk Wildlife Trust has carefully built up a fund from legacy gifts to enable us to respond to strategically important land purchases. If we are successful at Blythburgh, along with our Suffolk Broads purchase, our financial reserves will be completely depleted. It is thanks to your generous support for our land purchase appeals that we can have the confidence to press ahead with such opportunities – they are too important for Suffolk’s wildlife to be missed.


Living Landscapes Living Gardens Living Seas

SUFFOLK WILDLIFE THE SUFFOLK WILDLIFE TRUST MAGAZINE is published by Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Brooke House, Ashbocking IP6 9JY 01473 890089 info@suffolkwildlifetrust.org www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org SWT CENTRES Bradfield Woods 01449 737996 Carlton Marshes 01502 564250 Foxburrow Farm 01394 380113 Knettishall Heath 07717 156601 Lackford Lakes 01284 728706 Redgrave & Lopham Fen 01379 688333

EDITOR Matt Gaw DESIGN & ARTWORK Clare Sheehan ADVERTISING Today Magazines, Framlingham 01728 622030 PRINTING Five Castles Press, Ipswich PATRON Lord Tollemache PRESIDENT Lord Blakenham VICE PRESIDENTS David Barker MBE, Sir Kenneth Carlisle, Lord Deben, Dawn Girling, Bernard Tickner, Peter Wilson TRUSTEES Ian Brown (Chairman), Nigel Farthing (Vice Chairman), Robin Drayton (Treasurer), James Robinson (Hon Secretary), David Alborough, James Alexander, John Cousins, Denise Goldsmith, Pip Goodwin, Peter Holborn, Simon Roberts

SUFFOLK WILDLIFE TRUST is one of a national network of Wildlife Trusts dedicated to safeguarding the future of wildlife for the benefit of all Suffolk Wildlife Trust is a registered charity no 262777 and a company limited by guarantee no 695346


The Trust benefits from the most incredible support, with many members’ commitment stretching over decades. Please keep in touch so we can ensure you get the most out of your membership.

We can tailor your membership to suit your family. If your children are aged betwen 6-14 they’d enjoy our Wildlife Watch magazine. Likewise do let us know if your children have grown too old for the magazine. Sam Grange our Membership Manger would love to hear from you. Please call on 01473 890089 Follow us on twitter and facebook




A dream job

The news that Suffolk Wildlife Trust was to appoint a dedicated hedgehog officer made headlines around the globe. Matt Gaw speaks to Ali North, the woman tasked with making Ipswich the most hedgehogfriendly town in the UK



t was a job advert that attracted global interest: Wanted, hedgehog officer. From Manchester to Mexico and Northern Ireland to New Zealand, the news that Suffolk Wildlife Trust was searching for the perfect person to make Ipswich the most hedgehogfriendly town in the UK quickly spread. The excitement was almost too much in Taiwan, where one newspaper reported the position paid £2.4million to cuddle orphan hedgehogs. The Trust was overwhelmed by applications, including from international candidates, but in the end it was 25-yearold Ali North who was selected to take up the challenge of leading the two year initiative, which is being backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS). Now four months into what she describes as her “dream job”, Ali laughs about the excitement the position caused. “It was definitely nerve-wracking coming for an interview after all the publicity, but I always knew the job would be popular because of the nature of conservation work and the fondness for hedgehogs.” In some ways the hedgehog officer role is a bit of a departure for Ali. For the past year she has been immersed in high-flying conservation work at Cambridge-based Birdlife – researching the grave threats facing some of the world’s most vulnerable bird species. But with a degree in Zoology, a masters in Biodiversity and Conservation (both from the University of Exeter) and experience at working on numerous mammal projects – including a study of



the relationship between farmland management and nesting harvest mice with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) – Ali is well equipped to hit the ground running. She explains: “A lot of the work I was doing involved community engagement, something that is so crucial to this project, getting people interested in different species and how they could record them.” Although her qualifications opened up the whole world of wildlife, Ali says her passion has always been on the flora and fauna of Britain. “Obviously exotic things are really exciting as well, but it’s nice to focus on the UK. This is where I grew up, so a lot of the connections I have with nature are here and it’s great to be able to work with species that I have a connection to. I’ve always been interested in small mammals – something that’s been reflected in my career so far – and hedgehogs are obviously really cool mammals that everyone gets excited to see. “They are not like anything else we have. With other mammals, a vole is fairly similar to a mouse, but hedgehogs are quite odd,” she laughs. “I think that distinctness is what attracts people to them. They are just very endearing.”

“The project's overall general aim is to make Ipswich the most hedgehogfriendly town in the UK. We know from the Trust’s hedgehog survey, where people sent us their records of live and dead sightings, that Ipswich still has a good population of hedgehogs. What we will be looking to do now is use the Hedgehog Street approach (a method pioneered by PTES and BHPS) to engage with the community to create a street-by-street network of hedgehog corridors to connect the green spaces around Ipswich.” She adds, “There are lots of green spaces around Ipswich but it is difficult for hedgehogs to roam freely through these areas or to get to these areas. I will be encouraging people to create hedgehog highways by making holes in their fences and making sure there is good habitat in gardens.” The campaign also involves a second more scientific aspect. Working with Nottingham Trent University this spring, Ali will lead a mark and recapture study using camera traps to help estimate hedgehog population density more accurately, something that will impact on conservation work across the UK.

I will be encouraging people to create hedgehog highways by making holes in their fences and making sure there is good habitat in gardens It is this almost universal appeal of hedgehogs that has made their dramatic decline – caused by a cocktail of factors including habitat removal, road deaths and predation – such big news. A species celebrated in culture from Beatrix Potter's Mrs Tiggy-Winkle to Philip Larkin's poetry, has become an increasingly rare sight in the UK's gardens, parks and hedgerows. Research by the PTES suggests hedgehog numbers have declined by more than a third between 2003 and 2012. The statistics may make grim reading, but Ali is confident that if whole communities can be encouraged to come together in the name of conservation the future of Suffolk’s hedgehogs need not be bleak.

“Alongside that,” Ali adds, “I’m going to be working with housing developers to try and get this awareness of the importance of having these connected gardens at the earliest stage, rather than persuading people at a later date to make a hole in a fence or a wall.” She breaks off to answer the phone, one of the many hedgehog-related enquiries she’s fielded enthusiastically while we’ve been talking. But there’s one more question I want to ask her, something that came up as the result of the global media interest that described the role as various titles from hedgehog champion to hedgehog tsar. “How should people address me?” She laughs, “I’ve no idea! “I think Ali will do just fine.” n

HOW TO BECOME A HEDGEHOG CHAMPION Ali is looking for people in Ipswich to get in touch if they want to help hedgehogs where they live. Hedgehog champions will be given training and take part in free workshops to gain the resources to help persuade their neighbours to connect their gardens. There will also be the opportunity to borrow camera traps and survey tunnels to find out what wildlife is passing through your garden. To get involved email ali.north@suffolkwildlifetrust.org

NOT IN IPSWICH BUT WANT TO GET INVOLVED? If you live in Suffolk we still want your help to protect and understand Suffolk’s hedgehogs. By submitting your sightings of live or dead hedgehogs to suffolkwildlifetrust.org/hedgehogs the Trust will be able get a clearer picture of where hedgehogs are present in the county. Furthermore, people can still sign up to be a hedgehog champion in towns and villages outside Ipswich by visiting hedgehogstreet.org/




An update on

SUFFOLK'S DORMICE The latest report on the health of the UK’s dormice makes for grim reading. But in Suffolk at least, there is one site bucking the downward trend


ast September, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) reported on ‘The State of Britain’s Dormice 2016’. They used counts of dormice collected through the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme, which has been running since the mid-1990s. Sadly, counts of dormice have fallen by over a third since 2000 and the overall data reflects a more alarming fall



of 55% during the last 25 years. The reasons for the decline are likely to be complex, but PTES cite the effects of loss of habitat and fragmentation, changes in woodland and hedgerow management and a changing climate and unpredictable weather. In Suffolk, there are 13 sites contributing to this national monitoring programme and at many of these sites there are far fewer dormice being found compared to ten years ago. Checking dormouse boxes is hard work and is often in difficult terrain, but the greatest reward is actually seeing a dormouse. Unfortunately, all too frequently, surveyors may record a nil result or only

low numbers of empty nests betraying the animal’s presence. For many years, Suffolk Wildlife Trust has been working with landowners by planting miles of new hedgerows and advising on woodland and hedgerow management. In time, this should reduce the issue of localised population fragmentation and improve habitat quality, as well as helping populations withstand an increasingly unpredictable climate. There is one Suffolk site that bucks the downward trend in dormouse numbers. In 2006, 32 captive-bred dormice were released into Bradfield Woods as part of a national species recovery programme, again


Tour de Broads!

