Talk and AGM: Managing the Yare Valley for People and Wildlife

Yare Valley Meadow Makers rake it in

Conservation Volunteers Programme for March

Mark Webster of the Conservation Volunteers (TCV) writes: 

Spring is in the air (“boing”, said Zebedee) so it’s time to get our tree planting finished (at Sprowston, Hingham and Horsford, where ‘urricanes ‘ardly ever ‘appen) and then we move on to pastures new.  Well, strictly speaking it’s meadows new as we will be planting new wildflower meadows* at two sites in central Norwich.  We will also move from cutting willow at East Ruston to teasing out little gorse seedlings from the young heather.  There’s also a new woodland path to make, the first steps towards an exciting new network linking miles of little open spaces into an exciting green corridor for everyone to enjoy exploring.

And before you know it, it will be Easter, after which tasks will resume again, so that you can burn off all those extra calories from crème eggs.

PS: Incredibly geeky point, but officially a pasture is grazed, whereas a meadow is cut for hay.  You learn something new every day, even if you don’t want to!

The Programme is here.

Meadows’ Friends adopt new name and logo

The Friends of Strawberry Field and UEA meadows have changed their name to “The Yare Valley Meadow Makers” to better describe and emphasize their practical “in field” activities. They also have a new logo:

YVS members will recall that Matt Tomlinson gave a very well received talk about his vision for the meadows at the 2021 AGM. He founded the Friends group three years ago. The group has worked with the landowner of the Strawberry Field to make changes to the management of the field so as to better achieve the group’s long term aim of creating a rich community wildflower meadow. Spurred on by successes in the Strawberry Field the group also became involved in assisting with the nearby hay meadow at UEA. The most recent activity was to scatter yellow rattle seed at the UEA meadow. Yellow rattle is a well-known meadow maker. 

Meadow Makers. Matt is seventh from the right.

Conservation Volunteer Programme for November and Internships

Mark Webster of The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) writes:

“Here is our November programme for conservation volunteering activities, and it’s an exciting one!  Of course, they are all exciting in their way, but this month sees us go to FOUR brand new sites!  We are creating a new wildflower meadow near the village hall in Upton, building a “dead hedge” (fence from natural materials) in Wymondham, rejuvenating a woodland in Sprowston, and starting work on a new area in Rouen Road in the centre of Norwich.  Creating new wildflower meadows is a bit of a theme this month, as we are also planting seeds and bulbs at Horsford, Earlham Cemetery and in Wensum Park. A number of students have been asking me about our Volunteer Officer programme (internships).  If anyone is able to spend a few months with us (could be full or part-time, we are very flexible) they can learn everything that they need to know to get a paid job in nature conservation. … “

More details of internships and the programme are here.

Making wetlands more resilient to climate change

Norfolk Rivers Trust have been overseeing work on the wetlands between the Strawberry Field and the river. The aim is to make the wetlands more resilient to climate change. Recent extended droughts have resulted in some of the wetland peat drying out, with release of carbon dioxide, and an adverse effect on flora and fauna. Pools are being created to store more water in time of flood, the water then being available during dry periods.

In the foreground is a stilling pool. This is deep enough to reduce the velocity or turbulence of the water flowing into the pool system and encourage sedimentation prior to the water entering the main pool. The channel leads to the main water storage pool.

The channel enters the storage pool on the left. The other end of the storage pool is sloping to encourage a variety of flora and fauna habitat.

Nearby a scrape has also been created. Scrapes are shallow ponds of less than 1m depth with gently sloping sides. They hold rain or flood water seasonally and, hopefully, will remain damp for most of the year.

It all looks rather stark at the moment, but it will not be long before nature takes advantage of the opportunities offered, and all will assume a softer natural appearance.

The changes will be monitored by the Norfolk Rivers Trust to see how effective they are in reducing the drying out of the wetland. The Trust has further projects in hand to improve the effectiveness of the Yare Valley as a wildlife corridor.

Yellow Rattle Planting at UEA Meadows

Matt Tomlinson of Friends of Strawberry Field and UEA Meadows writes:

“To continue our work to help restore the UEA meadows – UEA estates have kindly cut short an area on the meadow by the lake for us. We can now rake up the arisings and create some bare soil to sow yellow rattle and other strawberry field wildflower seeds. This worked really well last year and it would be great to build on this success. 

Dates and times –

Sunday 8th Oct 10-12pm

Saturday 14th Oct 2-5pm

Please bring a rake with you if possible. I have borrowed 6 if you don’t have any.

Coffee and biscuits provided and of course everyone is welcome.

Hope to see you then” 

Mowing the Meadows

Refuges for insects. Photo: Matt Tomlinson

Matt Tomlinson of Friends of Strawberry Field and UEA Meadows writes:

“UEA meadows had their annual cut and collect this week – important to deplete soil nutrients and control grass vigour. Arisings are being left under the tree belts, which make good habitat piles (for breeding grass snakes especially).

Creating Habitat. Photo: Matt Tomlinson

For the first time you will see uncut strips on the meadows, which act as refuges for over wintering insects. These will be moved every year.

Refuge for insects. Photo: Matt Tomlinson

Big thanks to Norfolk wildlife trust who have been down to Broad Hay Meadow this week to spread some green hay from their roadside nature reserve at Shotesham. A big square has been cut short, by UEA estates, to allow the seeds to have good contact with the soil and to keep the grasses in check. This will be a big boost to the meadows biodiversity and we look forward to see what comes up in the spring !

Thanks also to UEA estates for all their hard work in preparing the area at short notice.

We will be down at UEA in late September to get some more yellow rattle sown.”

NEAT Conservation Volunteering Programme August

Mark Webster writes:

“Summertime, and the Himalayan Balsam is all behind us now – but we won’t look back, instead we are looking forward to a month of making hay, possibly whilst the sun shines, or maybe with scattered showers, but hopefully no more thunderstorms!

This month we will keep caring for our newly planted trees at Bunkers Hill and Netherwood Green, as well as tackling invasive bracken on Mousehold Heath, but mainly we are all about gorgeous grasslands in August, sometimes cutting and always raking up.  This is a vital part of habitat management for wildflowers, keeping nutrient levels low to stop nettles and thistles pushing out the beautiful mix of our rarer species which make up a healthy and diverse meadow.  Locations include lovely quiet Barmer (out in the wilds), the fine old town of Bungay, and two of Norwich’s most special green lungs, Rosary and Earlham Cemeteries.

If you know someone who could join us for a summer holiday in Norfolk (well, a day out anyway) at some point this month, please let them know.”

The Programme for August is here.

Second try at Yellow Rattle Seed Collection

The collection of Yellow Rattle Seed planned for the 23rd of July had to be postponed because of unsuitable weather. A second attempt will be made this coming Sunday the 30th July 10 – 12 am, when the weather is looking dry. Its likely to be soggy underfoot, please wear appropriate foot wear. 

Please come along if you can.

Meet at Marston marshes – at the bottom corner (go down church lane past Eaton Vale Scout Centre and take the footpath on the left, running parallel to the train track and enter the marsh).

Please don’t go to Strawberry Field for this one.