The meadow faded quite rapidly as August became hotter and attention at the site now turns back to the damper meadow area adjacent to the pond and mown green.
Here, great willowherb (see picture right) is still flowering and has grown particularly tall in this summer’s conditions. The flowers are a lot less showy and a softer pink than the more familiar rose-bay willowherb, which is often found in drier situations and on disturbed ground. Standing tall among the other plants are two umbellifers that look broadly similar – these are hogweed and wild angelica.
The angelica (see right) can be distinguished by its sprays of smaller toothed leaves, more domed flower heads and the striking sheath like structures from which the flowering shoots emerge, where they join the main stem. The flowers are attractive to hoverflies and the largest UK species, the hornet mimic hoverfly, (see right) has recently been recorded on site.
The bright yellow of fleabane (see picture right) is putting on a good show too, concentrated in the area between the viewing platform and information board. This nectar rich species has benefited from the pulling out of young shoots of competing great willowherb in the spring, without which it would have lost out in the competition for light and space. This serves to highlight the fact that maintaining biodiversity in a small area such as this involves a considerable amount of intervention. In the woodland, sharp eyes may detect some species of fungi becoming more evident but that is a topic for another month!
During September we will be cutting the meadow and raking off the cut stems which helps to disperse the seed that will grow next year. We also look forward to supporting the Village Hall Trustees with their plans to plant native trees around the perimeter of the playing field. For those who use social media, the Project now has an Instagram account at www.instagram.com/gmbiodiversity. This will hopefully spread awareness of the Project and provide a pictorial record of wildlife to be found at the site and sometimes more widely around the village. Tim Baldwin
Biodiversity Project News – August 2020
The meadow has stolen the show at the Project site throughout July. It has been dominated by corn marigold this year and is such a bright yellow that sunglasses have almost been needed! This effect has come about by the corn marigold being very numerous and growing to a taller flowering height than its neighbours. Look more closely and there is also the white corn chamomile, a good showing of poppies and some cornflowers.
Towards the end of July corn cockles started to appear and should continue into August. On sunny days the meadow has buzzed with honeybees, bumblebees, hoverflies and other insects.
Ringlet, meadow brown, small copper and small skipper butterflies have all been seen, together with the more familiar whites, peacocks and small tortoiseshell. Not to be outdone, the day flying yellow shell moth has been noted a few times.
Volunteers have worked to keep the paths clear and make the site as accessible as possible for visitors.
A future project is to build a compost bin on the site and so if anyone has any spare pallets or can point us towards some, please get in touch.
More widely around the village the continued focus on the local has yielded some birds that might otherwise have been overlooked. Quail were heard singing at one or two sites in June and July, hobbies have been seen over the central green, whilst a little grebe and tufted duck visited Scotsman’s Pit on the same day. As in recent years it has been good to see that spotted flycatchers have been in the churchyard and also along Station Road, but one of the less expected arrivals was a reed warbler that spent a day singing from a hawthorn bush in Walcups Lane! Tim Baldwin
Although the Project site has had to look after itself more than usual this year, volunteers have helped to keep the paths clear and to control some areas where particular plants would quickly dominate if left to their own devices. The meadow is beginning to put on a good show now. The dominant species are the white corn chamomile and yellow corn marigold but some more poppies and cornflowers have been added this year to boost the range of colour. Please do visit and enjoy this display whilst it’s at its best!
In contrast, the woodland is looking darker now as the tree canopy becomes full and the white cow parsley gives way to more nettles and goosegrass. These changing light levels explain why so many of the woodland flowers appear early in the year when more sunlight can penetrate and insect pollinators can access them more easily.
In the wet meadow the dominant plant is great willowherb but look carefully around the edges and you will find the curious water figwort, tufted vetch and perhaps ragged robin, which looks rather like a small version of red campion with shredded petals. At the pondside, clumps of yellow flag iris are now giving way to the tall spires of purple loosestrife and the area near the bridge has a good display of comfrey and meadowsweet with fleabane to follow.
