The New Year is a time for thinking about fresh opportunities and what you would like to achieve in the year ahead. And it could be that Norfolk Wildlife Trust has just the thing if you are interested in nature and conservation.

The Trust has opportunities for volunteers on two projects it is running as part of a Broads Landscape Partnership scheme, led by the Broads Authority, which is called Water, Mills and Marshes.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is all about looking after our unique landscape and this partnership is pulling people together and getting them working at the same time for the benefit of the environment.

Alan Marchbank
Tasks include scrub clearance, maintaining paths, improving habitats, and recording species at Thorpe Marshes, near Norwich, and Upton Marshes, near Acle.

“We would like to invite people to come and get involved, particularly if they live near Thorpe Marshes or Upton, or like to visit them,” said Alan Marchbank, the NWT’s Volunteer Coordinator. “There are lots of opportunities, so please do contact us.”

NWT and other organisations, such as the RSPB, local councils and the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, are now a year into the five-year Water, Mills and Marshes programme of 38 projects. They include documenting and repairing iconic drainage mills on Halvergate Marshes, preserving and enhancing the natural and built environment of the Broads, and creating trails, guided walks, events and exhibitions.

Part of the aim of the £4.5 million programme, which has received a grant of £2.6 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is to provide opportunities for people to learn about the area’s historic and natural assets and contribute in practical ways to their upkeep.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust was keen to get involved in Water, Mills and Marshes, which follows the course of the rivers Yare, Bure and Waveney between Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Acle and Loddon.

“It is a great opportunity to work with other organisations and local people towards a common goal,” Alan said.

At Thorpe Marshes, managed by NWT but owned by the Arminghall Settlement, NWT is leading a community engagement project with volunteers doing jobs such as scrub clearance and improving habitat for birds. In the first year, the Trust has organised monthly guided walks on the reserve and begun a schools outreach project to involve

Upton Broad and Marshes, photo by Richard Osbourne

local children in activities on the reserve, such as pond dipping.

“We want the community to know what the site is, what is there and how people can enjoy it,” said Alan. “We also want to build a volunteer base for people to come and get involved in conservation at that site – and the ultimate aim would be to create a self-sustaining volunteer group, supported by the Trust.”

NWT is also leading two projects at Upton Marshes. The first, called Wild Walks, encourages volunteers to record any species they see on their walks around Upton Marshes. Training has been given in the first year on surveying techniques and identification of species that might be seen on the reserve, which attracts a huge variety of rare wildlife, including swallowtail butterflies, Norfolk hawker dragonflies, lapwings and marsh harriers.

The plan is to feed the information into the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service. As part of Wild Walks, volunteers are also being recruited to do practical conservation tasks at Upton Marshes, a tranquil haven for wildlife in the heart of the Broads.

Grass wrack, photo by Jeremy Halls

The second project at Upton is to aid the spread of grass-wrack pondweed, a nationally scarce and endangered species, which is found at only two places in Norfolk.

The plant’s presence at Upton’s grazing marshes is evidence of a healthy water environment as it needs good-quality, clear and slow-flowing water to flourish.

NWT is restoring 7.2km of dykes at the reserve to dykes to their early successional stage to create conditions for it to thrive.  Work on the dyke network is also helping other scare species, such as Greater water-parsnip, Norfolk hawker dragonflies and water voles, all of which need the same high-quality water conditions as the pondweed.

Last year, 1,355 volunteers gave their time to the NWT, with the freely given hours equal to 31 full time members of staff. If you would like to join them, see the volunteering section of the website.

Steve Cox is volunteering for Norfolk Wildlife Trust one day a week for six months on a secondment from his employer, John Lewis and Partners.
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