Norton Subcourse quarry takes part in pioneering conservation project

Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, pair perched on agricultural machinery

Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur, pair perched on agricultural machinery - Credit: Andy Hay (

A construction materials firm is showing how industry can help wildlife with a pioneering project at its Norfolk quarry.

Aggregate works are often a target of criticism concerning lorry movements, dust and environmental damage but Cemex UK has joined forces with the RSPB in the fight to save the turtle dove, one of Britain's most endangered farmland birds.

At four of its quarries around the country, including one at Norton Subcourse, near Loddon, special seed mixes are being sown to provide the bird's ideal food as part of a three-year conservation project.

RSPB spokesman Grahame Madge hailed the partnership as a 'really good example of industry and conservation working together'.

He said: 'Clearly a lot of species are in trouble; the crisis facing nature is so large it needs different sectors coming together. It is pragmatic as far as we are concerned; so many different industries might be able to help if everyone put their shoulder to the wheel.'

He said Cemex executives had been guests at a major conference in London looking at the state of nature and had been keen to highlight the benefits to everyone of companies taking a role in conservation.

Operation Turtledove has been launched in response to the alarming decline of Britain's only migratory dove, which has seen the UK population halving in number every six years.

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The main contributor for the decline is thought to be the loss of suitable habitat and associated food shortages in their breeding grounds.

Changes in farming practices have led to field margins and hedges, once rich with seed-bearing plants, being replaced by commercial crops, offering very few of the small seeds that they need.

Cemex quarries have been identified as having the potential to grow the seeds turtle doves require seeds to feed their nestlings.

Along with the one at Norton Subcourse, quarries at Hatfield in Hertfordshire, Southam, Warwickshire and Tattershall, Lincolnshire have been chosen for their suitable habitat with dense scrub and water.

The seed mix being sown on Cemex quarries will provide flowering plants that produce seed by early May, around the time that the doves arrive from their winter homes and are in need of plentiful food to bring them into breeding condition.

Volunteers will record turtle dove numbers in early summer at the four quarries sown with the enhanced seed mix. Five other sites without the seed mix will also be monitored for comparison.

The Cemex and RSPB project will link with similar projects that BirdLife International is co-ordinating along the dove's migration path across France and Spain.

Rob Doody, Cemex's director for aggregate operations, said: 'This project is so important in saving this iconic bird. It highlights the positive impact that we can make on the natural world. The balance between the natural and built environment is a delicate one which must be preserved not only for nature but future generations.'