Claylands - Wilder Connections

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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].

Getting involved

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:
  • 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: We'd like you to share your wildlife 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 the species.

Do you like being outside? Could you spare an hour or two? Plantlife needs your help with their Cowslip Survey - you don't need to have any prior experience.

Want to know more about the project?

Tree planting


 The first trees by H Parkinson: Bedingham Hall   Farm kicked off our tree planting campaign in   February with the farm owner joining our   volunteers - she received many compliments on   her healthy worms!

  Old and New by H Parkinson: Our young               saplings at Bedingham Hall farm will grow             surrounded by healthy hedgerows with                 interspersed mature trees to create corridors       between habitats for local wildlife such as             hedgehogs. Check out our spotter survey to         record your sightings of selected iconic                 Claylands species that depend on these               corridors for food and shelter.

 Volunteers hard at work by H Parkinson: We       are not just celebrating the farmers who have   become a part of our Claylands Wilder   Connections project, but our volunteers too.   Working as a team, our volunteers covered   hundreds of meters with saplings. This image   shows just the beginning of their wonderful   work.

  The Sunny Claylands by H Parkinson: The sun     shining on the new Claylands saplings at the       end of a long first day of tree planting. We             faced   high winds, heavy rain, and a very long     walk for the biscuits but everyone had a               wonderful day connecting with the land and         with new friends, whilst reconnecting the               landscape for wildlife.

   Saplings by H Parkinson: The first day of             March marked the start of another farm                 making a home for our saplings. Clayland farm     Darrow Green welcomed 8 native species for       planting - hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple,         hazel, holly, crabapple, dogwood and oak. We     look forward to watching them grow and, with       effective management, they will become               healthy new habitats for wildlife.

  The finishing touches by H Parkinson: Our             volunteers making great progress at Darrow         Green Farm, with conservation intern Lydia           Kittle helping them along, enjoying every               muddy minute. After a morning tea break,             they were full of fuel to power off into the               distance to finish the first line.

  Clay land by H Parkinson: The distinctive land       that is made up of boulder clay makes for very     muddy, sticky work! With many stuck wellies         and near-buried spades, we really enjoyed our     day at Darrow Green farm.

    One dig one plant by H Parkinson: Our                   wonderful volunteers worked amazingly               throughout the day, whether it was for a               couple of hours or for a full day. We                       welcome anyone with some free time and             the will to take action for nature to join us for         future habitat work or surveying.

     Talking over trees by H Parkinson: At the end       of the day we all like to congratulate our                 volunteers for all their amazing work. We             just want to say a big thank you to everyone         who has supported us whether by coming to         an event, by helping us plant trees, or by               learning something new about wildlife.

   Lydia Kittle at Old Hall Farm by R Osbourne:         Intern Lydia Kittle has swapped the Brecks for     the Claylands in her new internship, and she         has been hard at work planting trees and             helping our volunteers.

   Heyward Farm by H Parkinson: Our last day of     tree planting ended on a sunny note and took       us up to 6,750 trees planted by volunteers,           plus an additional 1,500 planted by contractors.

       Working Together by R Osbourne: Our                  volunteers have been tremendously helpful           and had so much fun working together to             rebuild these hedgerows.

    Biodegradable Tree Guards by R Osbourne:         Norfolk Wildlife Trust is committed to making         every part of our project as good for the               environment as possible, therefore, we are           using tree guards that will both protect the             young saplings from animals such as deer           who may eat them and that will degrade over       time. Made of biopolymers from waste corn           and beet, these tree guards will break down         over 3-5 years, so we don't need to remove         the guards at a later date.

     The Group by R Osbourne: Smiling and                 muddy, our volunteers ended the day with a         happy group photo. A great end to a                     productive day!

Spotter Survey
Share your sightings of wildlife in the Claylands.
Claylands Living Landscape
Discover more about one of Norfolk's little-known important areas for nature.
Browse our FAQs
We are here to give advice and answer any questions you may have about Norfolk’s wildlife!

Making the Connection events

Get in touch

If you would like to find out more about the Claylands Wilder Connections project or have any questions, please feel free to get in touch via email at [email protected]. Alternatively, you can call our team on 01603 598333 or reach our Claylands Community Engagement Officer, Sue Grime, on 07393 807897.

This project is funded by the Government's Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The fund was developed by Defra and its Arm's-Length Bodies. It is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.