The rough meadow between the pond and green is looking very good now with a particularly wide range of plants. This diversity of flowering plants attracts many insect pollinators, not limited to bees and butterflies but also flower and soldier beetles, hoverflies, a host of different fly species and moths by night. If you take a leisurely walk and examine the flowerheads you will quickly build up a large tally of species – there is no need to identify them all to appreciate just what a variety is to be found. This epitomises what the site is all about of course – enjoy! Tim Baldwin
Biodiversity Project News – May/June 2020
Although no significant work has been carried out at the biodiversity site during the weeks of lockdown, nature has ensured that there has always been something new to see. The woodland has become a sea of frothy cow parsley interspersed with splashes of red campion and the yellow flag irises have begun to come into flower around the pond. To the north of the pond there are some impressive patches of red campion whilst closer inspection reveals the related white campion and a few plants of ragged robin in the damper areas.
Following on from a brood raised in April a pair of moorhens now has an impressively sized nest built around one of the mesh cages placed to protect aquatic plants in the pond.
During June, expect to see their black fluffy chicks with just a flash of red about the head to help give away their identity. The pond should be attracting a few damselflies and dragonflies which will lay their eggs in the water, then destined to spend far more time as an aquatic larva than ever they do as a winged adult. If you struggle to tell them apart, remember that the thinner bodied damsels rest with their wings close to or folded along the line of the abdomen, whereas the larger dragonflies rest with their wings held out horizontally.
June is also a good time to see soldier beetles and hoverflies feeding on the nectar of umbellifers and other flowers.
Details of any future working parties will be posted as soon as it becomes possible to plan them but, in the meantime, do please continue to visit the site and enjoy what it has to offer. The laminated seasonal guides to what can be seen are not currently available but will be re-instated as soon as conditions permit. Tim Baldwin
Nature Close to Home During Lockdown
The high levels of sunshine have brought out early butterflies with comma, peacocks and small tortoiseshells being seen in gardens, often joined by holly blues and brimstones. A blue butterfly seen before May is almost sure to be a holly blue. They particularly favour gardens with holly and ivy, their principal foodplants. Using a light trap can reveal surprising numbers of moths visiting our gardens and, in April, I was pleased to record purple thorn, pine beauty, streamer & the herald amongst others.
I am sure that many villagers will have found that the current situation has focussed attention on what can be seen of the natural world from our windows and on local walks. Like me, you have probably also reflected upon how fortunate we are to live where we do and to be able to find beauty in small things and the local. Thanks goodness this spring has been one to lift the mood through these strange times!
In Britain, we have about 880 species of the larger macro-moths and more than 1,000 species of smaller micro-moths. In our garden in Great Massingham, we have recorded 350 species of moth. Pictured here are some of the moths we have recorded. The size of the images does not reflect the size of the moths.
Bev and Geoff Randall
Biodiversity Project News – April /May 2020
A great deal has changed since last month’s news and I am sure many of us will have found solace from the way in which nature carries on regardless. At the biodiversity site we were able to get the meadow rotavated and to sow some supplementary seed to add to the colour palette of the display that we can look forward to later in the year. This was achieved before the social distancing rules were introduced and a few volunteers then continued to work independently on the site until the lockdown period began. Last year’s growth of greater willowherb was cleared from the wet meadow and the area around the information board but, since then, work has been unavoidably curtailed.
Visits to the site on exercise walks have revealed a good display of spring flowers in the woodland and two spectacular clumps of marsh marigold that can clearly be seen from Weasenham Road!
After such a wet winter, April has been remarkably dry but it has been good to see plenty of new germination in the meadow.
The woodland has been alive with birdsong: chiffchaff, blackcap and goldcrest all being noted on a recent visit and blue tits are resident in at least one of the nest boxes.
A pair of moorhens had young on the pond by mid-April and the spring sunshine has been good for butterflies with holly blue, orange tip and brimstone being seen.
We look forward to being able to resume our Saturday working parties as soon as Government restrictions allow. If your garden is now pristine and you would like to turn your skills and enthusiasm elsewhere then please do get in touch when conditions allow!
