Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Build a Scarecrow

Our Build a Bug children's activity at Thornham was very successful: we had 32 children joining us for the event. The rain cleared away just in time for us and some weird and wonderful bugs were made by the youngsters.

We have had an invasion of 7-spot ladybirds over the last week or so. Millions have been crossing the North Sea from the Continent. It is also the best year for a long time for Painted Lady butterflies. These are also migrants that breed in this country and there are thought to be around a billion in the Britain at the moment.

Our next children's activity is Scarecrow Building on Monday the 10th August at Thornham Walks. The event is from 2pm to 4pm and the cost is £3 for children with accompanying adults free. Scarecrows can either be taken home or will be put up around Thornham. Please bring some old clothes to dress the scarecrow. For more information call 01379 788345.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kingfisher Awards

Last week we presented our annual Kingfisher Awards at Harleston Primary School. The Awards are handed out each year and are a way of thanking the many local people and groups who have made an outstanding contribution to conservation in the Waveney Valley. The Primary School has won the Award for enthusiastically creating wildlife areas in the school grounds and holding nature days for everyone. Here is the pond-dipping platform being constructed at the school:

Awards were also presented to Roger Buxton and Keven Boyce for erecting over 150 bird of prey boxes in the Waveney Valley; Roy Goodwin of Syleham Hall for farming in a sensitive way to the environment and supporting the Thornham Owl Project; and The Suffolk Owl Sanctuary for sponsoring bird of prey boxes in the Waveney Valley. This is Roger and Keven making an owl box:

A reporter and photographer from The Diss Express came along and we got some good publicity in the paper.

On Monday the 27th July we are holding our first children's activity of the summer holidays with Thornham Walks. The Build a Bug afternoon will be held at Thornham from 2pm to 4pm. First we will go on a bug hunt then it's back to base to build bugs from natural materials and bits and pieces. The cost is £3 per child with accompanying adults free. For more details phone Helen on 01379 788345.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Secret Castle Walk

On Sunday the 19th April I am leading a walk in the Waveney Valley to visit the almost unknown motte and bailey castle at Darrow Wood. The walk is around 7 miles long and starts at Homersfield Bridge Picnic Site (just off the A143) at 10am. The walk is free and if you want any more information please give me a call on 01379 788008.

The castle is owned by the National Trust and was probably built soon after the Norman Conquest in the 11th Century. The wooden castle was soon abandoned in favour of a stone castle at Buckenham and the earthworks slowly disappeared under scrub and woodland. The castle was only re-discovered in the middle of the 19th Century when the trees were cleared. Nowadays the tree covered motte and bailey is surrounded by a water-filled moat. The woodland has a good colony of Early Purple Orchids that should be coming into flower.

This is an exciting time of year with migrant birds arriving from Africa and early butterflies feeding on newly opened flowers. On Saturday I saw my first Swallow, followed by Willow Warblers and Blackcaps the next day. Cuckoos should be arriving in the next few days.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Black Poplars

The rarest tree in the Valley is the Black Poplar and there are only a few of these magnificent trees left, and they are old with a limited lifespan. Black Poplars grow in hedgerows and on a few of our commons. The nearest ones to my office are at Thornham Parva where these two specimens grow along a green lane opposite the church.

Black Poplars are very distinctive. The bark is gnarled and covered in burrs (the black in their name refers to the bark).

The twigs are also a good identification feature - they curve downwards and have a flicked-up tip.

The reason why there are so few trees left is that they are no longer producing viable seed. There are separate male and female trees and these are now so far apart that the seed never gets fertilised. We are trying to get a new generation going by growing young trees at our nursery in Thrandeston.

Each year we supply about 50 saplings to landowners with suitable land along the Valley so that these wonderful trees can remain part of the landscape.

One bit of sad news during the week was finding a dead otter at the entrance to Thornham Walks. It was probably killed by a car. The Enviroment Agency has taken the body to Cardiff University where a post mortem will be carried out.

More soon.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Working with Local Communities

We work closely with many communities along the Waveney Valley. It is probably best if I set out a few examples to show the range of schemes we get involved with.

This winter we have been working with Palgrave Parish Council and Mid Suffolk District Council to restore the large pond on Palgrave Village Green. Over the years it had become hidden by bushes and young trees that had grown up on its banks. We arranged for a contractor to come in and coppice the growth so that light now gets to the pond and it is again a focal point in the village. The trees and bushes will now be maintained by coppicing every few years.

We have helped several communities develop circular walks and cycling routes around their parishes. Examples include Diss, Harleston and Wortham & Burgate. We have helped waymark the routes and produce walks leaflets for the parishes. At Wortham & Burgate we have also produced walks information boards.

Our volunteers have also helped manage churchyards for wildlife, for example at Scole and Thorpe Abbotts. And we have opened up neglected areas in parishes for the benefit of local people and wildlife. Here are some of our volunteers mowing and raking Scole Bridge picnic site.

If your community is interested in working with us on an environmental scheme please give me, Mark Timms a call on 01379 788008.

Warm weather over the weekend has tempted several butterflies out. I saw my first Comma and Brimstone butterflies on Sunday and heard my first Chiffchaff singing on Saturday.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Woodlands Spring to Life

March is the time of year when woodlands burst into life after closing down for the winter. Things are a bit slow this year after the long, cold winter with Snowdrops still in flower.

However the first Primroses are out and in the next week or two Wood Anemones will appear in some of our woods but only those that have been around for hundreds of years (ancient woods).

Far commoner is the Lesser Celandine - a member of the buttercup family - that is already coming into flower.

A less obvious plant is the Dog's Mercury with green flowers but it is found in many of our woods round here.

A few warm days this week have tempted out the first butterflies and bumblebees. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was flying around on Monday.

And in another few days our migrant birds will be returning from Africa: listen for the first Chiffchaffs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


We had a very successful children's activity here at Thornham Walks yesterday. Around 35 children built bat boxes from kits to take home and put up in the garden. We also provided a fact sheet on the best place to site a box and how to encourage bats into your garden, (plant night-scented flowers such as Evening Primrose to attract moths if you are interested).

We have two volunteer teams meeting on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We are looking to boost numbers on our Wednesday team so if you are interested please get in touch. The work is very varied. In the winter months we may be planting new hedges:

During the summer we manage a variety of wildlife sites such as wildflower meadows and churchyards:

Or it could be creating or managing wildlife ponds:

If you are interested in joining the Wednesday team please give my colleague Tim Page a call on 01379 788008. He will be able to give you a lot more information on future tasks and would be delighted to hear from you.

Birds seem to be singing everywhere now that we have some milder weather. At Thornham the Great Spotted Woodpeckers are busy drumming away and Nuthatches are singing from the tops of oak trees.