Whether you’re a committed cyclist or a complete beginner, you can help us pedal towards the £1million needed to create the Suffolk Broads nature reserve. This year Suffolk Wildlife Trust has partnered with Richardson’s Tour de Broads, the region’s biggest locally organised cycling event for riders of all abilities, ages and levels of experience. The partnership event dubbed ‘Broadly South’ starts at Great Yarmouth Sea Front on Sunday 30 April 2017 and offers a selection of routes taking in the southern Broads landscape and a number of Trust nature reserves. To celebrate the benefits to bird life the new nature reserve will bring, all those entering the event on behalf of the Trust will form part of ‘Team FLY’. For the chance to cycle for the Trust we are offering free places for each person pledging to raise at least £150 to the Suffolk Broads appeal. We will be encouraging all those soaring to our support with unique and memorable incentives. ADOBE STOCK

Postcode: IP30 0AQ Map ref: TL933575

administered by PTES. The population has continued to grow and colonise new parts of the wood, making it now one of the most important populations in the UK. Bradfield Woods is superbly managed on a coppice-withstandards rotation and it is this, along with its programme of ride and trackside management that provides optimal habitat for dormice. It’s always worth noting that where we get it right for dormice, a range of other species also thrive and Bradfield Woods is no exception to this rule. n Blackcap AMY LEWIS

i FINDOUT OUTMORE MORE iFIND To register your support for a free place on ‘Broadly South’ and join ‘Team FLY’ or find out more details email michael.strand@suffolkwildlife trust.org or call 01473 890089 Or you can sponsor our member of staff Jamie Smith as he attempts the challenge suffolkwildlifetrust.org

Have you had an adventure yet?

Suffolk Wildlife Trust is backing a campaign to encourage people to connect with the county’s wonder-filled natural environment. Whether it is photographing a frosty morning, spotting snowdrops in the woods or being the first to make footsteps in the snow this winter, Suffolk’s Fab 40 contains exciting seasonal challenges for the whole family. The leaflet, poster and website with all the ideas for the adventures have been put together by a partnership of environmental, health and education bodies that include Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the Suffolk and Stour valley education networks, Being Well in the Wild and Suffolk County Council’s natural and historic environment team and Public Health Suffolk.



Helen Rainbow, event manager at Pedal Revolution who are organising the event, said: “We are delighted to have Suffolk Wildlife Trust as our charity partner for ‘Broadly South’ and help them to create an exceptional nature reserve for wildlife and people in Suffolk. “Our event mixes a ride for families, inspires beginners to challenge themselves and provides a fun day out for club riders and weekend enthusiasts alike; something to entice Trust members and supporters out there to get involved.”

i FIND OUT MORE Pick up a leaflet at a Trust visitor centre or visit fab40suffolk.co.uk




Education on the coast perfect example of a fossilised worm cast and both a moon and lion’s mane jellyfish. Parents who attended the events have told us the sessions were ‘’educational fun" and provided "new ideas for being outside." The Trust's brand new coastal programmes for schools, from pre-school to high school have now been launched on the website. School visits to the beach link in with the Science, Geography and History curriculum. They can be delivered at a number of locations along the coast including Sizewell, Felixstowe, Pakefield and Dunwich.


Suffolk's wild and beautiful coast continues to be an important part of the Trust's education work. This year, following funding from the Galloper Wind Farm Fund via Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB, children and families from around Thorpeness and Sizewell were able to take part in free 'wild beach' sessions to learn more about coastal habitats and wildlife. Highlights of the sessions, which were fully booked within days of being put up on our website, included the discovery of a horse's tooth (identified by Geosuffolk), a

New additions to the conservation team

Many of Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s sites rely on grazing animals to maintain wet reed and open heath, creating the edgeland habitats that are so important for so many species. Since 2001 Hen Reedbeds has been grazed by Konik ponies, whose year-round movements help produce a varied structure of reedbed ideal for rare nesting and feeding bitterns, marsh harriers and bearded tits. Now, following support from Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s grazing officer Dave Tallentire and funding from Adnams through sales from their plastic bags, the Trust has supplemented the Konik ponies with three rare breed British white heifers. The cattle have a different grazing pattern to ponies and are already helping to create a tussocky grassland favoured by breeding waders like lapwing and redshank.


Thank you

We are grateful to the families of the following friends of the Trust who have recently remembered us in their Will or through an In Memoriam donation.



Joyce Brinkley Hilary Coxford John Cross CBE Raymond Flatt John Lane Stephen Malenoir-Vickers Audrey & John Mascall Tony Mickleburgh Trevor Moore


For further information on our coastal work and to experience the stunning Suffolk coast with your class contact bev.rogers@suffolkwildlifetrust.org

Jean Pappworth Mabel Parish Mollie Pleasants Dick Smith Mary Smith Gladys Sutherland Mary Taylor Dame Anne Warburton

Although spring last year may now seem a distant memory, reserve staff at Lackford Lakes are still glowing from three big breeding successes – with swifts and tree sparrows both nesting on site. After five years of playing swift calls in the morning and evening, two swifts moved into one of the specially designed nesting boxes on the side of Lackford’s visitor centre. It is hoped this first nest will be joined by others this spring. Tree sparrows, which can often be seen feeding near the centre in winter but tend to go elsewhere to breed, also decided to stay at Lackford last year. During February reserve staff decided to put up a few nestboxes in spots that looked suitable and saw immediate results, with a nest found in one of these boxes in September 2016. The Trust plans to put more boxes up this year. To add to these successes, Lackford also saw kingfishers nesting in the artificial bank in front of the centre for the very first time.

Tree sparrows


Breeding success at Lackford Lakes


1 Fungi on an old tree trunk Winner from the Unearthed category by Robert Lovejoy

Photography COMPETiTiON

PICTURE PERFCT Michael Strand finds out how the winners of the 2016 Photography Competition got their stunning shots


his year’s competition has once again surpassed all expectations. The judges found selection particularly challenging due to the overall increase in image quality and the lengths entrants had gone to in order to capture an eye-catching moment. The 12-18 year-old category was hotly contested, with the number of entries by those under the age of 19 making up 12% of total submissions. This just goes to show how many young people are inspired by local wildlife and choose to engage with the natural world through the medium of digital imagery.

I was particularly pleased to see a broad range of subject matter spanning the natural world including species, landscapes and perspectives covering marine, farmland, urban, nature reserves, wider countryside, coast, estuary and river, woodland, breckland, fenland, broadland, gardens and people. The new category titles were designed to attract a wider genre of photographers. Although it is possibly too early to say if we've been successful with this aim, the competition continues to increase in popularity with about 1,000 entries, an increase of 36%. SUFFOLK WILDLIFE



2 Grey Wagtail Winner from the 12-18 years old category and overall winner by Gideon Knight

4 Heads up Winner from the Out-of-sight Suffolk category by Sue Reynolds

5 Heart of gold Winner from the Simply Suffolk category by Jason Dodd

8 Dawn chorus Winner from the On the doorstep category by Allan King

7 Backlit bearded tit Winner from the Strictly come wildlife category by Paul Richards


The winning shots 1

Robert Lovejoy said: "This is the first time I’ve ever entered the Trust’s competition. Although I was drawn to this interesting clump of fungi I prefer photographing dragonflies and butterflies. I’d say a tip for newcomers is the importance of composition of elements within the frame and lighting on the subject."