Nature Close to Home …….I am sure that many villagers will have, over the last six weeks, focussed attention on watching the natural world from their windows and on local walks. Like me, you have probably also reflected on how fortunate we are living where we do and being able to find beauty in small things and things local. Thanks goodness that the spring has been one to lift the mood through these strange times!
Some fellow ornithologically minded residents and myself have recorded the birds seen on our exercise walks and compared notes, with encouraging results. The recent focus has been on spring migrants but earlier in the season we noted the population of now scarce tree sparrows along the hedgerow at the start of Drunken Drove, gadwall and shoveler visiting Scotsman’s Pit and a hen harrier quartering the fields along Walcups Lane. Barn owls could often be seen hunting before dusk around the edges of the village, particularly along Lynn Lane & Weasenham Road – always a welcome and uplifting sight.
The first returning swallows and house martins were seen by mid-April. We now await the arrival of the first swifts. Other migrants of note included lesser whitethroat at Grimston Heath, a couple of black redstarts (see picture) seen in Owen Cole Close and a yellow wagtail in the horse paddocks near the airfield. The latter two would not be breeding locally but just passing through.
After ten years of leading the Biodiversity Project on Weasenham Road, Mike Jackson stood down from his role of chairman at the AGM meeting, held in February. His successor is Tim Baldwin.
Mike has been involved since the start of the project in 2010, during which time much has been achieved under his enthusiastic leadership by a very willing band of volunteers.
The original pond was cleared, a viewing platform constructed, paths were created and the village school was invited to become a part of the project.
In the intervening years, the paths have been extended to allow visitors to walk around the site, the woodland area now has many native flowers and plants and a wild flower meadow has been created for all to see, as well as to act as an attractive area for butterflies and bees.
As well as this, Mike has also held open garden days at his home, all in aid of the project. Fortunately, he is not leaving us completely – merely handing over so as to allow himself time to dedicate to other professional tasks. We are sure that he will still be a very active member of the team though – as you can see here! As a thank you and acknowledgement of all his hard work, Mike was given a gift of garden vouchers by members of the group. Peter James, (Honorary Secretary).
Thank you, Mike. The site has been transformed. A great place to walk, observe plants and wildlife and even just sit. Many thanks to all involved. Pictures show the new sign and Mike busy with the rotivator.
Regarding the working party sessions, Tim says, “No group working party sessions are planned for the time being, due to the need for social distancing but members will be working on the site individually. Using email and sharing outcomes we can work through what needs to be done whilst still preserving some sense of working together for a common purpose. Are there any residents who have not previously been involved, with time on their hands, who would like to join us?” Please call Tim Baldwin on 520 813.
Last year saw significant further progress at the biodiversity site. In addition to regular maintenance, our dozen or so active volunteers laid a new path to complete a circular walk around the pond and created a species-rich rough meadow using soil from previous excavations and path-making. (See picture) Volunteers also sowed or planted winter aconites, wood anemones, spindle trees, butcher’s broom, Russian comfrey, teasels, mullein and fringed water lilies and arranged a well-attended Open Afternoon at the site in July. Printed guides to plants of seasonal interest have also been prepared and are now available from a holder by the information board. These activities enjoyed continuing support from our Parish Council – both essential and much appreciated. In the autumn, the group made a rewarding visit to the East of England Fruit Collection at the headquarters of the East of England Apples & Orchards Project, West Raynham.
Besides creating an attractive and instructive place to visit, the biodiversity project has, from the start, been attempting to compensate for the loss of biodiversity that has accompanied intensive arable farming, a course of action that reflects people’s growing worries about the state of our natural environment. Such concerns are, at last, taking centre-stage internationally after 40 years of handwringing since the first world climate conference in Geneva (1979) and evermore grim news about the poor state of our climate and ecology (e.g., https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088 ).
Unsurprisingly, more people than ever are giving-over some of their garden space to helping wildlife; more farmland, roadside verges and other public spaces are being managed with wildlife in mind. Even the Archers at Ambridge have decided to re-wild part of Brookfield Farm! The Biodiversity Project operates in this spirit and wishes to encourage further developments along these lines.
