Photographs of Thorpe woodlands, their varied habitats, plantlife and wildlife all taken by friends and supporters. most taken between 2010 and 2013

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Wood for the trees

Fresh tracks are being laid and new openings cut in Thorpe woodlands, something I've never actually watched there before and something I've dreaded for the last 4 years as, for that time it had seemed this would be the precursor to housing.  But the giant machinery that can be heard in to the dusk, lights shining down and through the trees, felling, removing and stacking 50+ year old trees like carefully arranged matchsticks is doing something good.
Paying heed to the warning signs and staying well clear while tons of machinery is felling and moving tons of wood, I've followed the path cut through southern Racecourse plantation. many dozens of trees have gone, but gone only from one of the last remaining stands of conifer. 
And what was in places tightly packed rows of pine with little light or life reaching below is now open with well spaced mature conifer retained along with some broadleaved.
A crop of conifer has been removed but the woodland remains and there is no obvious loss to wildlife or biodiversity. 
Likewise around the rest of Racecourse where work has taken place, if anything, the variety of habitat will probaly remain and variety of landscape increase. 
Clearing and widening, main ride Racecourse wood.

Very little of the broadleaved woodland (making up the majority of the woodland habitat in Racecourse) has so far been affected by the work undertaken and almost none in Belmore. And some care seems to have been taken to retain selected trees to retain the woodland landscape and to avoid unnecessary damage.
Thorpe Woodlands can, and is paying for it's keep with the crop so carefully stacked and sorted in the picture below. At the same time the woodlands is still the great and diverse wildlife habitat that we fought to keep, and across the bulk of it's area it's the same beautiful site for recreation (the area in Racecourse pictured top is definitely more so). 

The sustainable and renewable crop that pays for the woodland and wildlife we can keep.

Continued litter picking in Racecourse wood

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Forestry returns to Thorpe Woodlands

Since the vote by Broadland District Council to save Thorpe Woodlands in their entirety, we've been awaiting the response of the landowners, and so far it seems very positive.
Although their development proposers, Socially Conscious Capital are still harbouring hopes of yet building on at least part of the County Wildlife Site in future decades, for the time being woodland management has it seems resumed.

Leaflets have been distributed to the public living around the woodlands, signs have appeared informing the public of the forestry work to be undertaken, and (in Belmore at least) the work has started.

The leaflets titled "Racecourse Plantations" (the name of SCC's housing plan for the woods) with carefully selected pictures of the few remaining stands of pine and some barrels which are clearly mean't to create a poor impression of the woods as some kind of hazardous waste site. Typically misleading as usual! These 50 gallon drums are used extensively and legitimately by the Skirmish site, whom the landowners happily rent a portion of the woodlands to.
50 gallon drums used legitimately by Skirmish site
The leaflet outlines the owner's intention to carry out forestry work within licence and one can only hope they stick to that.
Alongside this there's a supposedly reassuring statement that they haven't given up hope of a future date where building on Thorpe Woodlands County Wildlife Site will be acceptable.
Again the argument is made that: Only with the building of a housing estate in the woodlands, can SCC and their employers deliver a public woodland that is both "family friendly" and a "haven to wildlife" plus of course some good quality housing, which if I remember their plan correctly would be a housing estate centred in Racecourse, halving the most diverse and largest habitat of Thorpe Woodlands.
All these are as ever false claims of course, the Woodlands already provide adequate public access, a rich wildlife habitat and while doing all this they already make the landowner a yearly profit after the costs of managing the woodlands.

Interestingly the photos in the leaflet are of areas in Racecourse and the work has so far been limited to Belmore. That being said, the work, especially clearing of rhododendron is very welcome. If (as the photos in the leaflet suggest) the remaining stands of pine are thinned or felled as a part of a positive plan for woodland improvement, this would be very welcome too. If the barrels have been left, maybe by those who rent areas of the woodlands for outdoor activities, and are not still in use, we also welcome their removal.
Some members of the Friends have already undertaken tidying of litter within the woods and will continue to do so.

