We have revealed the emerging long-term vision for our newest nature reserve Sweet Briar Marshes.
Sketches, maps and design ideas provide an insight into how the 90-acre city wildlife haven could evolve. Public facilities on and around the reserve will be taken forward in phases over the next few years to complement work to improve habitats for wildlife and increase biodiversity.
Circular paths and decking, information points and maps, lookouts, seats and benches, bird viewing points, ‘natural classrooms,’ and pond dipping areas will form part of the first phases of work. Other priorities such as providing a small amount of accessible parking and a visitor hub close by – and exploring other ambitions suggested by the local community, such as an aerial walkway, will take longer as they’ll need planning permission, further design, consultation and fundraising.
Community engagement has been integral in making sure Sweet Briar Marshes is developed in a way which benefits both wildlife and people. Over one thousand people have shared their aspirations for the future of the site at local events and an online survey during the last year. Landscape specialists Sheils Flynn has worked alongside us to develop the concept designs and ideas for the reserve, based on stakeholder and community feedback, as well as in-depth knowledge of the reserve gained over the last year.
Natalie Bailey, our Director of Engagement, said: “We are so excited to be at the stage of sharing our collective ambitions for Sweet Briar Marshes. Our new nature reserve presents us and the people of Norwich and beyond, with incredible opportunities.
“We have the chance to protect and enhance 90-acres of nature and wildness; to inspire an urban community to act for nature; and to give those who may not have connected with nature before, somewhere they can explore and grow to love.”
Some work is already underway at the reserve and will be completed before public opening – expected in spring 2024. This includes installing the infrastructure needed to graze cattle, made possible by funding from Biffa Award, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund. The benefit of having a grazing herd on a nature reserve such as this is that it creates varied grass heights and therefore a mosaic of wildlife friendly habitats – and forms an important part of the site’s conservation management.
Other aspects hoped to be in place before opening will include some mapped out routes around the reserve, including a natural-looking hard surface path with seating provided at regular intervals. Signs, information and maps will be provided at the newly installed entrance points and cycle stands provided at main entrances.
We purchased Sweet Briar Marshes in 2022, thanks to generous financial support from project partners Aviva, the Geoffrey Watling Charity, The Paul Bassham and Leslie Mary Carter Charitable Trusts alongside others, and public donations.
Long-term supporters, Aviva, generously pledged up to £300,000 in match funding for the Sweet Briar Appeal. Aviva will continue to support the development of the reserve, both financially and through volunteering.
People can view the shared vision exhibition at drop-in sessions during November, or view online: www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/SweetBriarVision