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Reserves

Sculthorpe moor oak fen by Andy Thompson

The ink is barely dry, but today Hawk and Owl Trust are celebrating watching the mid-summer sun rising over their new land area. They have ‘signed on the dotted line’ in the purchase of 150 acres of land surrounding their existing 45 acre Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve near Fakenham in North Norfolk. The reserve is famous for its wildlife and habitats and with the addition of the new land will offer a home to a vast range of wildlife from plants and fungi, to Otters and birds of prey. Public support for the appeal to raise the £1.7million needed to buy the land and turn it into a wildlife paradise has been astonishing, with enough raised in just two years to enable the land to be secured and the three-year project to manage the land and develop the infrastructure to be started. The project relied on a major Heritage Lottery Fund award, and a significant amount has also been donated by the Local Enterprise Programme (LEP).

The Hawk and Owl Trust, can’t wait to get started on delivering the 3-year project to allow public access to the land and develop the habitats to make the land more suitable for the widest range of wildlife using their proven land management techniques. Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve is already one of the country’s most accessible reserves and is internationally recognised for its wildlife. The reserve is located in the beautiful Wensum Valley in Norfolk, and is a marvellous, peaceful place with a huge variety of wildlife in a rich and unusual mosaic of woodland, fen and reedbed habitats. At only 18-hectares (45 acres), the existing reserve is easy to explore and offers everyone a real opportunity to get involved with the natural environment. Small but perfectly formed: a real gem, it is recognised how important being out in the fresh air is to our mental well-being.

The two large areas of land on either side are currently rough grassland and were about to be put on the open market for sale. Hawk and Owl Trust were given two years to raise the money to purchase the land and begin the project and thanks to the generosity of a huge number of visitors and supporters, alongside a large Heritage Lottery Fund application and significant donations from individuals and the Local Enterprise Programme (Norfolk LEP).

The new area of land has a rich history of peat cutting, gravel extraction, gunpowder manufacture, brush making, shooting range, charcoal making and water mills. The Trust’s vision for the area is about so much more than amazing wildlife. The future will see a rich ecosystem co-existing with the local community with access for all, rural history, rural crafts and traditional sustainable management benefiting the landscape, people and wildlife. The three-year project to deliver the vision for the reserve will begin on August 5th as the diggers roll onto the barren fields to scrape away the first bucket loads of soil in the formation of open water and redirection of the ditches. A new entrance near the visitor centre will be the next task, as boardwalks and other fully accessible pathways will be taking shape around the reserve.

As wildlife struggles more with loss of habitat, man-made obstacles and changing climate, nature reserves are an increasingly important oasis. Likewise, it is now recognised that activity out in the fresh air, and enjoying mature, are crucial to our own health and mental well-being. One of the key goals at Sculthorpe has always been accessibility to all, allowing everyone that chance to experience wild places. A programme of activities, and the opportunity to get involved and volunteer have always been a key role and the new land will enable the Trust to offer this to even more people.  

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