Gideon Knight said: "This image is part of a project I’ve been working on for two years on a local canal. I waded into the river one evening when the light was casting across the water and captured this shot at eye level with the bird. Lovely competition – a big honour to have won this category."


Simon Tassell said: "From the moment I first entered a competition in 2008 I was hooked on wildlife photography. I visit Lackford Lakes a lot, saw the competition poster and thought I’d give it ago. A friend of mine said he’d enter if I did and now I’m really touched to have been chosen as a winner. Being able to watch these beautiful birds was not only a privilege but an experience I will never forget."


Sue Reynolds said: "This is my first photography competition. I’ve been taking images for a few years but only recently do I feel I’m getting ok at it. I received a new macro lens and wanted to give it a try. I normally visit Lackford Lakes where I first heard about the exhibition."

3 On the hunt Winner from the Pin-up category and public vote winner by Simon Tassell

You don't need an allsinging all-dancing kit to get good pictures 6 Bee on flower Winner from the Under 12 category by Conagh Houghton

9 Demoiselle on shady bankside Winner from the Eastern angles category by Paul Richards


Jason Dodd said: "I looked at the competition website right up to deadline day, saw how good some of the entries were and didn’t expect this outcome at all! I was runner up last year which I thought was a great achievement but it’s fantastic to go one better."


Conagh Houghton (aged seven) said: "I’ve been taking photos with my Nanny for two years – I’m really into it. Nanny is a great teacher, I listen hard and take in all her tips".


Paul Richards said: "This backlit shot of a female bird feeding on the reed seeds said it all for me. The bird held on to the windswept reeds against the setting sun. In this popular category I reckoned the only way to get noticed was to put something in a little bit different. Not a bad hunch! A magical moment taken at Cley Marshes."


Allan King said: "Wow... I've never won anything like this...so chuffed ! You don’t need an all-singing all-dancing kit to get good pictures; I get some good photos on my phone. This blackcap in my garden was calling out its territory to another blackcap in the neighbour’s garden."


Paul Richards said: "I really like this photograph and despite receiving a low score for my photo at a recent photography club competition, I decided to stick to my principles and enter it in this year's Trust competition. I believe half the battle is knowing the subject you’re trying to photograph."




Gateway to the

Suffolk Broads


Suffolk Wildlife Trust has an opportunity to rescue a precious corner of East Anglia and bring back wildlife in all its splendour. Simon Barnes visits the Suffolk Broads to get a sense of what will become one of Britain’s super-reserves




chance to buy the horizon. Not an opportunity to turn down, then. Just imagine that: a chance to buy everything from one end of the sky to the other and all the bits in between ringing and singing with birds. It’s got to be done, has it not? There’s a chapter title in The Chronicles of Narnia that has always haunted my imagination. It’s called The Healing of Harms. We humans have done a great deal of harm, here and there and taking one thing with another. It’s not often that a chance to heal such harms comes along. When it does: well, we have to seize it, do we not? We’re good at horizons in Suffolk. The county is not as flat as outsiders are always telling us, but certainly, the Broadlands are not overly lumpy. There are places where you can park your car, set off walking and not lose sight of the damn thing all day. This watery plain, with its rivers and dykes and patches of open water, stretches across both sides of the River Waveney, taking in Norfolk and Suffolk; the term

Suff Broaolk issueds Norfolk Broads is a misnomer. There’s loads of Broads and the Broadlands in Suffolk as well. And the more of it that’s connected up, the richer it is in life.


Too much of the Broadlands landscape has been managed wrongly. Suffolk Wildlife Trust manages Carlton Marshes very well, but there’s always been a slight air of defiance about the place. It’s been fighting against the harmful forces that surround it: an island of wild excellence in a sea of sterility. In 1978 a big area of the marshes, a part not owned by the Trust, was sold up. There was much concern at the time, but it was another of those battles that the environmentalists lost. There have been too many of those over the years: too many fights against overwhelming odds. So the place was ploughed up. As Oliver Rackham, one of the grandest of old voices in conservation once wrote: “Almost every rural change since 1945 has extended what is already commonplace at the expense of what is wonderful, or rare, or has meaning.”

At Carlton Marshes today the wonderful, the rare and the meaningful lies hard against the humdrum. I travelled the reserve with Matt Gooch, the warden. The last swallows of the year were southing above our heads; marsh harriers were cruising the air in their effortless way; the shallow scrapes were crowded with waders, and again and again, snipe leapt skywards, jinking in the air in the time-honoured way of their kind. But in other places, next-door to the old boundaries of the reserve, there were dried-out fields that seemed to have yielded a poor crop: not very good for farming and no good at all for anything else. All a bit of a waste, a bit of a pity. No chance of healing the harms of 1978. Until now.


An opportunity has come up to buy the land that adjoins the reserve. As it stands, the reserve is 627 acres: the new chunk is 384 acres. This is a decent size: but you have to be on the marsh to understand that there is a small miracle

involved. Those 384 acres are about three times the size they seem to be. That’s because they join up, they complete, and they change everything. This process of joining-up will make the reserve that’s already there at least twice as good as it was before, while the new bit will go through changes as remarkable as those that lie in wait for caterpillar. An area of incomparable richness will be given the chance to become itself again. I seem to have spent a great deal of my life standing on a high point – not a hard climb at Carlton Marshes – looking down at commonplace bits of countryside and listening to conservationists telling me what it will be like one of these fine days. I remember being told about the wealth of life that would return to North Warren, one of the RSPB’s Suffolk reserves, back in 1990, when it was just a couple of drab dry pastures. I went here last winter and the place was groaning under the weight of wildfowl: a quarter of a century on and miracle. So these days, when I stand in such places and

This is going to become one of Britain’s superreserves, a place people will cross the nation to visit SUFFOLK SUFFOLK WILDLIFE WILDLIFE 13 13

WILDLIFE FOR PEOPLE hear such talk, I not only listen, I believe. There are 20 acres of scrapes, shallow pools of open water, full of teal and wading birds. Matt told me that he plans to increase this to 200 acres. And here, he said, will be the largest reedbed in the Broads. He talked of bitterns, cranes, spoonbills, purple herons: some of the most thrilling birds in Britain: how could they not come to a place so perfect?



Matt Gooch Suffolk Broads warden


Fen raft spider and water vole will be just some of the species to benefit by the restoration of seven miles of fresh water dykes


It’s a wonderful project, but above all, it’s a courageous project. It’s about the creation of 1,000 acres of wildness and wet: and when you stand in the middle it really does stretch from horizon to horizon. It’s the biggest thing that the Trust has ever taken on, the biggest land purchase in terms of acreage and in terms of expense. A top-quality organisation is returning a lost part of the country to itself and healing at least some of the harms that have been done to it. So we need to be a part of this project. We need to support it with our voices and our enthusiasm and our love and our wallets. This is an exceptional project and it demands an exceptional response. I’ll not labour the point: you

can read the details of the appeal for a million quid elsewhere. Lord, a million quid – cheap at the price, eh? Certainly when compared to a guided missile or a sports stadium. And all for a place where people and wildlife will come together and rejoice, with Lowestoft just across the road. There was a heavy, whomping sound in the sky, and I knew, without looking up, that a couple of mute swans were passing overhead. Not the world’s most thrilling bird, perhaps, at least not when compared with cranes and purple herons. But this is the sound of wetland, especially in the cooler months. What Yeats called “the bell-beat of their wings” was filling the sky from one horizon to the other, uniting the land beneath with the whomping rhythm of wildness… n

It’s the biggest thing that the Trust has ever taken on, the biggest land purchase in terms of acreage and in terms of expense



dancing with dragonflies. There’ll be frogbit, bogbean, water soldier: plants packed with ancient meaning.