Please come to our AGM in the Village Hall at 7:30 pm on Monday 24th February 2020 and have your say on such matters. Mike Jackson (Chairman)
Biodiversity Project News for October
The next Saturday morning working party is set for 12th October from 10 am. Tasks include sorting out of the bluebell, hellebore, stinking iris (picture) and wild garlic areas, clearing away some of the overgrowth in the water meadow and planting several spindle trees. There will be a break for tea, coffee and biscuits and newcomers, especially, will receive a very warm welcome. To help visitors to the site find and identify some of the plant species prominent at this time of year a short guide has been prepared. This can be found next to the interpretation board near the bridge. We intend to change the guides with the seasons and possibly extend coverage to include other forms of wildlife.
Mike Jackson- Chairman (tel: 520 056)
The Biodiversity Project Open Day – 14th July
The Great Massingham Biodiversity project held an open afternoon at the site on the Weasenham Road on Sunday 14th July. The aim of the afternoon was to raise residents awareness, both of the site and the efforts of the volunteers who both created and maintain it, as well as to encourage an interest in supporting wildlife.
The site aims to offer a variety of habitats and visitors were encouraged to walk around it and explore the woodland with it’s bird boxes and feeders, the wild flower meadow, planted to support butterflies, hover flies, bees and many other important polinators, the pit, with it’s residents, the ducks and a moorhen, as well as a boggy area with a variety of important food plants growing on it.
Local businesses as well as members contributed to the stalls which had plants for sale, a raffle and the all important cakes and refreshments! With the aid of a microscope and a preset moth trap, visitors were able to see close up some of the smaller moths and unusual insects which are often hidden from view on the site. Volunteers were also on hand to take people round the site pointing out many of the ares of interest.
Advice was given on creating wildlife havens in your own gardens as well as plants which are both attractive to the eye and important to wildlife.
Feedback from visitors has been very positive. Whilst some were regualr visitors to the site, many did not realise that it existed, hence the main aim behind the day.
Funds raised from this event will go towwards improving the habitats on and around the site and yes, due to popular demand, we may well repeat it next year with hopefully yet more to show you!
Next Working Party – 6th July 2019
Our Biodiversity site at the Weasenham Road school pond is home to an increasingly diverse range of plant species and hopefully of animals too, especially birds, now we have two feeding stations and over a dozen nesting boxes. Our Parish Council provides a small annual grant to help with the inevitable costs and you could help put that grant to best use by lending a hand at one or more of our regular 10 am Saturday morning working parties.
The next working party will be on 6th July. Please come if you can.
You are also invited to our OPEN AFTERNOON on Sunday 14th July, 2pm to 5 pm when you will be shown round by volunteers, learn from several displays while enjoying some light refreshment. There will be no charge.
Mike Jackson (Tel: 520 056 )
Next Working Party – 11th May 2019
The next Saturday morning working party is set for 11th May from 10 am. There is lots to do and many hands make light work. As usual, there will be a break for tea, coffee and biscuits. Thanks to the work of volunteers, the Sandy Lane site is now high-quality green space that everyone can enjoy. Please join our working party and help continue the work.
Mike Jackson (tel: 520 056)
Biodiversity Project – Next working Party 13th April 2019
The next Saturday morning working party is on 13th April from 10 am. Planned work includes weeding of the fern, bluebell & wild garlic areas, planting white bryony seedlings, marking-out the path to the Weasenham Road seat, cutting-down last year’s Norfolk reed (see photograph) and disposing of the winter’s woody prunings. As usual, there will be a break for tea, coffee and biscuits. Thanks to the work of volunteers, the Sandy Lane site is now a high-quality green space that everyone can enjoy. Please join our working party and help continue the work.
Mike Jackson (tel: 520 056)
Biodiversity Project – Next working Party 9th March 2019
Biodiversity Project Site in 2018
Recently someone asked me how biodiverse our biodiversity site really is and wondered if it amounted to little more than a pleasant place to take a walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
I was a little taken aback by the question and also unable to give a well-informed answer, at the time, since our record of plants and other life was not
very up-to-date. However, one of our volunteers, Avril Patterson, has now surveyed the wildflower meadow, wood and pondside and found thirteen previously unrecorded plants.
