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

Saturday, 28 August 2010


This was the message that greeted some 100 Thorpe residents who turned out to demonstrate their opposition to any development in the Thorpe woodlands, on Saturday 28th August.

Amusingly, the landowners (Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust) had hurriedly placed 'No Trespassing' notices at every entrance to the woods. They'd even gone to the trouble of dating them, as if to highlight that they were aimed at the protest walk. Perhaps there is a mole within Friends of Thorpe Woodlands, as we hadn't publicised the event other than via contacting the membership list. We don't really mind as we've got nothing to hide - and remember, moles can go in both directions!

100 people was a good turnout by any standards, but especially so given that we hadn't even thought about organsising anything until 36 hours earlier. Also attending the demo were five of the six Broadland District councillors representing the Thorpe area: Ian Mackie, John Fisher, Nigel Shaw, Suzanne Hayes and Graham Walker (pictured below) accompanied the march along Pound Lane and into Racecourse Plantation. All expressed their wholehearted support for the campaign to prevent the loss of any of the woodland. The sixth BDC councillor, Kim Davies-Claydon, was unable to attend due to other commitments: FTW are hoping she will also come out against the development concept. Several Thorpe Town Council members were also present in support of FTW.

Despite the developers' desperate attempts to deter demonstrators, all were able to freely enter Racecourse Plantation. The sun shone, birds sang and dragonflies whirred above our heads as everyone had a good look around the interior of the woods, many for the first time. People were amazed to see what T&FT had described as a 'commercial forestry plantation of conifers planted after the war'. Several walkers remarked that they had expected it to be like Thetford Forest and were astounded at T&FT's audacity in trying to make people believe this. Hardly a conifer in sight - just a handful of tall pines among the proliferation of hazel, birch, sweet chestnut, sycamore, beech and oak, some of which have clearly been there since the Crimean war. Admittedly, T&FT have never specified which war they were talking about!

The 'No Trespassing' notices were something of an own-goal by T&FT. Until now, T&FT have gone out of their way to present as nice and friendly an image as possible, telling everyone at the Town Council meeting on 7th July how kind they had been in tolerating unauthorised use of their woods by local people. Their friendly facade is clearly well rehearsed, and seemed to have won a few people over a few weeks ago. But since the indisputable facts about their scheme have been made known even the early sympathisers' views have changed, and many feel understandably deceived by assurances that only the least ecologically important parts of the woodland would be built on, and that the best parts would be retained. The areas identified by T&FT as 'best' are indeed good, but the rest is even better from an ecological perspective!

Nobody appreciates being taken for a fool. Judging by the feedback from today's mass walk in the woods, many feel this is exactly what they have been taken for. The reality of the woodlands' age and species composition is clear to see, even from a casual glance from any of the roads bordering them, but especially when in the heart of them. People remember being told, by T&FT representatives, that they had never considered any development proposals for the woods until now (the minutes of the 7th July meeting bear witness to this). When local people realised that T&FT had drawn up proposals for a very similar housing scheme for Racecourse Plantation as long ago as 2000, and had objected to the BDC Local Plan in 2005 on grounds that the woodlands should be allocated as potential development land, and that T&FT submitted their woodlands as a potential site for an 'eco-town' in 2007, any remaining faith in T&FT's words evaporated.

The public meeting that had been proposed for September has already been put back until early October, at the request of T&FT, who say thay are still working on their plans. It is rumoured that they are now looking to put it back even further, possibly until November. FTW understands T&FT's dithering, in view of the fact that they must be stumped as to what they can say to undo what have been exposed as their previous - shall we say (to paraphrase Hilary Clinton) - mis-speakings.

We still don't know when the September/October/November meeting at Thorpe High School is to be held, but we will post this information on the blog as soon as we have it. What we can say is that, according to BDC councillor Nigel Shaw, the T&FT has reluctantly agreed that the meeting will not be under their control but will be chaired by Thorpe Town Council. We understand that it will take the form of a presentation by T&FT of their latest plans, followed by a presentation by FTW of their case for preservation of the woodlands in their entirety. We hope that, following these presentations, members of the public will be able to ask questions of both parties.

Finally, despite T&FT's expression of welcome for the formation of Friends of Thorpe Woodlands (please see previous blog post), they have still not rseponded to our formal request for the video recording of their final 'charrette' presentation of 13th July. All present were clearly promised a copy of the recording, by Andres Duany. We can't help but wonder whether they have something to hide - possibly Mr Duany's obvious lack of knowledge about the woodlands and anything remotely related to ecology? If you would like a copy of the video recording, send an email to: to request it, and ask for an explanation for the delay (it is nearly seven weeks since the promise was made).

