Dragons, bedstraws, and exuvia!
Led by the always amazing Tony Leech, the Workout Group were treated to a botanically-rich afternoon at Spout Hills in Holt. Wandering from sunny grassland to shady railway track, we saw a huge list of species, just some of which were: ragged robin, yellow rattle, fleabane, marsh pennywort, jointed rush, marsh bedstraw, lady’s bedstraw, common spotted orchids, quaking grass, bog pimpernel, fool’s watercress, greater birdsfoot trefoil, and many, many more!
We also saw many species of butterflies – and two perfect dragonfly exuvia (cast-off skins of emerging adult dragonflies).
One purple hairstreak, and one young oak
Having been advised by the NNDC rangers to ‘cut everything back, except oaks and hollies’, us Workout volunteers were incredibly lucky to see a (normally elusive) Purple Hairstreak butterfly at Pretty Corner woods this month.
As we worked, cutting back scrub and helping to restore the heathland part of this Woodland Trust owned site, we all dutifully avoided the young oak growing near the path… and there basking in the sunshine was a female hairstreak.
This beautiful violet-coloured butterfly is usually seen only in the late afternoon/evening and then is mainly seen patrolling amongst the canopy of fully-grown oaks (a good spot in Norfolk for viewing is from the top of Sheringham Park gazebo)!
Doing the bash, the Balsam bash…
July is the best time to take part in some Himalayan balsam bashing, so the Workout volunteers got stuck into swathes of this invasive, pink-flowered plant as it grew along the beck at Beeston Common.
Himalayan balsam has seed pods that explode when touched, scattering seed everywhere – and is particularly invasive when it colonises river banks and damp ground, as it can be further spread by water. It will also shade out many native grasses and wildflowers, leaving the banksides bare of vegetation in autumn and winter, and liable to erosion.
So it was a very worthwhile (and very satisfying) afternoon to root this troublesome plant out of the SSSI common, and together the volunteers cleared about 40 binbags full!
Blakeney’s flutter of blue butterflies
This year the Workout Group volunteers took part once again in the Big Butterfly Count, and were spoiled for choice as all together we saw 102 individual butterflies. On this lovely summertime stroll around Blakeney and Wiveton Downs, we spotted an amazing thirteen species – we saw small and large whites, gatekeepers, meadow browns, skippers, holly and common blues, a silver studded blue (possibly!), peacocks, red admirals, ringlets, speckled woods, and two walls.
It was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon, especially as the results have been sent along to Butterfly Conservation, to help future conservation efforts and record any changes in butterfly numbers and distribution.
Kelling gorse softly?…
This was our first visit as Workout Group volunteers to Kelling Heath, and we spent our time there working peripatetically (impressive word!)
Led by County Ecologist Ed Stocker, we walked the paths, improving public access by simply cutting back overhanging branches, gorse and brambles. We also cleared an impressive view out to Weybourne village, opening up the lovely sight of Weybourne windmill in all its restored glory. And we even found time to enjoy the passing Black Prince steam train on its way to Holt!
Beach combing bonanza in Mundesley
In August the North Norfolk Workout Group headed to the seaside to relieve some childhood memories, enjoying an afternoon of brilliant beach combing at Mundesley.
Between us, on our maritime wander, the keen-eyed Workout volunteers identified: whelk egg cases; a four-legged starfish; razor clams; an oystercatcher flying past; lots of bladder, spiral and serrated wracks; herring gulls on the beach and sand martins flying in and out of their cliffside burrows ; sea lettuce; belemnite fossils (these are creatures which lived over 200 million years ago); a moon jellyfish, lots of limpets and barnacles, and the remains of several shore crabs. And we just about managed to dodge those pesky August showers…
Raking hay while the sun shines
It’s September again, so it must be time to return to West Runton Common for a bit of hay raking…
On a beautifully sunny autumnal afternoon, we enjoyed ourselves raking away the cut grass from the common, and stacking it in piles – both of which are important to encourage wildflowers on this County Wildlife Site. Too much grass left on the common would aid the growth of plants like hogweed and nettles, which thrive on nutrient-rich soils, to the detriment of more delicate wildflower species.
It was hard work, but really fulfilling too, and we had a lovely sunny teabreak in which to enjoy our efforts…
September Pill Box clearance
Having bashed a truly impressive amount of balsam over the summer, it was time for the Workout volunteers to get back to opening up the dry heathland area of Beeston Common.
An always enjoyable task, it was really satisfying to begin removing some of the large gorse from around the historical pill box, as well as clearing small birch saplings. Everything has grown rapidly during the summer months, and it was great to see the dry heathland emerging once again from the scrub.
Restorers of the lost heathland
The heathland restoration continues apace at Pretty Corner woods, helped by the muscle power of the Workout Group volunteers. We’ve been busy during 2014 loppering, sawing and clearing as part of this important project, led by North Norfolk District Council’s Annie, Will and Martin.
In this part of the site, owned by the Woodland Trust, work has been underway by the rangers to clear the existing scrub and trees, re-establishing an important habitat for a number of increasingly rare species of heathland plants, insects and animals.
Emerging from gorse…
On our last September task this year, we Workout volunteers were set a challenge – to clear a soon-to-be overgrown gorse tunnel on Salthouse Heath… Helping out walkers and local residents, we were soon cutting back and coppicing, opening up the path from the village onto the heath. We also erected two new, much needed footpath signs.
The Workout Group can look back on the afternoon as time very well (and enjoyably!) spent, as working together as a team, we made our way from one end of the gorse tunnel to the other in just three hours – well done everyone!
The Salthouse Gorse Tunnel, before the Workout Group – and after!