There’s a further dimension to this, and that’s people. A few minutes walk from Carlton Marshes is Lowestoft: not the luckiest or the richest town in Britain. They already have these nice marshes on their door-step: but this place will now be upgraded to an incomparably wonderful one. This is good news for two reasons. The first is that 70,000 people will find themselves a stroll away from one of the great nature reserves; the second is that people will come to see the new wonders of the place and that will have an economic impact on the area. Right now, the facilities for visitors at Carlton Marshes are a little on the minimalist side. Now there are plans for a bigger car-park, a visitor centre, hides and way-marked trails. This is going to become one of Britain’s super-reserves, a place people will cross the nation to visit. Some will come for the birds, some for the butterflies. Some will come for the joy of being under a wild sky in the wild Broads. And perhaps others will come for the fen raft spider: a waterdwelling beast that’s big enough to catch and eat fish. Matt and I went for a spider hunt: we found none living but there were two or three abandoned skins, hanging over the water like the ghosts of spiders. It’s fabulous stuff, water. Unless you happen to live by a hydrothermal vent at the bottom of the ocean, you operate by the equation sun plus water equals life. That’s why wetlands are so spectacularly rich in life: biodiversity and bioabundance. And it all happens so thrillingly fast. If you add water to a place – and better still, in this case, if you return water to a place – then life returns and doubles and redoubles at a spectacular rate. It takes a few centuries to restore a ruined forest: it takes a few years to restore a wetland, even one as deeply harmed as this. There are maps from 1928 that shows the lines of the old dykes, long dried-out and filled-in. These will be restored as part of the great process of re-wetting: they’ll be yellow with flag iris and



VISIT CARLTON MARSHES Postcode: NR33 8HU Map ref: TM506922


Restoring wetland habitats is superficially a very straightforward job; just add water and wait. The trick however, is to make it interesting for wildlife and that involves a complicated mix of science, knowledge, instinct and art. The science revolves around the flow of water, local geology and soils. How much water is there? Which way does it flow? Where does it come from and where will it go are all critical factors in successful wetland design and restoration. Similarly, understanding the local geology and soils will determine what habitats can be created and where. Clay soils are perfect for reedbeds and grazing marshes with ditches, shallow scrapes

and pools, whereas, spring fed peat soils are an opportunity to restore fens, one of the rarest and most ecologically complex habitats in the Broads. Knowledge is knowing what species are already present and what will come if the conditions are right. The current reserve is home to many scarce and specialist species, each with their own complex habitat demands, whether it is a miniscule aquatic snail that lives in the muddy edge of a ditch or a water vole that requires a ditch with a bank that is just the right shape to burrow into. The challenge therefore is to create much more habitat to the same exacting standards that these and many other wetland species require and that needs a detailed knowledge of the lifecycles of species, what they eat and where they make their homes. Furthermore, what might be attracted to a bigger and better wetland in the future, spoonbills and cranes for example, have somewhat different needs and

An area of incomparable richness will be given the chance to become itself again therefore parts of this new landscape will be created with birds like these in mind. Instinct is the deeper, less factual knowledge of animal behaviour, understanding that birds such as lapwings and redshanks will choose certain favoured areas on marshes to feed or nest, and it is therefore not just about observing, but also having an instinctive feel for what they do, so it is possible to


To donate to the Suffolk Broads appeal, please visit suffolkwildlifetrust.org or call 01473 890089

recreate the precise conditions they need. Finally, art is the creative eye to give a new scrape a wonderful sinuous edge that is both beautiful to look at and perfect for feeding waders or to place an island in just the right location in a newly created pool. Each of these skills will be essential to take this vision forward. So over the coming months a huge amount of data will be gathered. Birds will be counted, water levels measured, soils tested and ground levels surveyed amongst many other investigations. And then all of this information will be compiled to develop a plan that will both restore some of these lost marshes and fens, or where that is not possible, sculpt a new wetland landscape for a future Suffolk Broads.



Steve Aylward explains the next steps for the Suffolk Broads



A magnet for


As the UK’s largest protected wetland, with river, fen, marsh, woodland, estuary and coast, the Broads is unique to the National Park family. Andrea Kelly explains why our National Parks are a birth right to be cherished and handed to the next generation, hopefully, in an even better condition

n the Broads National Park it’s all about the water. Of course, having water in your garden attracts wildlife. A saucer of water quenches the thirst of birds and insects. A garden pond can be a home to dragonflies, newts and frogs amongst others. A whole landscape of water and wetland, such as the Broads, is a globally important nature magnet that is vital for a wide range of wildlife including migrating birds. The business of caring for our watery environment is critical in the Broads. Over seven million people enjoy the Broads each year and the tourism industry is dependent on environmental quality, with studies showing that people will pay more to be close to clear, clean water supporting wildlife.



Getting this quality relies on hard work and big partnerships. Many organisations and businesses are custodians of water – either through flood protection duties, regulating water to industry, managing water on its journey through the soil and river landscape – by working together. Given this complexity and the importance of water the Broads Authority have set up a Catchment Partnership of 18 organisations to help coordinate water management across 300,000km² of Norfolk and north Suffolk. It is also the Broads Authority’s job to take care of the wildlife across the whole of Britain’s Magical Waterland and we have long known that an environment that is healthy for wildlife is also healthy for people. For example, 16


high quality, fresh flowing water in rivers not only benefits our wild fish, it is also brilliant for people. Residents get lower rises in water bills, as wetlands provide free water purification and there is less carbon in the atmosphere as it is locked-up in peaty soils. We benefit from enjoying more wildlife, such as otters and birds and the local holiday industry gets a boost because visitors are attracted to the beautiful environment. Over the 20 years that I have been working in the Broads, I have seen major improvements in the health of the waterways, so there’s a lot to feel proud of. Some examples are the Anglian Water investment in waste water treatment. Farmers are also beginning to take action to reduce siltation and slowing water flow off the land, which helps reduce flooding and also tops up the ground water storage in aquifers that our crops depend on. Essex & Suffolk Water are helping restore the Trinity Broads, while conservation organisations, such as Suffolk and Norfolk Wildlife Trusts, have been managing nature reserves. This includes removing trees and scrub from fens and managing water flows to create the right conditions for our rare wildlife as well as educating and influencing policy.


The Broads Authority leads the way on lake and river restoration, removing large quantities of nutrient polluted silt and developing novel techniques to encourage recovery of fish and water plants in the lakes (locally known as broads). We also do a lot of large scale fen

Suff Broaolk issueds

A whole landscape of water and wetland, such as the Broads, is a globally important nature magnet that is vital for a wide range of wildlife including migrating birds





management with novel harvesting machines and hope to create compost from the cut vegetation by working with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust at Carlton Marshes. Like other conservation organisations we also own ponies to graze these wild places, as well as supporting traditional reed cutters with contracts, skills and equipment. I mention the reed and sedge cutters, as surprisingly they are rarer than the rare wildlife, but are a vital part of the ecosystem of the Broads. Given all this investment you would expect an automatic increase in wildlife, and there have been some gains. However, the picture is mixed. The challenges that face the Broads are complex and have to be seen over the long term. This is how I see it: There are over 11,000 species in the Broads. This compares to 16,000 in all of the RSPB reserves, showing just how rich the Broads is for wildlife. Unbelievably 1,200 of these are a priority for special conservation action. Some of our priority species are winners, such as the otter, which is recovering throughout the UK following its near disappearance in the 1960s. Other winners are the hundreds of marsh harrier and around 15 breeding pairs of bittern in the Broads, all a sign that the habitat is getting healthier and better able to support predators at the top of the food chain. Some priority species are just holding on and depend on our conservation work. For example, the barn owl almost entirely depends on the provision of artificial nest 18