Keep watching the blog for more news as it comes in. Events are happening thick and fast. We have some very interesting information from (as yet) anonymous sources on arboricultural (tree-related) matters. All will be revealed in due course! To join FTW, please contact Lorna C Beckett at:

[Photos by Jason Beckett, text by John Allaway]

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Meetings - what meetings?

Friends of Thorpe Woodlands (FTW) has now gained the enthusiastic support of at least two local councillors. Cllrs Ian Mackie and Nigel Shaw have publicly expressed their commitment to preventing the loss of any of the woodlands to development. We hope that all other Thorpe St Andrew Town councillors will come out with similar views. We must also hope that the Broadland District councillors for the area, as well as those on BDC's planning committee, will agree that these woodlands must be saved.

A somewhat concerning revelation has recently come to our attention. Ian Mackie has told us that he, and other councillors, had been led by the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust (T&FT) to believe that they could remove the woodlands whenever they wished, regardless of whether they obtained planning permission for their development scheme. This is a grave misrepresentation of the truth: no landowner can remove woodland without (a) obtaining a felling licence from the Forestry Commission and (b) obtaining planning permission from the local planning authority (BDC in this case) for change of use. The fact that T&FT apparently succeeded in convincing people - including councillors - that they could, has caused some to believe that it might be better to accept the development than oppose it and end up with no woods at all. FTW immediately informed the councillors of the true situation, but there must be several people in the area who still imagine that they could lose the woods altogether unless they agree to a fraction of them being retained as part of the development, and we must work hard to correct this misapprehension.

Thorpe St Andrew Town Council (TSATC) had intended to hold a public meeting on 23rd August at the Dussindale Centre, at which T&FT were to announce progress on their plans. However, this has now been cancelled. Steven Ford, TSATC clerk, told us that he'd decided such a meeting could pose public safety issues. Apparently, so many people contacted him when they found out about this meeting, the view was taken that far more than would fit into the room would turn up.

Slightly worryingly, TSATC has now decided to hold a private meeting on 23rd August at which Gail Mayhew of T&FT will meet with the clerk, the mayor, Cllr Barber and Cllr Shaw. The purpose of this meeting is, seemingly, to discuss the public meeting that TSATC called for on 7th July, to be held in September at Thorpe St Andrew school.

Much more worryingly, the September meeting has been thrown into confusion. At the 7th July meeting, attended by some 200 people, TSATC voted unanimously to adopt the motion: "The Town Council supports and fully understands the anger of local residents at the plan to deprive them of one of the few open spaces in the Town: it will oppose this scheme by all means available to it". Furthermore, as the minutes of that meeting record, Town mayor Russel James "asked if those present would like a public meeting in Thorpe St Andrew and there was overwhelming support from the audience. Mr James said it would be best left until September when the outcome of the Joint Core Strategy was known".

In answer to a question from FTW on 20th August, Steven Ford confirmed that there has been no change in TSATC's position. However, it seems that TSATC is now considering allowing the September meeting to be controlled by T&FT. Mr Ford has told FTW that as T&FT will be paying for hire of the venue, it could be considered 'their' meeting! Despite our protestations, in which we have referred to the minutes from 7th July, Mr Ford appears to remain of the view that TSATC may need to ask for T&FT's kind permission to allow FTW and the public in general to speak!

If it turns out that the September meeting is to be under T&FT's control, and a re-run of their final charrette presentation - at which Andres Duany did his best to avoid taking questions on the principle of the scheme and on anything to do with the woodlands' ecological importance - it will be a travesty. This was supposed to be a public meeting called by TSATC on behalf of the people it represents - not an opportunity f0r the developers to tell people what they think they should be told.

We will know more after tomorrow - watch this space.