These include mugwort, hop trefoil, hedge mustard, water figwort, silver weed and wood avens. None especially rare but, when added to those already identified, a surprisingly large number of plant species have been spotted on our site over the past six years. Out of 149 species, 3 are ferns, 20 are woody plants and 7 are grasses (there must be many more) leaving 119 other kinds of flowering plant. The water meadow is especially species-rich, considering
its small size, but the pond itself has very few aquatic plants despite our efforts to populate it with species such as fringed water lily, bog bean and hornwort.
The reason is probably the large number of ducks that call our pond home and readily consume almost everything in it. Yesterday (17th August), I counted at least 125 ducks and not a true Mallard amongst them, only hybrids! This severe overstocking can only be because they are being regularly fed. This results in a pond that lacks aquatic plants and is surrounded by mess from all the droppings. Will those in the habit of feeding the ducks please stop doing so?
Thankfully, ducks are not the only birdlife on the site. In addition to water hens (moorhens), the usual range of woodland birds such as great spotted woodpecker, blackbird, house sparrow, great tit, blue tit chiffchaff and wood pigeon have been seen or heard regularly. We hope to increase numbers by putting up several more bird boxes (including owl boxes) and improving the bird feeding station and the range of food on offer. Hedgehogs, grass snakes
and frogs come and go and, on a single day in August, Avril Paterson recorded nine species of butterfly.
Naturally, I am hopeful that these records will convince my sceptical questioner that not only is our site an attractive place for a walk but it holds a surprisingly wide range of plants and animals for anyone with an observant and appreciative eye to enjoy.
The next working party will meet on Saturday 6th October from 10 am. If you are interested in helping us maintain and improve the biodiversity on the site please join us.
May 2018 Working Party
Biodiversity Project Site in 2017
Our last working party was small but effective. Hay was raked off the wildflower meadow and the last of the weeds dug out from the west end of the wood where I hope we can sow suitable woodland species next spring.
The next working party will be on Saturday 7th October,at 10 am as usual. I hope you will be able to attend. This will be the last regular working party of the year. The hellebores and stinking iris could do with relieving of overwhelming ground elder and those of you with petrol strimmers might like to help me cut down the nettles etc in the wood. There may also be the opportunity to put in place the drainage pipes we plan to use to bridge the inlet channels to the pond.
Anyone interested in helping-out with two or three hours maintenance work will very welcome. This will be the last regular working party of the season. It ends a particularly busy year for the Project. The winter months saw the pond cleared of numerous willow trees and decades-worth of soft mud excavated to return the pond to something like its former size and depth. A combination of much sawing, several bonfires and a chipping machine dealt with most the woody material pulled-out of the pond; a tractor and trailer being needed to remove the rest (thank you Mr Brun).
By the spring, half of the wild flower meadow had also been renovated to encourage flowering annuals. This yielded spectacular results later in the summer. We intend to repeat the exercise in the coming year on the other half of the meadow and will soon complete a footpath around the west side of the pond.
Next spring, the range of plant species (currently about 120 have been recorded) will be increased further by new sowing and planting at the west end of the wood.
Work on the site started in earnest in 2011 after a successful application to the Big Lottery allowed us to clear part of the pond, lay paths, install bench seats and a viewing platform, and prepare the wild flower meadow. A key aim throughout has been to turn this formerly neglected and little-known part of the village into an attractive and peaceful place to walk and enjoy wildlife. Step by step, we are achieving that goal.
There are too many ducks on the pond. This may well be because they are being fed by enthusiastic villagers. If you know of anyone who feeds ducks at our site please encourage them to desist. Bread, biscuits etc are, in any case, bad for ducks especially if it leads to overpopulation and pollution. There is more about this on the following web site: https://www.thespruce.com/is-feeding-ducks-bread-bad-386564 .