There are over 11,000 species in the Broads. This compares to 16,000 in all of the RSPB reserves boxes and farmers leaving rough grass area suitable for voles, the food of the owls. Another example of a species that needs conservation management is the swallowtail butterfly, the largest British butterfly which is unique to the Broads. Like the 66 other species that depend on the Broads for survival in the UK, these are what I call ‘business critical’ species. So a lot of effort is spent on maintaining the rich fens and reedbeds that the caterpillar of this butterfly needs for its survival. The swallowtail can be seen in June and, in warm summers, a second batch may emerge from August to September. Single eggs are laid on milk parsley. Young caterpillars are black and white like a bird dropping. Older ones are green with orange and black stripes. As swallowtails depend on just one plant species, milk parsley, the impact of salt tides or fens drying out is something that is a concern over the longer term with predicted changing climate and sea level rise. Other species that are holding on in the Broads are stoneworts. Looking similar to water plants, they are actually algae that create clear water and

bountiful food for water birds. To protect these species new payments for land and water management post Brexit are required. It would be great to have joined up coastal and catchment land management decision making for our Broads coastal species. Other species are much more difficult to survey, such as the creatures of the night. Bats love the star-studded dark skies of the Broads and around 11 species are found feasting on the bounty of moths and other flying insects.


Sadly, some priority species are losers and have become extinct in the Broads over the past 50 years. An example is the large copper butterfly, which needs conditions that the Broads no longer has as a result of habitat loss, isolation of populations and over collection by historical butterfly enthusiasts. It is however, possible to bring back species from the brink of extinction. One special project conservation partners, including the Broads Authority, has supported is the return of the amazing fen raft spider, the UK’s largest spider that had become restricted to a small handful of sites in Britain and which would have once been widespread across the Broads wetland. This spider creates nursery



webs on water plants, such as the emerging spear-like leaves of the water soldier, found in low nutrient marsh dykes. This is one of the reasons that farmers managing field run off and minimising fertiliser application play such a critical role in the future of Broads wildlife. Some species have been brought into the Broads from other parts of the world.


The species stories go on and on, never staying still. What is the story that you are going to tell about the Broads wildlife? Perhaps the return of the cranes and their breeding success in quiet wetland areas, maybe the spectacle of hundreds of seals and their pups on the beach at Horsey in the winter, or the thousands of wintering water birds jammed into Breydon estuary.

The Broads is a place for endless romance, endless tales by the river bank. You don’t have to be a specialist to feel part of it Most of them, like the humble potato and most of our garden plants, are not invasive for our wild areas, but a few have become a real nuisance. A good example is the floating pennywort. This is a bullish plant that can grow up to 20cm a day and cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to control. Luckily, through conservation organisations pulling together, we have managed to bring it under control in the River Waveney where it was discovered six years ago. Acting quickly to control invasive species pays off. However, once the American mink was released into the wild in the 1950s, there was little that we could do other than encourage gamekeepers to manage it to safeguard water vole and bird population in the Broads. There are lots of invasive species to look out for. BITTERN: DAVID KJAER

Perhaps it will be that you caught a glimpse of a big brown bird that looked a bit like a heron that could have been a rare bittern, or perhaps a cute teddy-bear face of the Chinese water deer that is more common here than it is in China! The Broads is a place for endless romance, endless tales by the river bank. You don’t have to be a specialist to feel part of it. We can all enjoy bird song and you don’t need to know which butterfly or dragonfly is which as they whizz by on their way to a nature reserve. The important thing is knowing that this nature is yours, your family’s, the next generation’s and secure in the Broads National Park. So I invite you to look closer, think deeper and smile wider. n Andrea Kelly is a senior ecologist at the Broads Authority

A swallowtail butterfly is unique to the Broads



Chinese water deer – a teddy bear with tusks!

The Broads has seen the successful return of the common crane


If you are planning a visit to the Broads, I suggest looking at enjoythebroads.com for some ideas of the top wildlife spots and things to do




Flying high

If marsh harrier are breeding here, there’s obviously a healthy ecosystem on the reserve

Decimated by habitat loss and severe persecution, the marsh harrier is taking to Suffolk’s skies in ever greater numbers. Matt Gaw finds out about breeding successes on the Trust’s reserves and what the future holds for this beautiful wetland specialist



spring of teal rises up in front of the hide, their wing beats a soft handclap across the marsh. They are followed by avocet and a loose band of snipe that fill the air with chew toy squeaks of warning. Then, I see it. Gliding low beneath the tree-line, its body slung beneath giant wings like chocolate brown sails. A marsh harrier. We watch it circle slowly, showing little interest in the mixed flock of birds it sent up, kiting in the wind that drives in damp gusts over the estuary wall and across Trimley Marshes. Next to me is Andrew Excell, Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s site manager for south east Suffolk, who, after years of waiting and hoping, watched marsh harriers successfully breed on this estuary reserve. He lowers his binoculars as the harrier disappears to the left, its lack of markings suggests it is a juvenile – perhaps one of the three young that fledged from this very reserve. “It’s gorgeous isn’t it?” Andrew says, still peering out of the hide, “it just shows that if marsh harrier are breeding here, there’s obviously a healthy ecosystem on the reserve. As a site manager there is a joy in knowing that they have chosen to be here because they think the habitat is perfect.” 20 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE


Trimley is not the only Trust reserve to be rejoicing after experiencing the first successful breeding of marsh harrier. Last summer I was lucky enough to be at Redgrave & Lopham Fen to watch three young marsh harrier take their first wobbling flights over Little Fen. Andrew, who was based in the valley fens during the late 1990s when restoration work at Redgrave was at full tilt, says he always hoped marsh harriers would move in. “I started at Redgrave in 1998 when the site was in the thick of restoration at the site following the movement of the borehole. After a few years and watching the whole site soften and develop I just had a gut feeling that the huge area of reed bed at the western

end of the reserve was going to be right. “We used to get them coming through, moving around and looking for nest sites – probably heading for Lakenheath Fen – and males would frequently hang around and display for a little while and females would stay independently for a few weeks in spring and then a few more in autumn. We had almost daily sightings but nothing concrete seemed to be happening.” In the end it was nearly two decades before Redgrave’s assistant reserve warden Debs Crawford watched two harriers swap food above the reeds – a spectacular dance of feather and talon that signalled the rude health of Redgrave’s ecosystem and the arrival of a breeding pair.


Steve Piotrowski, author of The Birds of Suffolk, thinks another factor could be behind the increase in marsh harriers. “The improvement of habitat has certainly been key to the marsh harrier’s success in Suffolk and the rest of Europe,” he says. “Certainly more coastal reserves are looking after the welfare of these things but also marsh

harriers only used to be a summer visitor. Now with warmer winters due to climate change, birds can brazen out the winters here where they have increased protection.” Around 200 marsh harriers now spend winter on the Suffolk coast, avoiding the perils and waiting guns that sadly still mark their migration route.


Back at the pine clad reserve centre, Andrew explains over a cup of tea that breeding success at Redgrave and Trimley has much to do with disturbance, or rather, the lack of it. Marsh harriers are notoriously sensitive and it is little wonder it took some time for the raptors to move in after the disturbance caused by major restoration work. “With wading birds like lapwing, as a site manager, you can go and check the nest to see if the first eggs have been laid and they will return and incubate,” Andrew says. “If marsh harriers even get a slight hint that there is regular disturbance going on, they will probably abandon early on. If they have got young in the nest it’s a different story, but at the time when they are selecting nests it has a definite impact.” At Trimley, a reserve where a view of a marsh harrier hunting for small birds and mammals is almost guaranteed and prospecting adults have regularly been seen, again it was only in 2016 that breeding success came. Andrew says one of the factors that could have been significant in the change of fortunes was the erection of 2.3km of predator fence – installed with the intention of protecting breeding wading birds.

