Endangered wildflower once again blooming near North Walsham

Rare flower blooms again at Felmingham, near North Walsham. Picture: Mark Webster

Rare flower blooms again at Felmingham, near North Walsham. Picture: Mark Webster - Credit: Archant

Naturalists are celebrating the return of a rare sight for Norfolk - an endangered wildflower is once again blooming at two sites near North Walsham.

The Small-flowered Catchfly (Silene gallica) is a type of campion which grows on disturbed ground, which at these two sites is provided by rabbits burrowing into the sand.

Volunteers from the North Walsham Conservation Group, run by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), have been working along two of the Norfolk Trails long-distance footpaths - the Paston Way and the Weavers Way.

Their aim has been to stop the rare flower from being shaded out by brambles. It has declined rapidly in recent decades, largely due to changing agricultural practices, so refuges like this are crucial to its survival in Britain.

Mark Webster, TCV's Norfolk health projects officer, said: 'I was so delighted to walk west along the Weavers Way from the old Felmingham station and see the Small-flowered Catchfly in full bloom all over the open grassy areas.

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'It's great to see this species respond to positive habitat management: all of the group are really pleased to see it come back from the brink of disappearing from these sites. They may be small, but they are really beautiful.'

Once there were dozens of trains a day passing through now abandoned stations at these sites, but anyone can now walk along the old track beds to see the delicate wildflowers near the car parks at Felmingham and Knapton.

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The project is supported through a £52,700 National Lottery grant through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: 'It's wonderful that this rare plant once again has the chance to bloom along the old railway lines near North Walsham.'

The North Walsham Conservation Group runs a series of sessions each Wednesday afternoon.

As well as conserving wildlife, the group is also working at the old Honing station near Briggate, which features a wide variety of well preserved features, including platforms and the remains of several buildings, which are in danger of being overcome by vegetation. The aim is to help the Norfolk Trails and the Norfolk Railway Heritage Group preserve the site and present it to the public.

Anyone wanting further information or a programme of activities should contact Mark on 07843 069 567 or via m.webster@tcv.org.uk. More details about the sessions can be found at www.tcv.org.uk/norfolk

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