12 months ago we decided that it was time to expand our small business beyond the 2-acre site in Hunstanton. As we scouted around for plots we could either buy, lease or rent that we have slowly developed and we had set our sight on a wonderful field in North Norfolk boasting a whopping 5 acres. We soon found after review that this land was in an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) with all kinds of vegetation growing and wildlife enjoying the long reeds and grass.
This opportunity was too good to pass up - we had to have it!
Before we became the new owners of this land it had been used over and over for cattle grazing, crop harvesting, and being treated in such a way that has led to its decline. Upon our first arrival, it had been freshly cut and was busy being bailed for hay, and apart from the birds flying over now and again, no visable signs of any wildlife or wildflowers.
Pre-2021 this was a waterlogged arable field that was cut for hay annually and historically aggressively grazed.
Many of the natural waterways that cut through the middle of the field had been allowed to fill in with debris and reduce drainage into the channel which feeds the nearby River Burn.
At one corner of the site, we discovered a beautiful freshwater spring, rising up through the ground but this was pooling in one area and not draining into the nearby dyke as this was blocked by debris.
The freshwater spring surrounded by debris restricting the natural flow of water and therefore the oxygenation of the water.
We also learned that the field's previous use for grazing cattle and their trampling in some places could have caused sediment from collapsed banks to enter the river, reducing that marginal vegetation greatly. With our new waterways, we have provided new areas for wildlife such as moorhens which shelter in marginal plants The Norfolk Rivers Trust Restoring Norfolk's Rivers.
We have taken advice from Habitat Specialists and have by re-establishing the natural watercourses across the field enabled water to be retained for a longer period throughout the year, which again benefits wildlife.
Speaking of wildlife, this year we have discovered an abundance of toads that have thrived in the new waterways and are now enjoying the retained long grasses and irises which historically were mowed but now have been left to flourish.
In keeping with suggestions from our Habitat Specialist's advice when we mow the grass, we pile it up at the edge of the area to allow it to turn into hay and offer seeds to the wild birds rather than as previously being eaten by grazing cattle. We also do not cut the grass low to the ground to offer ground cover for the toads, insects, and butterflies. We do not use pesticides and allow wildflowers and 'weeds' like dandelions and buttercups to multiply.
Beady-eyed hawks and owls have spotted the toads and added to the enjoyment of visitors to the site, although not the toads but they still manage to survive in large numbers in the long grass.
We are still working on providing wildlife habitats and we encourage our guests and members to both enjoy the natural beauty of the site and surrounding area and make any suggestions to support the stewardship of our venues. We look forward to welcoming you.
The toads are loving are newly formed grass verges next to the re-formed waterways across the site.
Images which show the changes which we have encouraged Nature to make, as well as some of the wonderful wildlife who have made their home here.