Finally, there are rumours afoot, spread we're told by a mysterious dark haired lady who wanders the paths of Belmore by day, telling dark tales of how the works underway are a preparation for housing development in the near future. This haunting and mysterious lady it seems exists, but as far as we know her visions are untrue and very unlikely for two reasons. The woodlands are now excluded from development and SCCs plans for building were always centred in Racecourse.

Again the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands welcome the positive work undertaken so far and we welcome the continuation of that in other areas of the woodland. SCC's greed driven negative propaganda we could do without.
Later view of the same area. The last stand of pine in Belmore cleared as of the 9th September. The oak standing amongst them still standing towards background along with other oak and varied saplings.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Broadland Council Votes To Save Thorpe Woods

After a long process of consultation, environmental study and planning, the Area Action Plan (AAP) for development to the north east of Norwich is complete.
On the 10th of July Broadland District Council voted to adopt the Growth Triangle AAP.  As part of the AAP, Thorpe Woods are now recognised as being central to sustainability.  This recognition is a reflection of the strongly expressed views of environmental bodies including Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the considered opinion of Broadland's own ecological consultant and the overwhelming public oposition to building on the woods recorded in Broadlands’ public consultation.

4 years ago, the woodlands' owners, hoping to replace the trees with a profitable housing estate, presented a very different story. With the expensive help of jet setting planning guru Andres Duany they described the woodlands as redundant conifer plantation, fit only to become 'Belmore Park', 800 or more homes to replace the trees. There was no mention of course that the same woodlands were already designated as a County Wildlife Site by NWT, containing important habitats and rare plant species.

This misinformation worked for some time, to the extent that even BDC described this wonderful habitat as being largely conifer plantation. It has taken 4 years of persistence and hard work by core campaigners to prove that the would-be developers' descriptions were false. 

When the expensive Andres Duanys’ golden touch turned to manure, the owners, the Mayhew and Meath Baker families (Meet The Mayhews) hired The Matirx Partnership, a UK based high-flying development consultancy,  but their relationship was short lived. Eventually, Gail Mayhew, grew tired of pretending the plan of building on a County Wildlife Site was a good idea. She resorted to entrusting the onerous task of securing planning permission for Norwich's most unpopular ever development concept to a friend from Kensington & Chelsea, a certain Rock Fielding-Mellen, 

Mr Mellen and his company 'Socially Conscious Capital', specialising in difficult and unpopular planning applications, offered the Mayhews a 'no win, no fee' deal. The aristocratic Mellen and his old Etonian chums squandered prodigious sums of pocket money hiring compliant consultants and again proposed saving and improving the woodlands by  building on them, all this featured ,with no sense of irony, on a lovely website. But all to no avail.  At last it seems that Thorpe Woods and the fabulous biodiversity they support, have the future that they deserve.

The AAP must now stand for a minimum of 6 weeks, during which period interested parties may comment only on the soundness of its decision making process. Hence, there is still a threat to the woods, but it would have to be an outright attack on the whole process of local democracy and development planning. It is uncertain whether Socially Conscious Capital will appeal against BDC's decision, especially as the woodlands now constitute key Green Infrastructure within a development plan that provides more than adequate housing. But given the democratically oblivious and environmentally blind approach of SCC's 'No win, no fee' way of working, we must watch and wait.

This huge step towards saving a beautiful woodland area and wildlife habitat, from greed driven and completely needless development is something Broadland and Norwich can be proud of.
And it's thanks to the public, environmental bodies, Thorpe's BDC councillors and all who added their voice to our campaign, that in this case common sense for once might prevail.   

