Poplars to be removed from Holkham reserve in biodiversity project

Jake Fiennes. Pic: Archant

Jake Fiennes, the director of Holkham Nature Reserve. - Credit: Archant

Poplar trees are being removed from a road at Holkham Nature Reserve as part of a project to boost biodiversity. 

Work to remove the non-native trees lining Lady Anne's Drive - which runs north from the A149 to the Lookout visitor centre - has begun. 

The drive is closed until Saturday, February 6 for the first phase of the project, which will see around a third of the poplars removed.

Jake Fiennes, the director of Holkham Nature Reserve, said the poplars would be replaced by a mix of native trees and shrubs including hazel, hawthorn and field maple, creating a hedge-like screen and wildlife corridor.

Lady Anne's Drive at Holkham Nature Reserve. Poplars are being removed from the drive to create a new biodiversity corridor. 

Lady Anne's Drive at Holkham Nature Reserve. Poplars are being removed from the drive to create a new biodiversity corridor. - Credit: Holkham

Mr Fiennes said: “The work we are about to undertake on Lady Anne’s Drive will offer significant benefits for the wildlife, flora and fauna of the Holkham National Nature Reserve.

"The new scrub creation will also enhance the experience of our visitors, whilst the carbon paybacks are icing on the environmental cake.”

The drive was originally planted 1823 with holm oaks, but most of these were destroyed in the devastating North Sea flood of February 1953. The poplars were put in as a fast-growing replacement, but they have since got so high their canopy no longer provides shelter. 

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The renewed drive will help neutralise carbon emissions and provide habitats and food for insects, small mammals and migratory birds including fieldfares, redwings and thrushes.

Harry Wakefield, Holkham’s head forester, said the project had been approved by the Forestry Commission, North Norfolk District Council, Natural England and Historic England.

Mr Wakefield said: “We are thrilled to be starting work on this project, following many months of collaborative studies and planning with our local, ecological and environmental partners.

"Woodland management is a pivotal element of Holkham’s aim of being the UK’s most sustainable and rural estate.

"Projects such as this are evidence of the estate’s long-term investment into biodiversity and a healthier environment for future generations.”

The poplars will turned into woodchip which will be used in Holkham’s two biomass boilers to heat the hall and surrounding buildings, including the Victoria Inn.

But their stumps and root balls will remain in place as a carbon sink, and will provide a habitat for invertebrates, fungi and bacteria as they break down.

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