Farmland rewilding project becomes an amazing oasis for wildlife
- Credit: 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”.
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.
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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.
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“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.
“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 networkMr 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.”