Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s ‘hugely special’ new nature reserve is a botanists’ paradise
PUBLISHED: 15:55 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 16:05 08 March 2019
A mini-wilderness full of botanical rarities has become Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s newest nature reserve, after a parish council gifted the land to ensure its long-term protection.
Southrepps Commons local nature reserve, made up of five separate commons covering around 30 acres in the village near Cromer, has been handed over to the trust after more than 30 years in the ownership of Southrepps Parish Council.
For the last 13 years, the land has been cared for by the dedicated volunteers of the Southrepps Commons Trust, and it is now hoped that many of its members will now continue to offer their time and expertise to work with NWT.
Over the years the Commons have won accolades including the Queens Award for Voluntary service in 2011, and Southrepps Commons Trust chairman John Houlgate was awarded the British Empire Medal for his efforts in 2017.
Mr Houlgate, who has been involved with the site for 18 years, said he alerted the parish council in January 2016 to a “perfect storm” which threatened the long-term sustainability of the site, including fewer and ageing volunteers, and dwindling grant funding.
He said he was now looking forward to the reserve’s next chapter under the management of NWT.
“I feel it is a great testament to what we have achieved that the wildlife trust wanted it,” he said. “We have kept a precious wildlife site thriving, and maintained a rare asset for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike. We recruited a loyal group of volunteers who demonstrated what true community service is capable of.
“The place really excites botanists. From surveying over the years we can now boast over 400 separate species, and of those some of the most valuable ones the botanists get excited about are grass of Parnassus, cottongrass, seven species of orchid, bog-bean... the list goes on.”
The five sites are a mosaic of woodland, tall-herb fen and reed bed, centred around Southrepps Common, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) where visitors can see birds such as reed warblers, sedge warblers and reed buntings.
Pamela Abbott, chief executive of NWT, said: “Norfolk Wildlife Trust is hugely appreciative of the gift of these sites and looks forward to continuing to work with the local volunteers, who have been caring for the commons so successfully for very many years.
“It is a really important stepping stone in the landscape between the Broadland and coastal habitats. It is particularly important because we have a project around Wildlife in Common and we are really keen to engage with communities around their commons, finding out what is there and being enthusiastic about their species.
“So it is wonderful that we have these local volunteers that have been doing this for so long. It is hugely special for us.”
Lesley Sparrow, chairman of Southrepps Parish Council, added: “I cannot put into words how appreciative we are of everything that all the volunteers have done over the years. Without them, we wouldn’t have discovered so many species of plants and animals.
“It really is amazing, the work they have done.”