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‘We’ve seen clear water in the Broads’: coronavirus boosts nature

PUBLISHED: 09:04 17 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:54 17 May 2020

Pamela Abbott, chief execuive of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Picture: Steve Adams

Pamela Abbott, chief execuive of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Picture: Steve Adams

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A conservation charity boss is urging the government to put nature at the heart of the country’s recovery as coronavirus restrictions are gradually eased.

A marsh harrier prowling the reed beds for prey at Norfolk Wildlife Trust's reserve in Cley. Picture: Nick WakelingA marsh harrier prowling the reed beds for prey at Norfolk Wildlife Trust's reserve in Cley. Picture: Nick Wakeling

Pamela Abbott, chief executive of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, believed lockdown had “been positive for people’s appreciation of nature” which should be “properly recognised” through government funding.

Oystercatchers have had a breeding boost in Norfolk during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Steve PlumeOystercatchers have had a breeding boost in Norfolk during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Steve Plume

Ms Abbott added Norfolk’s wildlife, including many breeding birds, had come out brilliantly during the past two months due to fewer visitors to reserves and popular nature spots.

An image of a little tern. The species has been nesting in other areas of Norfolk duing the coronavitus outbreak. Photo: Kevin SimmondsAn image of a little tern. The species has been nesting in other areas of Norfolk duing the coronavitus outbreak. Photo: Kevin Simmonds

But the chief executive said maintaining the trust’s nature sites was a challenge during the lockdown because of social distancing rules.

Cley Marshes Visitor Centre. Picture: MARK BULLIMORECley Marshes Visitor Centre. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

The charity has also lost out on substantial income, which goes into conservation, after its six visitor centres were closed in late March.

Ms Abbott said: “People are discovering genuine gems of nature that they can walk to from their homes. Before lockdown people have flocked to honeypot sites but there has been an appreciation that the ordinary can be extraordinary.

“So many people are talking about nature now. It is wonderful. Nature has reclaimed some spaces. Birds are nesting near footpaths and we have seen clear water in the Broads.”

Marsh harriers have bred close to footpaths on Cley Marshes, near Cromer.

Ms Abbott added: “There has been a big shock to the economy which cannot continue. We can put nature in the heart of the recovery. This is our moment to rebuild nature. We are doing conservation for the country and it should be properly recognised.”

The chief executive added that the trust was opening some of its sites or car parks on May 20 but some would remain closed for the safety of nature and staff.

MORE: Wildlife is thriving as lockdown leaves countryside deserted

Dr Iain Barr, senior lecturer in ecology and conservation at the University of East Anglia, said the lockdown had encouraged many birds, including oystercartchers and little terns, to breed away from the coast because of a lack of people as well as dogs being walked on their leads, which was a positive change. He added grass verges that were uncut had helped with the development of important biodiversity.

He added: “I’m hopeful people will appreciate what we have got in Norfolk.”

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