Thousands of commuters each day sit in queues of traffic along the B1113 and the A140, perhaps hardly noticing the crystal clear river running beneath them or the flower rich field alongside it.
One regular passer-by did notice, admiring this marsh and river for its timeless, unspoilt natural setting on the edge of Norwich, for beautiful sunsets, glimpses of wildlife and grazing cattle. She would watch the little marsh transform through the seasons, lush green in the spring, the purple white and yellow of wild fenland flowers in summer: to the biscuit brown of dried reed in the winter. So when Clare Barnett-Naghshineh noticed in the Eastern Daily Press in early 2017 that it was for sale she decided, as a member of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, to purchase this tiny gem and generously gift it to them, to guarantee its protection for the future.
This is Harford Bridge nature reserve. A remnant of a formerly larger grazing marsh, it sits on the bank of the Yare, nestled between Norwich’s busy junction of the B1113 and the A140.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust went to work surveying the site, and it proved to provide a great deal of potential. These small sites reaching into the urban landscape play an important part in forming connectivity for the wider landscape and can often be an ark for relic populations of plants and animals that have been lost elsewhere in our intensively farmed countryside.
Throughout the summer the beautiful banded demoiselle and emerald damselflies can be seen fliting along the bank of the River Yare which passes through the marsh.
NWT has recently renewed the livestock fencing to enable some light grazing by cattle. This will improve the variety of plant life by controlling the more vigorous nettles and thistles. A line of dead elm trees was removed and the roadside hedge line was replanted with a selection of suitable native trees and shrubs.
Although NWT is in its early stages of management, already notable breeding birds have included reed bunting, whitethroat and sedge warbler. Initial biological surveys have produced ten species of aquatic snail and twelve species of butterfly.
Despite sitting cheek by jowl with a busy thoroughfare and a retail estate, Harford Bridge nature reserve demonstrates that even the smallest plot can prove important as a rest and re-fuelling stop for migrating birds, breeding grounds for butterflies and moths, and a welcome sight for sore city eyes, these wildlife sanctuaries hold the possibility of a little solace and a glimpse of nature’s beauty. Harford Bridge, and sites like it, can form a network across our cities and towns, playing just as an important part in nature’s recovery as our larger national parks and reserves.
Although access is not currently available to the public, it can be viewed from the road bridge opposite the aptly named Marsh Harrier public house.