Coconuts, wild geese and harvest home!

COCONUTS AND WILD GEESE— IT’S SALTHOUSE HEATH

The Workout Group volunteers have returned to their winter conservation tasks at Salthouse Heath. We have been cutting back invasive gorse bushes, both to help delicate heathland plant species and open up again the fine vista to the church and the coast.

We took time out to enjoy the coconut aroma given off by the gorse flowers in the late afternoon sun. We were also treated to a bird’s eye view of a flock of geese incoming to the marshes. We had the usual healthy Workout Group debate on which geese they were and how many, without coming to a conclusion!

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Teatime at Salthouse

 

SEEING THE LIGHT AT BRETT’S WOOD

We have returned to another favourite site, Brett’s Wood, near Fakenham. Our task has been to remove self-seeded birch and young conifer scrub which is crowding out the native species, like oak and hazel, and let in the light. This will also help restore the flora to a more healthy state. For a while the wood echoed to cries of “timber” before peace was restored.

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Timber!…

BRINGING IN THE HAY AT THORPE MARKET AND CLEY

I must look at that rhyme again; something not quite right there? Anyway, we’ve been back to Thorpe Market churchyard and to a new churchyard for us at Cley to bring in the last of the hay. Both are conservation churchyards and we are hoping to be rewarded with stunning displays of wild flowers next year, including lady’s bedstraw, ox-eye daisy, knapweed, germander speedwell and crosswort.

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Raking hay, while the November sun shines

Additionally at Thorpe Market we have been helping cut back a giant holly, and tidy unruly hedges. We have also been working in the churchyard‘s hidden hazel grove, which is being opened up to allow more drifts of Fair Maids of February to bloom. These pure white carpets of snowdrops attract hundreds of happy visitors in early spring, helping to raise vital funds for St Margaret’s church.

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Harvest home!

We are grateful to volunteers from both churches for their welcome provision of light refreshments and drinks.

By a Workout Group volunteer.

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Making Merry in Mallett’s Meadows

From a Workout Group volunteer –

They used to say “join the navy and see the world”. Being less ambitious, but liking to get out a bit, I joined the Workout Group. I have certainly seen a lot of North Norfolk!

The Group is ideal if you like  working in the great outdoors and have an interest in the natural world. It gives you the opportunity to “poke about” in all sorts of interesting corners of North Norfolk. Sites range from nature reserves and churchyards to community allotments, woodlands, heathlands, meadows and pond restorations. Experts are often on hand to explain the reasons for the works we are doing and its wildlife benefits.

Our latest project, Mallett’s Meadows, takes us back to a bygone age.The small unimproved meadows[ they have never been ploughed]  are grazed by ponies and the generous hedgerows are dripping with sloes, hips and blackberries. We are helping the Felbeck Trust to tidy up the more unkempt hedgerows, create a village walk and restore a pond.

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“Tackling a thorny issue at Mallett’s Meadows: a hedge of hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose and brambles…”

The interesting bit for me is the plan to reduce the grazing, which has been intensive, and then see which floral gems pop their heads up. Will we find a rare orchid, a shy fern hiding in an overgrown corner or an unusual waterside plant clinging to the bank of the Scarrow Beck which flows through Mallett’s Meadows?

As to my fellow volunteers. They can speak for themselves, and they often do, on topics as diverse as the price of bread in pre-revolutionary Russia to the best place to recycle an old bedstead!

It might be that you are just after quiet contemplation. Well there is room for that as well. Standing on a heath awash with yellow gorse and pink heather and hearing a turtle dove purring nearby can be most therapeutic. Watching a rainbow touch down on Salthouse  church whilst the wind and sun chase the shower out to sea can be uplifting.

And it’s all free!

In the meantime back to work clearing scrub. Stand well back everyone……..Timber!…..who left my lunch box there?

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Rakers gonna rake, rake, rake…

The skippers & ringlets of Happy Valley

This summer the Workout Group volunteers have taken part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count – this is the world’s largest insect survey, and we did our bit for nature by counting butterflies in Cromer. We then added this information the BC’s online survey – and as butterflies are a great indicator species, our records will give a snapshot of which butterflies are thriving and which are struggling on our local patch, but also help the experts to assess the health of the local environment.

Walking around the footpaths of Cromer town, we headed up to the very sunny Happy Valley – and altogether we counted 40+ butterflies, including meadow browns, ringlets, gatekeepers, burnet moths, small and large whites, skippers and small tortoiseshells.