I have added a bulletin from Sculthorpe Moore about their campaign to raise money to buy adjacent land that is at risk of being developed. They are doing well with this but are still below target. Click on the link for more info. If you have not donated before, please consider doing so. The web site for this is: https://www.sculthorpefen.co.uk/index.php/donation:
Dr M.B. Jackson
Long Barn, 6, Kennels Farm, Castle Acre Road,
Great Massingham, King’s Lynn,
Norfolk PE32 2HD
Tel: 01485 520 056
In case you missed the recent visit to Chapel Cottage Garden at Rougham, this will be open to the general public this coming Sunday (3rd September) from 11 am to 5 pm. More distantly, Robin Arbenz (with help from David Butterworth) would like to hear from you if you’re interested in a guided trip around Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve sometime in the future (a few of you have already indicated a wish to go but so far numbers are rather low). Sculthorpe is an outstanding site for wildlife and conservation and, of course, is so very close. Robin’s trip would be an ideal way to see more of what is going on at Sculthorpe from Nigel Middleton the person who manages the site.
May I remind you that our next working party will be this coming Saturday (9th September) starting at 10 am as usual. The main job will be to rake up the hay from the south side of the wildflower meadow. This, plus digging-out what remains of cow parsley and nettles from the east end of the wood and more general maintenance tasks should keep us busy for the morning.
Saturday 9th September is the next date for our working party. On the day we can, hopefully, clear the hay from the south side of the meadow and finish preparing the west end of the wood for a later sowing of woodland species. Please let me know whether or not you can make this date.
Last Saturday, in addition to some strimming and topping-up of the bird feeders, we raked-up the hay from the north side of the meadow, dug-over and weeded part of the west end of the wood and treated miscreant Norfolk reed and common dock. Thanks go to everyone who turned out. Overall, the site looked very well, although the pond is proving increasingly popular with ducks. Yet another family of hatchlings was seen enjoying the morning sunshine and our newly created expanse of clear water.
Mike Jackson (01485 520 056)
Biodiversity in Rougham
Eleven biodiversity enthusiasts from Great Massingham visited Chapel Cottage in Rougham on 29th July. Sarah Butler who is a keen amateur ecologist and garden designer had invited us for a private view prior to opening her garden to the public in September.
Having successfully reached Rougham we were warmly greeted by Sarah who gave us an interesting and informative talk on creating a garden for biodiversity and tips on how to conduct a survey of the range of wildlife in our gardens. We were then given clipboards, recording sheets and pens and invited to investigate a specific part of the garden of our choice.
Sarah’s garden consists of a number of separate “rooms” with a rich variety of plants many of which have been chosen to attract pollinators and other invertebrates, and we each went our separate way to try to identify the many insects that we found. Hoverflies proved particularly challenging as there are innumerable types and rarely stay still long enough to identify.
After approximately an hour we then assembled for refreshments and although we proved to be rather useless as botanists we all left with increased enthusiasm and awareness of the importance of providing a nature rich habitat in our gardens.
Rougham is a charming village and Sarah’s garden is equally charming. I would recommend you make the effort and visit Chapel Cottage when it is open on Sunday 4th September.
Biodiversity Project – Report
On Sunday 25th June we held our fourth annual open garden in aid of the village Biodiversity Project. About 45 people, including many families, looked round Andrew and Rosemary Bickerton’s multi-featured and wildlife-friendly garden, enjoyed some excellent tea and cake and bought numerous plants, books and greetings cards (see photographs). Over £380 were raised to help towards the cost of seeds, plants and other needs connected with developing the biodiversity site on Sandy Lane. Thanks go to everyone who came and supported us so generously. In July, our biodiversity group visited Hindringham Hall (near Little Walsingham). This is one of the locality’s outstanding gardens and the visit proved both instructive and enjoyable. A trip is also being arranged to the Chapel Cottage Biodiversity Garden in Rougham later in the summer.
While much of our focus this past year has been on restoring the pond itself, our winter work on the wild flower meadow paid hansom dividends, giving a striking show of cornfield annuals throughout June and July; the effect being reminiscent of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee summer when seed sown by local school children made a similar impact. Regular working parties have ensured that paths are clear and easily walked and have continued to add to diversity through various plantings and sowings. If you would like to join us for 2-3 hours enjoyable and rewarding work please come to our next working party. You can be assured of a warm welcome. The next meeting will be on Saturday 19th August from about 10 am.
