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Farmland rewilding project becomes an amazing oasis for wildlife

PUBLISHED: 06:02 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 06:17 24 July 2020

Alan and Lynne Burgess in their wildlife oasis at Gimingham, where they have re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Alan and Lynne Burgess in their wildlife oasis at Gimingham, where they have re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2020

An acre of former farmland has come alive with an amazing array of wildlife after a Norfolk couple spent more than ten years rewilding it into “a little oasis in a sea of intensive agriculture”.

A cabbage white butterfly on a thistle in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA cabbage white butterfly on a thistle in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Alan and Lynne Burgess were given the narrow strip of land at the bottom of their back garden in Gimingham, near Mundesley, after Lynne’s father Brian Allsop retired from farming and sold most of his land.

The couple, who both work at the Bacton gas terminal, were initially unsure what to do with it – but the site’s transformation began in 2008 with the planting of some meadow grass and wildlflowers, and a hedgerow to mark the boundary with the neighbouring arable field.

One of its two ponds soon followed, as well as 25 pot-grown trees. And, as they began to mature, the rewilding efforts stepped up a gear six years ago when 500 more trees were planted with help from the Woodland Trust.

The 15 types of trees – including, rowan, spindle, bird cherry, hazel, Scots pine and five species of oak – have combined with the ponds, wildflowers, grasses and hedgerows to create a mosaic of habitats which have attracted an extraordinary diversity of creatures.

A little owl at the one-acre re-wilding project created by Alan and Lynne Burgess at their home in Gimingham. Picture: Alan BurgessA little owl at the one-acre re-wilding project created by Alan and Lynne Burgess at their home in Gimingham. Picture: Alan Burgess

The plot has a growing population of breeding hares and regularly sees visits from hedgehogs, moles and three species of deer, while newts and dragonflies have colonised the ponds and birds including little owls, blackcaps, linnets, goldfinches, partridges and a greater spotted woodpecker can be seen flitting between the branches.

Butterflies spotted include the peacock, small white, red admiral and meadow brown, and Mr Burgess said there is an “amazing number” of bees and insects.

“It is alive, you can feel it on your skin and in your hair when you come down here,” he said. “What amazes me is that you can go in the next field and see a few things flitting around, and then go the other side of this hedge and it is just swarming.

“I just think when there are such vast areas of farmed land, it is a great thing to sacrifice parts of it for wildlife – and it can be done on a fairly modest scale. This just shows what one acre can bring in.

Alan Burgess walks through his wildlife oasis at Gimingham, where he has re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAlan Burgess walks through his wildlife oasis at Gimingham, where he has re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It is become quite a big project but it is just great to encourage people to do it, and to show them what can be achieved.”

READ MORE: Thousands of acres could be ‘rewilded’ under new nature network

Mr Burgess, a mechanical maintenance technician by trade, said the grasses, hedgerows, trees and ponds needed some sensitive cutting and clearing at various points of the year to maximise their benefits to the wildlife.

“I wouldn’t even call it a labour of love really,” he said. “It is quite an achievable thing without too much heavy management. Planting the trees takes time, but we had volunteers to come and help with that.

“I think what has really made it nice, with the current situation and a lot of people working from home, like I am, I’ve been sitting in that conservatory at my desk looking out there all day and there’s always something to see. The rewards very much outweigh the effort, I think.”

A muntjac deer at the one-acre re-wilding project created by Alan and Lynne Burgess at their home in Gimingham. Picture: Alan BurgessA muntjac deer at the one-acre re-wilding project created by Alan and Lynne Burgess at their home in Gimingham. Picture: Alan Burgess

A bee on a thistle in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYA bee on a thistle in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Alan Burgess at his bird hide in his wildlife oasis at Gimingham, where he has re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAlan Burgess at his bird hide in his wildlife oasis at Gimingham, where he has re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

A leveret at the one-acre re-wilding project created by Alan and Lynne Burgess at their home in Gimingham. Picture: Alan BurgessA leveret at the one-acre re-wilding project created by Alan and Lynne Burgess at their home in Gimingham. Picture: Alan Burgess

Wasps fly in and out of their nest in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYWasps fly in and out of their nest in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Insects on ragwort in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYInsects on ragwort in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Lynne Burgess by one of the ponds in former farmland at her home at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYLynne Burgess by one of the ponds in former farmland at her home at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Alan and Lynne Burgess in their wildlife oasis at Gimingham, where they have re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAlan and Lynne Burgess in their wildlife oasis at Gimingham, where they have re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Alan Burgess by one of the ponds in former farmland at his home at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAlan Burgess by one of the ponds in former farmland at his home at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Rowan berries in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYRowan berries in Alan and Lynne Burgess' wildlife oasis at Gimingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Alan Burgess in the rowan trees at his home at Gimingham, where he has re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAlan Burgess in the rowan trees at his home at Gimingham, where he has re-wilded former farmland. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY


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