Hawk and Owl Trust bids to raise £1.7m to quadruple the size of Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve near Fakenham

Conservation officer Nigel Middleton at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve. Picture: Ian Burt

Conservation officer Nigel Middleton at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

A charity wants raise £1.7m to quadruple the size of its nature reserve near Fakenham.

The Hawk and Owl Trust aims to buy 62 hectares of land which surrounds Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve.

On Tuesday it launched a public appeal to raise £850,000 and is applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the same amount.

The move would ensure the land is protected from private development, is fully accessible to the public and is managed to ensure wildlife can thrive.

Members of the public are being asked to sponsor a parcel of the land to help raise the funds.

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Nigel Middleton, conservation officer at Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve, said: 'This would help to ensure the reserve's future. 'When we opened here in 2003, it was decided that we would need to attract 25,000 visitors a year by 2020 to be sustainable.

'We're currently attracting about 17,500 a year.

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'This project has many benefits. It would provide more land for wildlife conservation, support the local economy and we are working with Fakenham Community Archive to celebrate the history of the land.'

Peat cutting, gravel extraction, reed cutting, gunpowder manufacture, brush making, shooting, charcoal making, water mills and a Medieval motte-and-bailey castle are just some of the activities know have taken place on the land.

Mr Middleton said: 'We're also looking to start at apprenticeship scheme for people who want to work in wildlife conservation and we are working with Easton College on that.'

He added: 'More than £11,000 has been raised on just the first day of the appeal, so it's a positive start.'

The vision for Sculthorpe Fen is a future where a rich ecosystem co-exists with the local community with access for all where rural history, rural crafts and traditional sustainable management which benefits the landscape, people and wildlife are all celebrated.

Hides, boardwalks and wheelchair-friendly paths will allow access to the whole area where habitat management will be achieved through use of traditional rare breed livestock.

To support the campaign, go to http://hawkandowl.org/sculthorpe/visitor-information-for-sculthorpe-moor/, call 01328 850590 or pay the reserve a visit.

What can be seen at Sculthorpe Moor?

Tawny and barn owls, kestrels, kingfishers, buzzards, bullfinches, willow and marsh tits, great spotted woodpeckers, tree creepers, water and bank voles, stoats, weasels and otters can be seen at Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve.

Grass of Parnassus is a rare and spectacular plant that occurs on the damp areas of Sculthorpe Fen. Careful management will help this and other scarce wild flowers flourish.

Tassel Stonewort, an extremely rare algal water plant, occurs at one of its only UK sites at Sculthorpe Fen.

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