“The fences effectively framed the reedbed and stopped foxes or badgers patrolling the fringes and going right into the reedbed. It only was put up in 2015 and it has drastically reduced ground predation. It’s possible the presence of badgers was enough to put off marsh harriers.” He pauses and smiles at a raptor call from outside, a shrill kekking. He answers my question before it’s left my lips. “Nope, not a harrier, just a kestrel.”


Back home I look up marsh harriers on the Suffolk Biodiversity Information Services website. It appears the good news across the Trust’s reserves is reflected elsewhere in the county. Between 1994 and 2011 (the most recent figures) the number of marsh harriers has risen steadily. Now an estimated 320 to 380 pairs of harriers (there are 440 pairs of golden eagles) are thought to breed across the UK, with strongholds in the east, south east and north west of England. Although still amber listed and still less common than the golden eagle it seems the marsh harrier is doing well. I think back to the sight of the marsh harrier in flight over Trimley, its wing held in a trembling V. A V for conservation victory. n

FACT FILE  The largest of the harriers, marsh harriers create a distinctive V-shape in the air by holding their wings up. Females are chocolate-brown with a golden-yellow crown and throat. Males are noticeably smaller and have a brown back, gingery belly, pale head and neck and long grey wings with black tips.  A recent study suggests that up to 40% of male marsh harriers develop just brown feathers usually associated with females. Scientists believe the male birds may be assuming a disguise to avoid energy-sapping territorial disputes with other more dominant males.  Bring the breeding season, males perform amazing courtship displays, wheeling at great heights then diving towards the ground while performing a series of tumbles; sometimes the female will join him and they’ll lock talons mid-air.  Marsh harriers feed on frogs, small mammals and birds, such as moorhen and coot.





Can the UK find a way? Following the Leave vote, The Wildlife Trusts are challenging every MP to support nature’s recovery even more effectively than the EU did


he Wildlife Trusts are using the UK’s vote to leave the EU as an opportunity to press the Government to be more ambitious about the future of our natural world. We are asking every MP to pledge support for three key asks: l Reform society’s investment in land management so that it protects our life support systems. l Sustain the effort to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas and bring about sustainable fishing. l Recognise the need for wildlife laws and set even higher environmental standards for the future. “Success in these three areas is vital not just for wildlife, but for our health, wellbeing and economic security, and that of future generations,” said Joan Edwards, head of Living Seas at The Wildlife Trusts.



The Wildlife Trusts wants to see a new Integrated Environment & Agriculture Policy We are asking that pays farmers and landowners for the every MP to things we all need, such as helping to manage flooding, cleaning up our water supplies pledge support as well as increasing wildlife and having “Even before the Leave vote we needed beautiful landscapes for us all to enjoy. more positive planning for nature’s recovery, “This is not a polarised rather than just protecting the best of debate between the what was left. need for food and the THE WAY “The seismic change facing the need for a healthy AHEAD UK must be used ambitiously. It environment,” We want to see an must prevent any further losses; said Steve Trotter, integrated environmental recover and reconnect wildlife and director of The and agricultural policy – wild places; and recognise the vital Wildlife Trusts good for wildlife role that our natural world plays in our and people for England. “The economy, health and wellbeing.” two outcomes are interconnected, and we need both of them to work well. We HAS YOUR MP PLEDGED? all have a stake in achieving the best For more information on nature & health outcomes for all involved.” intelligenthealth.co.uk

MARINE PROTECTED AREAS To turn around decades of decline in the health of our seas and enable their recovery, The Wildlife Trusts want to see a strong, ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. We believe that the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy provides some strong measures, especially moving towards sustainable levels of fishing; banning the discarding of ‘unwanted’ fish; and linking fisheries and marine conservation targets. At the very least, these good parts of the Common Fisheries Policy must be maintained in any future agreements and future UK legislation. We will persuade all stakeholders that healthy fish stocks live in healthy seas

Suffolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve, Blaxhall Common

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom meets with The Wildlife Trusts

It may not be an easy path but the decision to leave the EU is a chance to accelerate progress towards nature’s recovery


Keep the best of the EU legislation, and complete the UK’s network of MPAs

STRONG WILDLIFE LAWS The EU has some of the most extensive environmental legislation in the world, protecting vital wildlife and wild places on land and at sea, and improving member states’ approach to natural resource management. “It is vital that the UK continues to benefit from equally robust laws,” said Steve Trotter. “In fact, this is not just a chance to ensure existing laws are better implemented. A visionary approach can enhance our towns, THE WAY cities, countryside and seas. This is an AHEAD opportunity to build an overwhelming case for a sustainable future.”


If we get this right we will become world leaders in environmental protection

We will urge the Government to renew its commitment to statutory protection



Norfolk Wildlife Trust is 90 In 1926, one visionary purchase began the county Wildlife Trusts movement

Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Not only were Cley’s habitats and wildlife preserved; the foundation of the trust was the start of the county Wildlife Trusts movement. Dr Long’s group continued purchasing important sites for wildlife and people. Today, the Trust owns and cares for more than 50. “This group was not afraid to take

big risks to achieve their goals,” says the Trust’s Chief Executive, Brendan Joyce. “I feel passionately that Norfolk Wildlife Trust should always push on. “2016 has been a fantastic year for us: celebrating what has been achieved but looking forward to what still must be done in Norfolk and also with our fellow Trusts across the UK.”

The 1926 bill of sale for Cley Marshes, the Trust’s first nature reserve ANDI SAPEY

In March 1926, a group of local people led by Dr Sydney Long bought 435 acres of marsh at Cley in Norfolk. The marsh was famous for its bird life, and the group agreed to create a trust and give the marshes to it, to be preserved, in Dr Long’s words, “as a bird-breeding sanctuary for all time.” The Norfolk Naturalists Trust came into being on 5 November 1926. Today, it is

Cley marshes nature reserve today

Bee-friendly farmers

Proud farmer Jonathan Boaz standing in his three year-old nectar/ pollen margin


Worcestershire Wildlife Trust is running a five-year pollinator project with more than 20 farmers. Each farm undertakes a pollinator health check, and shares best practice on improving land for native wild pollinators. “This is a great opportunity for farmers to get together through study days, site visits and training events to talk about changes they can make, or


15% of UK species at risk of extinction The UK’s wildlife continues to suffer biggest cause of wildlife loss. widespread decline, with more than “The future of nature is under threat,” one in ten species now facing extinction. said Sir David Attenborough, President Action to save UK wildlife is needed now. Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts. “We That is the central finding of the must work together – Governments, second State of Nature report, conservationists, businesses and At risk: which gives the clearest individuals – to help it.” the dormouse picture to date of the status of our native species iFIND OUT MORE iFIND OUT across land and sea. It also wildlifetrusts.org/ identified intensive stateofnature16 agriculture as the single 24 SUFFOLK WILDLIFE

have made, that complement the different practices of each individual farm,” said the Trust’s Caroline Corsie. “They work together to establish what pollinators are on their farms and how they can help increase their numbers.” The project is funded from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development through Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship Scheme’s Facilitation Fund.

The report at a glance


wildlife organisations pooled knowledge and expertise to produce it


per cent of the 8,000 UK species studied have declined since 2002


of the 8,000 species studied are at risk of extinction

BREXIT AND NATURE WHERE NEXT? The science, policy and objective are all worked out. All we need now is public support, says Tony Juniper, campaigner, writer and President of The Wildlife Trusts



ne of the EU’s most important aspects has been the measures jointly agreed by member states, which have led to major improvements in how we approach environmental challenges. Through our membership we have adopted renewable energy targets, improved how we deal with waste, cleaned up our air and water and, of course, elevated the protection of many threatened species and habitats. All this is fundamentally important to the quality and sustainability of life in the UK. So some real vision and leadership is needed in shaping how we go forward. Our starting point must be to embrace the basic fact that healthy nature is vital for our health, wealth and security. This is officially recognised, and is why the Government’s own Natural Capital Committee called for a 25-year plan to improve the state of our environment. That idea was included in the Conservative election manifesto. Influencing that 25-year plan must be one focal point for The Wildlife Trusts. Whatever post-Brexit arrangements are put in place, it is vital that we don’t simply avoid going backwards, but actually secure improvements for wildlife and our environment. What might that look like though? In terms of holding on to what we’ve got there are five strands. First are the nature protection rules under the Birds and Habitats Directives. These protect

some of our most cherished wildlife and special natural places on land and at sea. Second are the policies that govern everything from the state of rivers to the quality of the air we breathe. Third are the powerful rules of the Common Agricultural Policy, including those geared to meeting ecological goals in farmed landscapes. Fourth are the aims of the Common Fisheries Policy that requires the sustainable management of fish stocks. Fifth are EU agreements to combat climate change. These policies, rules and laws guide much of how Britain approaches conservation and environmental challenges. The first objective for any post-Brexit situation is to adopt all of them directly into UK law.