Thank you all!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Tawny owl young in Belmore wood

Video taken on a late evening, 4th June in Belmore wood. Followed the beautiful shrieks almost echoing as they seemingly replied to each other through the trees. Came across at least 3 young owls and filmed this one as it was on a lower limb and so a little closer to camera.
I've heard tawny owls and possibly other species of owl all across Thorpe Woodlands, photographing them before in west Racecourse.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Thorpe Woodlands decision June 10th

From dawn chorus to dragonflies and diversity, this short film is a final message to the councillors who have to decide on the future of these woodlands. 
On the 10th June Broadland District Council will be finalising their submission documents for the Area Action Plan (AAP) This document is going out for consultation shortly. The responses to the public consultation of early last year will also weigh in their decision.
 If Thorpe Woodlands are designated as 'Green Space' they will provide that and an environmentral investment for years to come. 
If you wish to make your views known to your councillor again or for the first time, please do so before that date.
Thank you to all those who have.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Dawn Chorus plus a deer Thorpe Woodlands 1st May

Recorded around dawn, again in the area recently proposed by Socially Conscious Capital for building development. We await news of the woodlands' inclusion or exclusion from the development area.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Trojan Horse from Socially Conscious Capital.

Rock Fielding Mellen and associates under the banner of 'Socially Conscious Capital' want to build a housing estate on Thorpe Woodlands County Wildlife Site, and one as big and as profitable as they can get away with. 
In order to get their foot in the door, they've now decided to say ( although this figure is worthless as they refuse to give any guarantee) that they will build 380 houses, taking only a quarter or 50 acres of woodland (which in reality halves the largest habitat.)  
To help ease acceptance for this, they propose an "imaginative idea", a fountain of creativity which amounts basically to creating, from the remainder of Thorpe Woodlands, a new and differently named woodlands. On the face of it this doesn't seem like much of an offer or particularly creative, and in reality it's much worse!

Thorpe Woodlands already provides a beautiful woodland area open to the public and a habitat for wildlife which is locally exceptional, so nothing would be gained. On top of this, because SCC want us to believe that nature is neither "child" or "family friendly" they say that this County Wildlife Site will need tidying and cleaning. This will involve cleared areas, "clean and safe rides", cycle tracks, picnic tables, car park, access roads, a visitor centre and even retail! 
I presume there is no place in this new woodland for rides full of varied grasses, plant life and insects and certainly no place for mud.

All this sanitising and construction will of course, along with the management of a "new" public woodlands, cost money. 
There is no pledge on housing numbers for a reason. Firstly SCC will I'm sure be keen to cram in far more housing, and secondly SCC propose that the profit and a levy from the houses built will pay for and maintain the new "family friendly" "Racecourse Plantations" for all. 

If this doesn't turn out to be the case and once SCC have planning permission, they will most likely apply to build more houses, the excuse being to make their completely unnecessary and destructive scheme viable.
SCC largely dismiss the great environmental and public value that these woodlands already have, Rock Fielding referring to most of the woods as "only for the most intrepid" and is clearly of the opinion that nature should be clean and tidy. All this, while at the same time dishonestly proclaiming that they have environmental concerns at heart.

Picnic tables and car parks on ponds where newts presently breed or rare woodland pasture where glow worms display is no more than additional destruction on top of the building plans that should never be allowed. This building on mature Woodland in order to cash in on the NE Norwich development area is simply greed, and it is pursued with an assured and well funded arrogance against all advice and with no concern for the local environment or population. This attitude was never made clearer than by Rock Fieldings' outburst at a similarly unpopular development presentation SCC were fronting on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Faced with almost complete opposition and criticism of his plans by local people his response was "The estate will not be dictated to by the village!" no wonder then, Rock and SCCs approach here.

The Forestry Option for these woodlands is the forward thinking, environmentally sustainable future for this area of key green infrastructure and the future that the people of Norwich deserve.
If the landowners reject this, then at the least this great woodland must survive and no socially blind company should be allowed to deceive us in to accepting it's destruction.

It will be a sad day if local natural environment and a sustainable future is wasted because it doesn't create enough easy money for rich landowners. 

Below is what SCC call a "woodland improvement" plan including housing development (I've shaded it grey, they deceivingly coloured it green) Retail development and clean and tidy paths.
I've added/ highlighted some key points and truths here.