Introduction to the Wilder Connections project
Norfolk Wildlife Trust has secured funding from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund for its Claylands Wilder Connections Project. This exciting new initiative aims to support communities in efforts to improve connectivity of habitats across key parts of South Norfolk. Its focus will be on the fabric of the countryside, including hedgerows, ponds, copses, trees and meadows. We are looking for opportunities to work with local communities and landowners to identify and deliver relevant projects on the ground with the aim of improving habitat connections for wildlife, while increasing biodiversity and resilience to climate change within the existing landscape.
The South Norfolk Claylands form part of the East Anglian Plain - a distinctive landscape found on a belt of boulder clay that lies over chalk and runs through Suffolk and south-east Norfolk. Land use in the South Norfolk Claylands is predominately arable, with scattered woodlands. It is an area noted for its ancient landscape, characterised by high hedges, open fields, pollarded trees and unenclosed commons.
The Claylands area is a relic of glaciation, when, about 480,000 years ago, an ice-sheet moved south across eastern England, eroding chalk and Jurassic clays along its path. The ground up deposits left by the ice form a chalky boulder clay soil, interspersed with areas of fine sand and gravel. This variation in soil can be seen in the flora of grasslands and in woodlands that are home to a number of key species, such as the sulphur clover and turtle doves (see below).
Over time habitats have changed. Ancient meadows have been converted to arable fields; trees, hedgerows and ponds have been removed to make way for more intensive farming and development. Relict habitats remain, yet they are patchy in their distribution across the landscape.
Habitat loss and fragmentation can reduce the size of populations and hinder the movement of individuals between increasingly isolated habitats, threatening their long-term viability.
Key to reversing these trends is improving and restoring connectivity between relict patches of habitat. By improving our understanding and then taking targeted action to restore features such as ponds, hedges, meadows and woodland, so we can create new 'stepping stones' of habitat and wildlife corridors. In turn these will allow species to more easily and safely move through our countryside, improving their long-term prospects for survival.
Key to delivering the ambitions of the Claylands Wilder Connections project will be working with those with land assets across the target hubs. Primarily this will involve farmers and landowners, but could include parish councils, community groups, schools and other individuals and organisations. The project will be looking to explore how we can best support informed decision making and implementation of best practice management through the provision of data, resources and training.
The project also has a significant budget for facilitating delivery of improvements on the ground including for example: restoration and creation of ponds; hedgerow gapping-up and new planting; establishing new woodland areas; and enhancing or creating floristically diverse buffers, margins and meadows.
To discuss potential opportunities on your land, or to find out more about how the project can assist you as a land manager, contact our Habitat Connectivity Officer, Ben Newton, via 07471 487643 or on [email protected].
We'd like communities to engage with us and take action in their local areas to make habitats better for wildlife.
We are looking forward to working with local communities and landowners to see how best we can work together to restore, reconnect and improve vital habitats across the three hubs within the Claylands Living Landscape.
There will be growing opportunities to take part. For instance, if you are a landowner with a gappy hedgerow, or a neglected pond, or a member of a community with a passion for wildlife and some free time, we would like to hear from you. Email Ben Newton, Habitat Connectivity Officer, at [email protected]
We have several events coming soon:
- Making the Connection events: A chance to learn all about the project, view the maps, speak to a member of NWT and register your interest as a landowner or as a community volunteer.
- Hedgerow surveying: We are looking for volunteers to survey hedgerows across the identified hubs (see map on the top right of the page). Full training will be given. If you would be interested in finding out more or would like to volunteer, please email [email protected], or contact Sue Grime, Claylands Community Engagement Officer, on 07393 807897.
- Putting Wildlife on the Map - Barn owl, tawny owl and little owl: We'd like you to share your owl sightings! By restoring and creating new hedgerows, we are hoping to provide better connections for owls who hunt along linear features with pollarded or mature trees to perch or roost. We are hoping that by creating better habitat connections, owl numbers will increase and spread out in range. A host of other species will benefit too - from hedgehogs, bats, beetles, and newts, to butterflies and honey bees. To submit your records visit our Wildlife Spotter Survey page or email [email protected] stating what, where and when you saw your owl.