Get involved with urban nature reserve near Norwich

A walk, short cycle ride or bus ride from the hustle and bustle of the city there is an oasis of calm in a marsh near Norwich.

Much loved by dog walkers and the people of Thorpe St Andrew, as well as rare and treasured wildlife, the former gravel works at Thorpe Marshes has become Norfolk Wildlife Trust's (NWT) first urban nature reserve.

More used to managing reserves in the more rural north Norfolk coast, Brecks or the Broads, it is hoped the latest addition to the trust's nearly 10,000 acres of wildlife reserve will be a place of quiet escape near the city and will be cherished by the community.

The NWT has signed a 10-year lease with Crown Point Estate, which owns the land, but if the project is a success it is hoped it will be extended.

NWT director Brendan Joyce said that they had long wanted to find an urban nature reserve and had known about the site for a number of years.

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Ideas for the site in the future could include a bird hide, outdoor classroom and, in the longer term, people could take a boat trip to the reserve from the city.

But Mr Joyce said that they were taking their time to get it right.

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David North, education manager at the NWT said that they really hoped to involve local people in the project.

'You might hear the hum of traffic in the distance, but you won't see any roads or houses. It is a fantastic site for people to walk in,' he said.

He also said the quality of the water and the dykes meant there was a wealth of wildlife from Norfolk Hawker dragonflies to orange tip butterflies, reed buntings and water voles. The fairly rare Cetti's warbler has also been seen and Mr Joyce said it was his dream that one day bitterns might find the marsh.

As well as creating a place for people to enjoy, the NWT wants local people to get involved with looking after the habitats, helping the wardens and volunteering for tasks such as putting up nest boxes.

'We also want to train people up to help record wildlife on the site', said Mr North. 'We want people to become our eyes and ears whether it is someone who walks their dog around the site, we want people to report issues.'

The trust is currently working up a five-year management plan for the site, but Mr North said it would be done slowly. 'We want local people's views. We want to know how people use the site and we want to make sure people are fully involved and informed. We want to work with local people to develop an interest themselves and a knowledge of the site. We want local people to love and value it.

'It is a fantastic little site, but there are ways that we think we can make it even better for the wildlife.'

They have been given a Big Lottery Community Wildlife Scheme and money from Broadland District Council for the project and the trust is also going to take on a community officer one day a week to help develop the reserve and get projects going.

Mr Joyce said that they also hoped to create nature reserves in other parts of Norfolk including Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Dereham.

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