Prince Philip meets conservation volunteers who care for unique Norfolk landscape at Dersingham Bog, near Sandringham

PUBLISHED: 17:28 30 September 2013 | UPDATED: 17:28 30 September 2013

The Duke of Edinburgh meets volunteers during his visit to Dersingham Bog. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire.

The Duke of Edinburgh meets volunteers during his visit to Dersingham Bog. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire.

PA Wire

The unsung army of volunteers who care for one of Norfolk’s hidden wonders received a Royal endorsement when the Duke of Edinburgh came to see them at work.

Conservation Volunteers at Dersingham Bog. Picture: Ian BurtConservation Volunteers at Dersingham Bog. Picture: Ian Burt

Prince Philip toured Dersingham Bog - a rugged heath and mire on the edge of the Sandringham estate - which is leased by Natural England and cared for by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV).

The 92-year-old Royal, who spent weeks recuperating after undergoing abdominal surgery in June, set off on foot at a brisk pace after being met by Richard Jewson, Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, West Norfolk Mayor Liz Watson, Chief Insp Simon Bailey, from Norfolk police, and officials from TCV.

The Duke saw scrub clearence work being undertaken, to preserve the unique habitats the 400-acre reserve supports.

Nightjars, woodlarks and tree pippits all live in the bog, while its pond supports the black darter, a rare damselfly.

Before he presented certificates to long-serving TCV members from Norwich, Prince Philip said he stocked the pond with trout before the bog was leased to Natural England, in 1990.

“It’s worked quite well and we’re very grateful,” he told guests from TCV and Natural England. “It does attract a lot of people. I can vouch for that.

“As I go up and down here, the car parks are usually full. It has made a huge difference.”

The Duke spent an hour touring the reserve on foot before meeting volunteers. The mile and a half-long walk included a steep climb up more than 50 steps which ascend a sandy ridge on the site.

“He set the pace, it was fairly brisk,” said Julie Hopes, chief executive of TCV. “It means a huge amount to us, having the Duke as our Royal patron is really important to us and we’re very thankful to him for his support.”

Five volunteers received long service certificates from the Duke, with citations read by Rita Clifton, the chair of TCV’s board of trustees.

Des Turrell, from Norwich, has volunteered for more than 25 years for TCV and its predecessor, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.

Ms Clifton said: “Des is passionate about wildlife, has a broad knowledge of trees and wild flowers, is a brilliant handyman and drives the minibus for us.”

Ernest Woodrow started volunteering with the Norwich Green Gym in April 2009. Ms Clifton said his health and well being improved so much that when the group became a Community Green Gym in 2010, he became its chairman.

Ms Clifton said Owen Sayer, who comes from Norwich, has probably worked on every public green space in the city since he began volunteering in 2005.

Mark Rivett, who began regularly volunteering in 2011, was described as “a great asset”.

“He regularly packs and unpacks the minibus and washes up the brew kit, Ms Clifton added. “He is great at getting a fire going - even in wet conditions.”

David Goulty began working for TCV in 1986 as part of a secondment from the Nat West Bank and continued into retirement, helping out as a financial administrator.

Mr Goulty, now 82, was described as a “dedicated and enthusiastic” volunteer.

Once the Duke and dignitaries had departed, volunteers returned picked up their saws and set about some birch trees.

Jim Allitt, one of Natural England’s site wardens, said: “They’re clearing invasive scrub, birch and other trees. This is a heath land site, bilberry, gorse, that’s the natural habitat. “Health land is a very particular type of habitat without trees being involved.”

Mr Rivett, who lives in Clarkson Road, in Norwich and whose talents for making strimmers perform in all weathers were also praised at the presentation, said: “I like getting out in the open watching all the wildlife and helping the wildlife to survive.”

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