Mike Jackson (01485 520 056)
Biodiversity Project – next working party will be on Saturday the 8th of July
The next working party will be on Saturday 8th July meeting at the biodiversity site off the Weasenham Road at about 10 am.
As usual, there will be a mid-morning break for tea/coffee and biscuits. A major task will be to clear the bonfire site at the west end of the wood and prepare it for sowing a range of under-storey species, including foxgloves and white campion. A small area in the wild flower meadow will also need to be prepared for seeding with yellow rattle.
New members will be especially welcome. Gardening gloves and strong shoes are recommended and a rake or fork would also be helpful.
The photograph shows the extensive re-greening of the north side of the pond that has followed the wintertime excavation and enlargement of the pond.
Notable on closer inspection are crowded seedlings of starwort, a floating aquatic with rosetted leaves.
Biodiversity Group – next working party Saturday 10th of May
The next working party will be on Saturday 10th May at the biodiversity site from about 10 am with a break for tea/coffee and biscuits at 11 am. We plan to rake over the spoil deposited during pond renovations and sow with a mixture of wet-pasture species. The viewing platform and bridge still need a spruce-up and there is a need to burn some of the woody material accumulated from clearing scrub etc. As always, new members are especially welcome. Gardening gloves and sensible shoes are recommended and a rake or fork would be useful but not essential.
Mike Jackson (01485 520 056)
Biodiversity Group – next working party April 8th
The next working party will be on Saturday 8th April at the biodiversity site on the Weasenham Road, starting at about 10 am. In addition to general maintenance, woody brush from the recent pond clearance needs collecting up and burning and the viewing platform and bridge could do with cleaning. There will be tea, coffee and biscuits at 11 am. New members especially are assured of a very warm welcome. Gardening gloves are recommended and a rake, fork would be useful but not essential.
Mike Jackson (01485 520 056)
Biodiversity Project – Progress at School Pond
You may recall that, thanks to those who supported us recently by voting on-line, the Skipton Building Society awarded £500 to help renovate School Pond. This, together with a matching grant from the Parish Council, has allowed us to engage a contractor to remove invasive willow trees and Norfolk reed along with many years-worth of accumulated silt and soft mud.
Our Borough Council has statutory oversight for the Great Massingham Conservation Area and its approval was given in time for most of the work to be done during February. Experts at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust have guided the operation throughout and the outcome has been an area of open water about three times larger than before (see photos) and a much-increased water holding capacity.
The size is now close to what we believe to be the original. An unavoidable expanse of exposed mud is unsightly at present but this should soon be masked by fresh vegetation. Much of the woody material from the pond has already been disposed of and the rest will be dealt with in the coming weeks. Some of this material will be used to create habitat for invertebrates and fungi etc.
Our first working party for 2017 will be on Saturday 11th March, starting at about 10 am with a break for tea `or coffee mid-morning. An important task will be to prepare part of the wild flower meadow for re-sowing. Please join us!
Mike Jackson (Tel: 520 056)
Biodiversity Project Thank you for your votes in the October issue of The Mallard, readers were asked to vote online in support our application for a grant from the Skipton Building Society to renovate School Pond. We were already on a short-list but needed lots of votes to secure a grant. The response was magnificent and sufficient to qualify us for a £500 donation. Grateful thanks to everyone who voted for us. To add to the good news, the Parish Council has since agreed match the Skipton grant. Thanks to the Council’s generosity, we now have enough to pay a contractor to extract extensive tree roots from the pond, remove some of the Norfolk reed and dig-out much accumulated silt and mud. The work will restore the pond to approximately its original size and create gently sloping banks needed to encourage plant life and aid the movement of toads and other amphibians. The online votes cast in our favour and the generosity of our Parish Council should soon make these much-needed improvements a reality. Thank you to everyone who has supported us. If you would like to join our group of volunteers and help maintain the biodiversity site you are welcome at our next meeting on December 14th at 6.30 pm for pre-Christmas discussions, food and drinks. If you plan to come, please ring 520 056 to let me know by Sunday 11th December. Mike Jackson, 01485 520 056
VOTE NOW !
