Power lines removed from Royal Estate nature reserve

Overhead cables buried at Dersingham Bog to create a clear view for area of outstanding natural beauty

A national nature reserve on the Royal estate at Sandringham has been at the heart of a massive project to remove overhead power cables.

A �223,000 scheme to remove around 3km (1.8m) of power lines from the area of outstanding natural beauty at between Dersingham and Wolferton is nearly complete.

UK Power Networks has been working with the Norfolk Coast Partnership, Natural England and the Sandringham Estate to replace the lines across Dersingham Bog with underground cables.

The nature reserve is one of the largest remaining areas of lowland heath in the country and has rare plants and insects, including the black darter dragonfly.

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Engineers began installing the replacement underground cables along the route of the disused railway line in August.

The overhead lines will finally be switched off and removed on Thursday although the bases of the 38 wooden support poles will remain in place so the sensitive environment is not disturbed. They will degrade naturally over time.

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The cables run from the edge of Wolferton village, across the wet, acid peat mire to Dersingham Common.

The new underground cable, a vital power link from King's Lynn to Snettisham, follows the route of the old railway to the north of the reserve and crosses the A149 at Dersingham bypass to the common.

'Few projects make such an immediate and permanent improvement to our internationally important protected landscapes as the removal of power lines. This section of electricity network stretches across a diverse habitat, taking in the mire, heath and woodland that makes up Dersingham Bog. Looking across in the future, you will see a wild landscape of heather, grazing Galloway cattle and ground nesting birds, no longer dominated by overhead lines,' said Estelle Hook, Norfolk Coast Partnership officer.

The scheme is being carried out by UK Power Networks and is being funded by a special allowance, granted by electricity industry regulator Ofgem, to remove overhead lines in areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks.

'We are delighted to be providing the technical expertise behind such a major cable undergrounding scheme. By placing the cables underground we are also improving the reliability of the network in the Dersingham Common area where, at the moment, they pass alongside numerous trees and tree branches can sometimes touch overhead lines causing occasional problems,' said Shaun Barrell, UK Power Network's protected areas and major projects officer.

Dersingham Bog is 393 acres (159 hectares) of nature reserve and includes three distinct habitats of woodland, heath and the bog.

It is home to rare plants, including bog asphodel and white-beaked sedge along with a diverse insect population including rare varieties which rely on preserved similar habitats. It is managed by English Nature and open to the public.

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