A 14-ton excavator has been ‘floating’ on a Norfolk fen this month to create a network of ponds, which will benefit the rare fen orchid among other nationally rare wildlife.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust is restoring Catfield Great and Little Fens close to Barton Broad
. The very wet conditions and peat substrate means great care and skill is required by NWT’s specialist machine operator to balance the digger on lengths of timber called bog mats so that it ‘floats’ on the surface of the fen. The project has received a £67,700 grant from Biffa Award as part of the Landfill Communities Fund to remove scrub from the fen, to restore the dykes and to re-create flashes of open water for wildlife to colonise.
As well as providing vital habitat for fen orchids, the new ponds will also support aquatic water beetles – 44 species were recorded on site in a survey last year – as well as other invertebrates such as dragonflies and damselflies.
Earlier in the year, a data logging piezometer system was installed: this is a device to gather detailed information about the site’s underground water levels and to warn of any changes that could cause long term damage to the internationally important habitat.
Head of Nature Reserves at Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Kevin Hart said: “Catfield Fen is one of the finest examples of tall herb fen anywhere in Europe and is nationally and internationally recognised as being a site of ecological importance for its fauna, flora and geological features. This restoration project is crucial as the fen holds populations of some of the rarest species in the country including fen orchid (see right), marsh fern, swallowtail butterfly and the Norfolk hawker dragonfly, all of which depend on the complex habitat mosaic and fen vegetation communities present on site.”
Chief Executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Pamela Abbott added: “We are grateful to Biffa Award for funding this crucial project. As fens are such a sensitive habitat, and prone to being extremely wet underfoot, not many are open to the public. However, NWT Hickling Broad and NWT Upton Fen both have footpath trails through areas of fen where it is possible to spot some of the rare wildlife associated with these wonderful wet places.”