Dominated by flat openness with extensive vistas to level horizons, the landscape here is typical of the Fens. Historically this was part of the largest and richest wetland in the country, once stretching from west Norfolk across Cambridgeshire and south Lincolnshire. But comprehensive drainage, that started in the 17th century, converted the majority of the area to deep-drained arable farmland. The peat soils are very productive, today growing significant proportions of the country’s vegetable and salad crops. The Living Landscape retains its share of important wildlife, but it is also a landscape under pressure as dry peat soils waste away and the climate changes.
- Appropriately managed arable farmland can support declining farmland bird and arable plant species.
- New wetlands, like NWT’s Wissey Wetland, will provide homes for iconic Fenland wildlife such as marsh harrier and crane.
- The banks of the Cut-Off Channel support important chalk grassland and scrub habitats.
- The corn bunting is one of a suite of declining farmland birds associated with arable farming.
- The Fens’ extensive ditch network continues to support populations of water vole.
- The grizzled skipper survives in regionally significant numbers along the Cut-Off Channel.
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 developing the Trust’s Wissey Wetland at Hilgay to maximise its biodiversity value and to act as an exemplar site to others.
- Work with landowners to improve the connectivity of habitats along the River Wissey valley.
- Ensure effective maintenance of chalk grassland and scrub habitats associated with the Cut-Off Channel for the benefit of the priority species that they support.
- Identify and deliver opportunities for the creation of further new wetlands (adding to the network of sites across the Fens and helping to offset potential climate change driven habitat losses in other parts of the county).
- Ensure that the extensive network of drainage ditches across the Living Landscape are managed in accordance with best practice to maximise their biodiversity value and contribute to a wider wetland network.
- To further enhance habitat connectivity, investigate and employ, if appropriate, novel conservation approaches, for example creation of floating wetlands on irrigation reservoirs.
- Support research into the balancing of agriculture with the need to sustain the wide range of ecosystem services that can be delivered by healthy peat soils.
- Encourage farmers to adopt management practices that will promote the long term survival of priority farmland wildlife.
- Investigate the current status of water voles in the Living Landscape, and follow up with appropriate action to secure the future for this iconic species.
- Work with schools and local communities to improve understanding and appreciation of the local landscape and its wildlife value (both existing and potential).
- Provide opportunities for local people to get involved in the Living Landscape – for example in undertaking wildlife surveys or actively managing key sites.
- Support activity that aims to minimise the impact of agriculture on the wider environment due to diffuse pollution, soil management and water abstraction.