Leopards, tigers…& dodder

In July we were joined at Salthouse Heath by Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Tony Leech to survey the plants, fungi and fauna of this beautiful County Wildlife Site. We’ve learnt so much about the inhabitants of this special site, as well as finding areas of the heath we’ve never visited before!

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“We dillied, we dallied, we even dodderd…”

As part of NWT’s County Wildlife Action project, the Workout volunteers have spent the summer months getting to know some of the wildlife of the heath – including hundreds of plant species, leopard slugs, bullfinches, woodpeckers, tiger beetles, darters and dragonflies, bumblebees, turtle doves, some rather rare fungi, and the (up until now) elusive dodder…see below!

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The small pink flowers of dodder, growing on gorse

It’s been a brilliant and eye-opening few months out on the heath – thanks to Gemma from Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Ed and Tony!                                  

Raking God’s Acres

During the summer Workout volunteers have been helping out local parishioners at two lovely churchyards in north Norfolk.

Letheringsett churchyard near Holt was once home to about 1000 meadow saxifrage plants, but over time this beautiful wildflower has begun to disappear from the site. Part of the advice from NWT Churchyard Conservation Scheme was to rake off the summer’s grass cuttings, thereby knocking back the nutrient levels to encourage the species that appreciate a poorer soil. So, rakes in hand, the Workout Group spent a lovely August afternoon raking to remove the freshly cut grass and thatch below, to help next year’s more delicate wild flowers.

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Rake it off!

On two of the hottest days of the summer, we visited Thorpe Market church, again to rake hay – we had a very enjoyable couple of visits, and special thanks are due to Cornel for his sterling efforts!…

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One woman went to mow…

St Margaret’s in Thorpe Market is an award-winning conservation churchyard, and this summer had its own wildlife bio-blitz (counting all the different species present on one day), so we were keen to be involved with practical work to help enhance the site. Well done everyone – a great team effort!

 

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Surveying Salthouse – in Summertime

This summer we’ve been joined at Salthouse Heath by Norfolk Wildlife Trust and local experts to survey and map the site, as part of NWT’s County Wildlife Action project.

This project aims to map and re-survey 70 County Wildlife Sites and 30 churchyards in Norfolk, in just two years.  A big part of the project is to engage local the community in their local green spaces, involving them in the practical surveying – which is where the Workout Group comes in at Salthouse Heath. Armed with trusty paper and pen, as well as GPS mapping devices, our aim is to map the entire site, and record as many species as we can!

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Name that plant…

Mainly focusing on plant surveying this year, we’ve had the opportunity to record and discover more about the amazing flora on the heath – so far we’ve found over 140 plants, such as common centaury, star of Bethlehem, May lilies, spring-beauty, heath bedstraw, milkwort, biting stonecrop, sweet vernal grass, sheep’s sorrel and scarlet pimpernel. We have also recorded 40 other species, including reptiles, moths, butterflies, beetles, mammals and birds.

It’s a great project to be involved with, and we’re all learning lots on every visit, giving us a new perspective on this beautiful site. We’ve been carrying out conservation activities on Salthouse Heath for the past six years, and it’s brilliant to get the chance to stop, look around us and appreciate the site in a new way – as home to some truly amazing wildlife!

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A word or two from our volunteers

Here at the North Norfolk Workout Group, we are very proud that we’ve been an independent conservation group for nearly five years. Our group is about getting people outdoors, getting a bit fitter, and feeling a bit better, whilst doing good for the environment. We hope the group is fun to be part of, as well as helping us become both physically and mentally healthier.

Since we started the group in 2012, some of the volunteers have been kind enough to share with us the positive effects of being a Workout volunteer. And now we’d like to share some of them with you!

‘The group has helped a lot of people; it’s helped me a lot.’

‘It’s a good workout’

‘It’s great work for the environment’

‘It gets me out of the house, where I’m on my own, and out among friends’

‘It’s always fun!’

‘Since I’ve done this volunteer work, meeting new people, it has helped me with my illness, e.g. Confidence is a lot better.’

‘I also like the mix of people sharing a common goal – to help make a difference to us and the countryside…It’s really good for my health’

‘I’m enjoying working with volunteers and its been great for my mental health and general wellbeing’

North Norfolk Workout Group (394)

A big thank you to everyone who has volunteered
with the Workout Group over the past four+ years

– Go Team!

And if you’re thinking of joining us, please come along and give it a try!

For more details, phone us on 07943 703919, or email us: nnworkoutgroup@gmail.com

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