The basic fact: healthy nature is vital for our health, wealth and security This will not be enough, however. We are still far from achieving a sustainable future for UK wildlife, and our place in a sustainable world. This is why it is so important for us to call for the full implementation of that manifesto promise to adopt a 25-year plan for the recovery of nature. We have all the information and policy ideas needed to get on with that job, and could set out an approach comparable to the 2008 Climate Change Act. That piece of legislation was a rare example of how we went ahead of the EU on a key environmental challenge. It shows how we could similarly enshrine into law the recovery of nature over 25 years. As with climate change, long-term ambitions cannot be achieved during the term of one government: a legal framework is needed to make sure that the baton is passed between elections. The Climate Change Act does this by setting out a long-term goal, but not all the detail needed to reach it. That job is done by

Ministers and government departments, assisted by a powerful Committee advising successive governments. This ensures that decisions taken across different policy areas meet the aim of cutting emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 (compared with 1990). Milestones are set in the form of five-year carbon budgets and policies are adopted to meet them. We could do all that in relation to nature too, setting long term goals for the state of habitats and the species of most concern, and ensuring that those presently doing well don’t suffer future declines. We have the tools to do this. For instance: revamped post-Brexit farm policies, nature protection laws and how flood prevention strategies are blended with habitat restoration. We could also align nature protection with climate change goals, by for example by restoring the degraded blanket bogs that are each year emitting millions of tonnes of CO2 . All the science as to why we need to do this is already collected and we know many policy ideas can work. The final part is public support. The Wildlife Trusts will be at the forefront of making the case and you can do the same. Please urge your MP to sign the Green Alliance pledge (page 22) if they haven’t already. Nature matters, and that is why we should all be ambassadors, championing the value of the natural world to anyone who will listen. I very much hope you will join us in this, and help to create a future of which our children and grandchildren can be proud. n

iFIND OUT MORE MORE iFIND OUT thewildlifetrusts@tonyjuniper

Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Astley Moss – a former degraded peatland now soaking up CO2 again



A farm where nature thrives


You can’t have have a profitable farm and abundant wildlife, some say. But Nicholas Watts has proved you can. Welcome to Vine House Farm in Lincolnshire BARN OWL TOWER




Six species nested here in 2016: mallard, jackdaw, stock dove, tree sparrow and barn owl. A feeding station is next door

There are ponds all along this strip, and Nicholas estimates the total area of water on the farm at 15 acres (6 hectares)

Since these went up in 2009, close to insect-rich habitat, the tree sparrow population has rocketed

This picture is taken after the late summer cut, but in season it is awash with bees and butterflies, and many other insects

Nicholas Watts has experimented for many years with ways to combine commercial farming with high biodiversity. This is one of several wildlife areas on his land


Some say, you can’t have a profitable farm and abundant wildlife. Catherine Boggild visits Vine House Farm in Lincolnshire to see that nature and farming are not mutually exclusive LAID HEDGE With eight native tree species. Next along is another meadow strip, then another, younger hedge. The aim: “Biodiversity”

Tree sparrow feeding young. All the pictures in this article were taken by Nicholas on the farm


t is the largest grower of birdseed in the UK – and at first glance a typical Lincolnshire fen farm, all flat land and big sky. But Vine House Farm is anything but typical. Owned by pioneering farmer Nicholas Watts, it is a living challenge to the idea that farming and wildlife can’t co-exist. It was spotting a brambling in the garden that first sparked Nicholas’ love of birds. By the age of four he was already wandering along hedgerows, searching for nests. So it was natural that after he inherited the farm he should start conducting bird surveys. His first species counts were in 1982. Ten years later he’d noticed a shocking trend: skylark numbers down by 60%, and corn buntings by 90%. “I could see wildlife was in trouble,” Nicholas says. “But I was just lucky that I’m interested in birds and I could do something to help.” He began using the annual surveys to inform his farm management choices. His first step? To replicate the pockets of habitat where wildlife was still thriving.

After ten years Nicholas noticed a trend: skylarks down by 60% What Nicholas had noticed was the result of crop specialisation: a reduction in the variety of plants and insects the land supports, and therefore a reduction in birds. He cites one example: “In late June there is very little available food for birds in a modern wheat crop. But winter barley matures three weeks before wheat. So by planting two ounces of winter barley per tonne of wheat, the birds on the farm have an uninterrupted food source. It tides them through this difficult period, without affecting the commercial value of the wheat crop.” Another innovation has involved planting a double line of eight native hedgerow species (Nicholas laughingly calls it, “instant 500 year-old hedgerow”) between fields, separated by a wildflower SUFFOLK WILDLIFE 27


20 YEARS OF BUCKING TRENDS Nicholas is the fourth generation of the Watts family to run Vine House Farm. His tenure started with the rapid intensification of the 1970s and 1980s, but since then his efforts to reduce the impact on wildlife have led him to adopt sustainable farming practices. In 2006 his efforts were recognised with an MBE.

Whitethroat numbers depend on how they fared on their migration, and which crops you have where

larly. Tree sparrows are doing spectacu 2016 in ks chic 900 105 pairs raised

Whitethroat in rapeseed. These warblers feed on the farm’s abundant insects

RESULTS Nicholas Watts on his farm at Deeping St Nicholas, Lincolnshire

meadow strip. The hedge provides yearround food and shelter, and in summer the whole area is alive with butterflies and the 110 nest boxes between these hedges are perfect for tree sparrows. “This spring, 105 boxes were occupied,” says Nicholas. “Since then over 900 young have fledged. We had about 1,000 tree sparrows on site in August.” On my visit in August I saw a box

The farm also has a quarry with a large sand martin colonyy


1997: 3 breeding pairs on the farm 2014: 23 breeding pairs on the farm National trend: 34% increase*

The biggest difference for wildlife has come from turning a large section of the farm organic with five chicks – the fourth brood of the year. “We clean out the boxes in September. By Christmas the birds have already begun filling them with nest material.” Nicholas suggests the biggest difference for wildlife has come from turning a large section of the farm organic. Although he admits the inspections can be a burden, the benefits outweigh the costs. Not only do the organic crops benefit insects and birds, they are also financially viable. Before the move to organic, herbicides drastically reduced the number and diversity of insects. “Now that we know it’s wrong,” muses Nicholas, “we should try to put it right.”

Tree sparrows need to nest by insect-rich habitat. I started putting boxes up in 2009 and numbers increased RESULTS

2005: 1 breeding pair on the farm 2014: 32 breeding pairs on the farm National trend: 52% increase*

Water is another key factor behind the farm’s wildlife success: 12 acres are kept as water sources, including six large ponds. These offer breeding space for insects, and nest sites for redshanks, lapwings and terns. “Without water there is no life,” says Nicholas. The fenland landscape is shaped by drainage and irrigation, which led Nicholas to campaign for a seat on the drainage board. He managed to change the way dyke margins are cut, increasing the population of a reed warbler colony from four birds to 70. However, in recent years the birds are again at risk. “We’ve been draining the Fens for 200 years, and we’ve taken too much”, he explains, “we’re sucking the wildlife out of the countryside.” But Nicholas believes farming’s biggest problem is a simple question of motivation. He is sure the steps he has taken on his farm could be replicated elsewhere, but with a proviso: “Where there’s a will there’s a way. But where


Barn owls depend on voles. There were none here in 2015. The kestrels and owls reared in 2014 ate nearly all of them!

