December 8 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, September 28, 2013
A charity behind a bird-watching mecca on the Norfolk coast is celebrating after a £1m target to preserve a treasured habitat has been achieved.
Cley Marshes is home to about 200 kinds of bird, which is why the site has proved so popular with nature enthusiasts and holidaymakers.
Birds which are often spotted on the water, among the reed beds and on the shingle include avocets, godwits, little and common terns, bitterns, marsh harriers and snow buntings.
Twitchers during the winter can also spot pink-footed geese, which breed in Greenland and Iceland and migrate towards north-west Europe, and brent geese which come from America.
Brendan Joyce, chief executive of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said: “We can have up to 20 spoonbills out on the marshes and at times it looks like Africa out there.”
But as well as the regular birds, the marshes can become home for many varieties of birds during the migration season which are sometimes blown off course.
Last week, an American species called the Wilson’s phalarope was spotted by bird-watchers for the first time on the reserve.
The site also has many different butterflies, drangonflies and yellow horned-poppy, which makes
the shingle area look interesting.
Mr Joyce said the extra land on Pope’s Marsh would allow for more habitats to be created for wildlife.
He added the need for educating people about nature was important because some ground-nesting birds were disturbed by walkers and dogs.
“We are helping to raise awareness and educate the conservationists of the future,” Mr Joyce said.
The Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) appeal to purchase the 143 acres of Cley Marshes - called Pope’s Marsh - was launched in November last year.
Pope’s Marsh - a mixture of open water, reed beds, grazing and salt marshes - will expand the reserve by a third and connects an unbroken 8km of protected sites stretching from Blakeney Point to Salthouse Marshes.
More than £800,000 has been donated by EDP readers, NWT members, businesses and charitable trusts and this week the charity learned it would be awarded a £1.5m Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
Brendan Joyce, NWT chief executive, said: “It has been the most successful appeal in the trust’s history. We were a bit bold when we said we wanted to raise £1m. We didn’t think we would get near it. It shows how important this area is to people. There is a lot of passion for it.”
He added he felt “elated, relieved and slightly daunted” when he found out about the £1.5m boost and said the public backing was crucial for the Lottery application’s success.
“We have had fantastic support and we really appreciate the EDP backing the appeal. It has helped us enormously,” Mr Joyce said.
The land purchase is part of the larger £2.6m project called A Living Coast and includes a new Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre behind the Cley Marshes Visitors Centre on the A149 coast road.
It will be named after a well-respected Cley naturalist who died of motor neurone disease in 2011 and could open late next year.
The interactive centre will cost about half of the £2.6m and Mr Joyce hopes it will encourage a better understanding of the marshes for school and university students as well as the community. It will also help boost the local economy.
Mr Joyce said: “We want to provide something better for people, more than just coffee and cakes. We want them to learn more about the wildlife, environment and culture. There are not many places like this left. We want to make sure the site is protected.”
The money will be split between the restoration of the 143 acres and fund the first three years of an education programme.
Pope’s Marsh was previously owned by the Pope family and from 1926 the land was used for commercial shooting.
But in April last year it went up for sale for £1.2m and was secured by the national charity the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for £960,000 on behalf of the NWT.
The trust had 22 months to pay back the full amount to buy the land, which prompted the £1m appeal, and in nine months the target was achieved.
Mr Joyce said the Cley Marshes was a mecca for bird-watchers across the country and the site attracts 100,000 visitors each year.
“A lot of people who come here don’t have a natural history background. Many of them are people on holiday and are visiting because of the landscape. Although there are a lot of people about it feels as though you are in a wild place. It is an amazing wildlife spectacle out there.” Mr Joyce added.
Cley Marshes, bought by a group of 12 friends in 1926, is home to a variety of birds, butterflies and insects.
It cost £5,100 in old money at auction - more than £1m in today’s currency - and the group was led by Dr Sydney Long from Surrey Street, Norwich.
They Norfolk Naturalist Trust was formed in that year which changed to the NWT.
The trust now manages more than 50 nature reserves and other protected sites in Norfolk including 10km of coastline, nine broads, nine reserves and five ancient woodlands.
For more information visit www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk