Aerial of the new wetland at Potter. Photo supplied by William Moorfoot Ltd 1/3
It provides the ideal habitat for breeding bitterns, photo by Elizabeth Dack 2/3
Marsh harrier have been seen using the wetland for hunting, photo by Elizabeth Dack 3/3

Work completed on a new wetland at Potter


Friday 16 January, 2015




A new wetland has been created to optimise the habitat for rare breeding bird including bittern and marsh harrier which require reedbeds for breeding and feeding.

William Morfoot Ltd, a leading land drainage firm in Shipdam, Norfolk, has completed the work for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, adding 100 acres of wetland, including 50 acres of reedbed between the River Thurne and Candle Dyke near Potter Heigham.

This project at Potter Heigham was initiated by the Environment Agency to compensate for the anticipated loss of European-designated reed beds on the East Anglian coast due to future sea level rise and coastal erosion. To compensate, a perimeter bank and ditches with water control structures were initially constructed in 2013 and 2014 near the River Thurne by Fen Group.

As additional internal works were required to the area, the company was appointed in August 2014 to further enhance the wetland habitat, which has since seen marsh harriers now using it for hunting, as well as sightings of barn owls and a long-eared owl.

Tim Sisson, Managing Director of William Morfoot Ltd said: “We have successfully conducted works in wetland areas for numerous years. We were delighted when we were appointed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust and The Environment Agency to complete works at this important site in Potter Heigham.”

He added: “There are huge sensitivities around a project of this kind. Careful planning and working incredibly closely with Norfolk Wildlife Trust and The Environment Agency has enabled us to enhance the natural habitat for these rare bird species.”

As part of the five-week project, William Morfoot Ltd created seven open areas of deep water at the Potter reed bed creation site which link up to the internal perimeter ditch. The deep water pools are essential as they provide a safe area for fish, which become prey for the bittern species. Over 25,000m³ of soil was excavated in order to create the pools which are up to 1.5m deep.  

The resulting spoil was spread over the neighbouring land in thin layers or in some cases as low ridges. The pools are now deep enough to prevent establishment by reeds so should stay open for many years.  

Broadwood Conservation Management have planted more than 40,000 reeds around each of the seven pools to create the ideal feeding habitat for the bittern species. The network of reed-filled ditches across the site will also aid in the spread of reeds to compliment the planting of the reed plugs, grown from Hickling reed seeds by British Wild Flower Plants, as the site wets up.

Nick Carter, Wetlands Project Officer at Norfolk Wildlife Trust said: “The additional works carried out will really make the site attractive to feeding bitterns and creates large areas of open water. The creation of this new wetland will attract many additional bird species, not only the two target species of bittern and marsh harrier, but also bearded tit, water rail, reed, sedge and Cetti’s warblers and little egrets.”
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