Lapwings at the farm are allowed to fledge young before crops are harvested

Barn owl populations fluctuate with prey numbers; 2016 was a good year


1986: 1 breeding pair on the farm 2016: 14 breeding pairs on the farm National trend: substantial decline*

there isn’t a will, there often isn’t a way.” Nicholas passionately believes in thinking for future generations as well as his own. His butterfly corridors and ponds are still a work in progress. But Vine House Farm proves that supporting wildlife doesn’t need to come at the expense of a profitable business. As he puts it: “You just have to be interested.” Once that interest has been sparked Nicholas’ advice for fellow farmers is simple: “Dig ponds, plant diverse hedges, feed birds,” he pauses. “Ultimately, just leave a few places for wildlife.” n

Lapwing numbers have been increasing since the late 1990s, contrary to the national statistics

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy has increased food production at the expense of wildlife. Intensive agriculture in the UK is the largest cause of biodiversity loss, and a major cause of soil loss and water pollution. The way our land is farmed and managed after leaving the EU is a chance to refocus taxpayers’ money to deliver more for people and nature. The Wildlife Trusts are calling for a new Integrated Environment and Agriculture Policy, which would invest in producing the things we all need: clean water, clean air, wildlife everywhere, healthier intact soils, flood reduction and beautiful places to enjoy. It can only happen if everyone – farmers, landowners, consumers – gets involved. Reed buntings can be heard calling from the rapeseed crop



1997: 2 breeding pairs on the farm 2014: 27 breeding pairs on the farm National trend: 13% decline*

A cultivated arable weed strip


Dig ponds, plant hedges, feed birds. Ultimately, leave a few places for wildlife Catherine Boggild is communications officer for the Wildlife Trusts



10 ex-military reserves It might sound strange, but the places where our armed forces used to operate are some of our least damaged landscapes

derelict buildings and common lizards sun themselves on the 19th century walls, while in East Wretham Heath in Norfolk five species of bat roost in an abandoned bunker. These military landscapes are often some of the best preserved for wildlife.

Oystercatcher– a delightful bird you can see at Simpson’s Saltings



s well as offering the opportunity to see amazing wildlife, many of our reserves have an intriguing past. From Civil War battlefields to WWII airbases, places which have been protected for reasons other than conservation can offer much needed sanctuary for nature. In Gunners Park in Essex, migrating swallows nest in the

iFIND OUT MORE MORE iFIND OUT Find the full list at http://wtru. st/places-militaryhistory

See nature reclaiming its old haunts


Misson Carr Nottinghamshire WT Former training area purchased from the MoD by the Trust after 50 years of restricted access. Wet woodland, marsh, grazing pasture. Where is it? Haxey, 9 miles SE of Doncaster DN10 6ET.


Simpson’s Saltings Suffolk Wildlife Trust Simpson’s Saltings is a wild and remote part of the Suffolk coast, scattered with reminders of when the threat of a Nazi invasion loomed large. Where is it? 1 mile north of Shingle Street, Suffolk IP12 3JW.


Blashford Lakes, Ringwood Hants and IoW WT A Spitfire base in WWII, it later became gravel pits; now it’s a haven for wetland birds. Where is it? Ellingham Drove, Ringwood, Hants BH24 3PJ.






Greenham & Crookham Commons. BBOWT The site’s long military history culminated in the Cold War where it was used for nuclear bomb storage. Now good for nightjar, woodlark and lapwing. Where are they? Burys Bank Rd, Thatcham, Berks RG19 8DB. Gunners Park, Shoebury Essex Wildlife Trust Has many derelict 19th century military buildings. Rare dune plants, invertebrates, butterflies and passage migrants. Where is it? Shoebury, Thames Estuary, Essex SS3 9FW.


East Wretham Heath Norfolk Wildlife Tust A NWT reserve since 1938, but taken over as an airfield in WWII. Wildflowers push through the old runways, and five bat species hibernate in the bunker. Where is it? On A1075 N of Thetford IP24 1RU. Most of these sites are coastal

Blackhall Rocks & Cross Gill Durham Wildlife Trust Magnesium limestone coast hiding old pillboxes, tank traps and trenches. Now a stop-off for migrant birds, with rare plants. Where is it? 5 miles north of Hartlepool off A1086, TS27 4DG.

Spurn NNR Yorkshire Wildlife Trust A gun battery site in the 1800s and WWI & II military complex. An amazing place for migrant birds, but check the tides at ywt.org.uk. Where is it? South of Kilnsea,


Bovey Heathfield, Bovey Tracey Devon WT Site of an Civil War battle and used to train US soldiers in WWII. Today it’s a flourishing heathland with reptiles and nightjars. Where is it? Outskirts of Bovey Tracey, Devon TQ12 6TU.

The derelict control tower next to Blashford Lakes

Hull, East Yorks HU12 0UH.


Flodden Quarry Northumberland WT A A disused quarry which stands on a hill a mile and a half south of Flodden Battlefield. There is evidence that the troops of King James IV of Scotland camped in the woods around the battlefield 10 in 1513, so the chances 8 are they camped at Flodden Quarry. Where is it? 2 9 4 miles west of Ford, Blinkbonny, 7 3 Millfield 6 NE71 6HU. 5 1





Simpson’s Saltings with pill box on the Suffolk coast


The quick firing battery at Gunners Park in its heyday and (BELOW) fronting the housing estate

Viper’s bugloss and wild thyme at East Wretham Heath


Together we can create the wildlife nature needs


he extraordinary generosity of members and friends who have remembered Suffolk Wildlife Trust in their Will has protected some of the county’s most inspiring natural places. Recent gifts, including that of Mrs Jean Hannaford, who was a Trust member for 42 years, enabled us to pursue the opportunity we now have in the Suffolk Broads. Friends of Mrs Hannaford said she would have been “absolutely thrilled” to think that her legacy gift was helping the Trust to restore Suffolk’s Broadland landscape. Wildlife brought great joy to Jean. Suffolk changed so much during her

lifetime and so many wild places were lost. She would be thrilled to see how her last gift to the Trust is helping to bring back the wildness she cherished. Colin Strong, a friend and colleague of Jean, recalled her as an “extremely strident advocate” for animal welfare, wildlife and the natural environment who would have been proud to be helping the Trust’s Suffolk Broads land purchase. “Her husband Bill was a very keen sailor and wetlands were very special to Jean. She would be especially pleased that she’s helping to buy an area that will become such a wild and wet place.”

Suff Broaolk issueds

Julian Roughton Chief Executive Suffolk Wildlife Trust at Suffolk Broads

Jean Hannaford (with little owl)

Your donation will be tripled by the legacy gifts we have already received, Gift Aid and our approaches to funders like the Heritage Lottery Fund. So we will turn every £10 you give into £30 of nature reserve. A gift of £100 will buy £300 of reserve.

Together we can raise £1 million. Please give whatever you can.

Each £10 you give will buy £30 of wildness for Suffolk Suffolk Wildlife Trust Brooke House Ashbocking Ipswich IP6 9JY info@suffolkwildlifetrust.org

PDonate online suffolkwildlifetrust.org PDonate by phone 01473 890089 PDonate by cheque, payable to Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Registered charity no 262777



To find out more about how a gift in your Will could help Suffolk’s wildlife, please contact Christine Luxton on 01473 890089

Profile for Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Suffolk Wildlife January 2017  

Membership magazine for supporters of Suffolk Wildlife Trust. The county's leading nature charity.

Suffolk Wildlife January 2017  

Membership magazine for supporters of Suffolk Wildlife Trust. The county's leading nature charity.