North Norfolk is renowned for its coastal habitats – an internationally important mix of saline and freshwater habitats including beaches, saltmarsh, reedbed and grazing marsh. Yet the hinterland here is also valuable for a wide range of biodiversity. Most notable are the woodlands – the area is well wooded for Norfolk, with a mix of coniferous and deciduous woods, including the county’s largest ancient woodlands at Foxley and Swanton Novers. Otherwise, the predominant land use across this gently undulating countryside is arable farming, itself important for farmland birds and rare arable plants. This is interspersed with remnant areas of heathland, numerous ponds and areas of historic parkland, and dissected by the headwaters of important chalk rivers including the Wensum, Bure, Glaven and Stiffkey. Climate change and likely sea level rise are the main threats to the coastal habitats, while inland the challenge is around balancing the needs of agriculture and development with those of our wildlife.
- Ancient woodland is an irreplaceable habitat, of particular value in this part of the county.
- Saline lagoons are an important element of the coastal habitats for which North Norfolk is renowned.
- Sensitively managed arable farmland can support a range of priority species.
- Dark-bellied brent geese are among the myriad birds that make use of the North Norfolk landscape.
- The uncommon barbastelle bat is associated with the woods and hedgerows of this landscape.
- Recently confirmed as native to the UK, crucian carp can be found in many ponds in the area.
Norfolk Wildlife Trust is adopting an ambitious approach to nature conservation: working in partnership with others and engaging local communities to restore and create networks of habitats at a landscape scale. The vision is to forge wildlife-rich Living Landscapes enjoyed by and benefitting all. In the Bure & Thurne Living Landscape, NWT proposes to:-
- Continue managing the Trust’s land holding, including flagship sites such as Cley & Salthouse Marshes and Foxley Wood, to maximise its biodiversity value.
- Work with landowners to increase the area of broad-leaved woodland, creating a coherent woodland corridor from the Cromer Ridge to Foxley Wood.
- Encourage the buffering of woodland sites, blurring the interface between woodland and farmland to reduce potentially negative ‘edge effects’.
- Ensure the effective and sustainable management of key heathland sites, for example at Kelling and Salthouse, expanding these sites where soil type and land use permit.
- Promote best practice management and restoration of the wider fabric of the landscape, including hedgerows, trees and pond networks, so as to maximise the ecological connectedness of the countryside.
- Investigate the current status of key indicator species such as barbastelle bat and woodcock, and monitor populations as a means of recording changes in habitat connectivity.
- Where the need is identified, facilitate the coming together of farmers and landowners into ‘farm cluster(s)’, promoting a collaborative approach to landscape-scale conservation.
- Promote understanding and appropriate valuation of the ecosystem services provided by the landscape, including flood alleviation, carbon storage etc.
- Identify and exploit markets, particularly for woodland products, as a means of supporting the long-term sustainable management of sites (particularly previously neglected small woods).
- Continue to utilise the Cley visitor facility as a centre of excellence for the educating and engaging of locals and visitors alike in the natural environment.
- Build on the good work of volunteer groups such as the River Glaven Conservation Group, providing more opportunities for people to get directly involved in the landscape (including novel approaches such as the creation of community nurseries to supply locally-sourced trees).
- Identify mechanisms and develop partnerships that will allow local businesses, notably those in the tourism industry, to increase their contribution to the local landscape.
- Work with others to understand the implications of climate change and associated sea level rise for coastal habitats and communities, and respond accordingly.