Great Massingham Biodiversity Project
Volunteers turn unloved corner of village into haven for wildlife.
Great Massingham is a Norfolk village of about 1000 people set in an area of intensive arable farming that no longer sustains the diverse flora and forna of earlier times. To help counter this decline, a hitherto neglected part of the village (about 2.5 acres) is being renovated to create a species-diverse woodland, meadow and pond area that is attractive, informative and encourages local people to take responsibility for their natural environment.
The site is run by a group of 16 volunteers who meet regularly to maintain and develop the site and enhance their own knowledge and interest in local wildlife. The site is proving useful to the nearby primary school for nature studies. The wood, and wildflower meadow areas have recently been linked by an all-weather path, making the site a popular and informative walk for local residents of all ages (including wheelchair and pushchair users). Talks and articles in the village newsletter raise interest in the Project and the local environment more generally.
How would this funding have an impact on your community?
A prominent feature of the Biodiversity Site is a sizeable pond that holds much promise for encouraging diverse plant and animal life. However, at present it is clogged by willow trees and Norfolk reed. Removing these invasive species to create open water and a perimeter suitable for wetland plants, newts, toads, dragon flies etc., is beyond the physical capability of our volunteers. The work requires specialist outside help. A £500 grant from the Grassroots Giving Team would pay for outside contractor to remove the trees and reeds. Once the earthworks are completed, our volunteers would introduce aquatic and marginal plants chosen with guidance from a Norfolk County Council ecologist. When completed, visitors will enjoy a diverse range of aquatic plant and animal life to add to that contained in adjacent meadow and woodland areas.
The appeal and benefit to our village (1000 residents) can be expected to last for many years and offer the opportunity for future generations of local people to engage in a practical way with caring for local wild life. The site lies 250 metres from the local primary school and acts as an outside classroom for biology lessons.
“The Great Massingham Biodiversity group is steadily transforming a once neglected and unloved area of the village into an attractive and varied nature reserve that can be enjoyed by everyone thanks to its central position and to the its easy-access pathways. The planned overhaul of the pond area will add considerably to the appeal of the overall biodiversity site and create a valued asset for our village that will also be useful to the nearby school . The assistance you may be able to give through your Grassroots Giving Scheme will be most gratefully received by the Village.
Geoffrey Randall, Chair Norfolk Wildlife Trust Local Members Group and Trustee of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Beverley Randall, Chair of the Governors of Great Massingham and Harpley Church of England Schools Federation.”
There will be a working party at the biodiversity site on Weasenham Road on Saturday 14th May, starting at 10 am. We hope as many people as possible will come and help us keep the meadow, wood and pond areas up to scratch.
A three-part guided tour of the Pensthorpe Natural Park is planned for Tues-day 24th May with a few places still available. If you want to join us, please call me as soon as possible on 520 056. The Biodiversity Project had planned to open the garden at Long Barn, Kennels Farm on 26th June but the date will now be Sunday 19th June to be part of the Parish Council’s village open gardens. We’ll have tea, cake, strawberries & cream etc and plants for sale. Please include us in your garden tour! Mike Jackson
New recruits to the project and old hands will be most welcome. Gardening gloves and a rake and hand fork are helpful but not essential.
Much good work was done on our biodiversity site last year and the range of established plants has continued to expand.
The number of species logged has now reached 126. This will increase further following an extensive planting of the woodland fern Polystichum setiferum (the Soft Shield Fern) in April. It will also soon be time for our first working party of the year.
This has been arranged for Saturday 12th March starting at about 10 am at the site off the Weasenham Road. If you are free that morning please join us. You will be very welcome. The first jobs will be removing the piles of hay that have overwintered on the wildflower meadow, attending to the recently planted blue bell area and to the intended site for the ferns plus some general post-winter clearing of paths and margins. A rake and a garden fork would be helpful but not essential.
There will be a tea and coffee break at about eleven o’clock (see photograph below). For the past two years we have held an open garden day to help raise funds for new plants etc.
These have proved enjoyable occasions and on Sunday 26th June this year, the garden at Long Barn, Kennels Farm will be open to visitors in aid of the Project.
More details will follow nearer the time.