Couple spend two decades turning their Stow Bedon garden into a wildflower haven

Ian and Dawn Jessett have worked for 20 years to turn their farm in Stow Bedon into a wildlife haven

Ian and Dawn Jessett have worked for 20 years to turn their farm in Stow Bedon into a wildlife haven. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A nature-loving couple have dedicated almost two decades to cultivating a haven for wildflowers in their back garden.

Ian and Dawn Jessett have worked for 20 years to turn their farm in Stow Bedon into a wildlife haven

Ian and Dawn Jessett have worked for 20 years to turn their farm in Stow Bedon into a wildlife haven. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Ian and Dawn Jessett moved into their property in Stow Bedon 18 years ago – a farmhouse with four acres of land.

They have since extended their plot to 12 acres and have worked to encourage the regrowth of wildflowers and return of wildlife.

In total they have sown millions of wildflower sees, planted 1,500 hedgerows and more than 200 trees, and restored several small ponds.

Mr Jessett, 56, said: 'We have tried to reestablish the natural habitat.

Ian and Dawn Jessett have worked for 20 years to turn their farm in Stow Bedon into a wildlife haven

Ian and Dawn Jessett have worked for 20 years to turn their farm in Stow Bedon into a wildlife haven. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt


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'About 90pc of the natural wildflower meadows in Norfolk are gone now and we are doing our bit to try to restore them.'

When the Jessetts arrived in Stow Bedon, the fields on the land had been drained with ditches, causing the water-loving wildflowers to shrink away.

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Now, they estimate there are 35 wildflower species in the meadows including common knapweed, meadowsweet and oxeye daisies.

The meadows attract around a dozen varieties of butterfly, while newts and dragonflies flock to the reestablished small ponds.

Ian and Dawn Jessett have worked for 20 years to turn their farm in Stow Bedon into a wildlife haven

Ian and Dawn Jessett have worked for 20 years to turn their farm in Stow Bedon into a wildlife haven. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

One of the site's previously drained pingo ponds has been restored and is a flourishing habitat, while the other, home to a population or rare orchids, is awaiting a visit from a wildflower expert before its fate is decided.

The couple cut back and rough up the ground of each meadow every two to three years, sowing more wildflower seeds and encouraging different varieties to take root as the grasses grow back.

The land is now recognised as a site of special interest for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, which has commended the couple's work, and around three acres of the site are also a designated County Wildlife Site.

As well as its many meadows the site encompasses an orchard, purchased separately by the Jessetts. Despite its poor state, they were able to rescue around 80pc of its 50 apple and pear trees and it is now registered with the East of England Apples and Orchards Project.

They have used stumps from the felled trees to create a 'stumpery' – an idea they got from an article in the EDP – where they hope to encourage hedgehogs and different types of fungi.

Mr Jessett, who has a background working in IT, said he and his wife, 50, have always had an interest in the natural world, adding: 'We think it is nice to put something back into the countryside.'

Recently a shadow has been cast over their venture after a planning application was submitted on the site next to theirs. However, if the application is granted Mr Jessett hopes their garden will become a 'refuge' for wildlife which is displaced.

The couple have decided that when they die, a trust fund will be left for the maintenance of the site, and they hope its new owners may open it to the public.

Have you done something extraordinary with your garden? Email bethany.whymark@archant.co.uk.

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