Campaign news update

(Read on for article 'Campaign news update')
There has been some very good press coverage of the campaign recently, with several letters in the Evening News and EDP. On 21st August, an excellent half-page article by Kim Briscoe was published in the Evening News.
In this article a spokeswoman for the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust (presumably Gail Mayhew) is quoted as having said: "The Trust welcomes the formation of Friends of Thorpe Woodlands and looks forward to a productive discussion as to how to conserve and improve the areas of quality woodland within the plantations". We can't help wondering whether the T&FT's welcome is any more sincere than many of their previous claims about the woodlands and their scheme.
The second part of the quote gives a clue as to their angle, in that it refers to 'conserving & improving the areas of quality woodland within the plantations'. Their previous statements have made it clear that they consider only certain parts of the woodlands to be of any 'quality' and, interestingly, although these areas are good, they are less interesting from an ecological perspective than the rest. They have obviously taken advice only from foresters, who regard as 'good' only tall, straight conifers with clear stems that are marketable to the timber trade. We must hope that the T&FT will concede that although the areas they've identified as 'good' should be retained, the rest of the woodland is even better and should also be retained. As soon as they understand this, they can save themselves further work and expense on pursuing their development ideas, and save us the trouble of correcting them at every turn!
In the same article, the spokeswoman said: "We look forward to the Friends' views on how to eradicate fly-tipping and vandalism within the woods". However, once again the facts are against them. The level of flytipping and vandalism is actually amazingly low - far lower than at any comparable sites around the fringes of Norwich. There are a few spots where people have dumped small quantities of garden waste, and a pair of burned-out scooters in Racecourse Plantation. But there is a surprisingly small amount of litter and, although it is possible to find the odd small tree that has been snapped, evidence of significant vandalism is elusive. FTW would be happy to discuss ways of reducing flytipping, litter and vandalism even further, but this will have to take a back seat until the future of the woodlands as a whole is secure: after all, what greater vandalism can there be than bulldozing most of the woodland to oblivion?
The spokeswoman went on to say: "The Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust, like the Friends, are committed to the conservation of the environment and are developing proposals through public consultation to develop areas of lesser quality plantation woodland for various uses, including housing and local amenities. This would enable a long-term management regime to be put in place to enhance the woodland to enable public enjoyment while at the same time delivering development that is sustainable and location efficient".
FTW have to dispute this. Treating over 200 acres of wildlife-rich woodland as a potential building site can't, by any stretch of the imagination, be regarded as being "committed to conservation of the environment". The reference to "areas of lesser quality plantation woodland" is, again, interesting. The T&FT's masterplan shows virtually all of Racecourse Plantation covered by buildings and roads. It would help everyone if T&FT would take the trouble to educate themselves about woodland ecology. FTW would be very happy to discuss ways by which a long-term management plan could be drawn up to enhance the woodland for public enjoyment, but only if the development proposals are permanently withdrawn.

Friends of Thorpe Woodlands officially launched

'Friends of Thorpe Woodlands' has now been officially launched, with a Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer, a Constitution and a Mission Statement. The Mission Statement is: 'Working for the conservation and preservation of Thorpe's woodlands as a haven for wildlife and a green space for the local community'. The primary objective of FTW is to protect the three woodlands currently under threat, and to inform the public, as well as decision makers and organisations that have influence upon decision makers, of these woodlands' enormous environmental, ecological and social values.

Any one wishing to join FTW, and who is in agreement with its mission statement and objectives, is welcome to contact Lorna Beckett on: or on 01603 438603.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Latest campaign news

Here is a quick update on what's been happening over the last week.

  • The Save Thorpe Woodlands campaign is now featured on the Guardian's 'Piece by Piece' website - find it on: Please take a look and leave a comment.
  • Two members of the campaign met Karen Buchanan from Radio Norfolk at Belmore Plantation on Friday 6th August. We showed Karen around the woods and pointed out the obvious fact that they are predominantly broadleaved semi-natural woods - hardly a conifer in sight except for a few in small corners. Mike Ryder from the Woodland Trust also attended and gave his / the Woodland Trust's views. Karen seemed somewhat amazed when she saw for herself the woods that the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust had described as "commercial conifer plantations, planted after the war". The interview is to be broadcast some time during the week beginning 9th August. Karen's show is 11am to 1pm every weekday, so tune in if you can. If you miss it, you can listen again on BBC iplayer.
  • While we were waiting for Karen Buchanan and Mike Ryder to turn up we were approached by a chap on a bicycle who stopped and offered us a leaflet, entitled 'Save Thorpe Wood'. It turned out he had independently found out about the development scheme and produced these leaflets himself - we are now working together! We also found some laminated posters alerting people to the threat to the woods at various points aorund them - our new contact hadn't made them, nor had we, so somebody else has taken their own initiative to fight against this scheme. There are probably others doing the same sort of thing. Let's all get together so we know who we all are and can combine forces. Divided we'll stand, but united we stand even stronger!
  • This blog has attracted a phenomenal number of 'hits' since it started two weeks ago. It is currently coming up near the top of the first page on Google, using the search terms: 'save thorpe woodlands' or 'belmore park'.
  • The campaign continues to gain support, not only from concerned individuals but also from conservation organisations. Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Campaign for Protection of Rural England (CPRE), and the Woodland Trust are backing the campaign's objective to prevent the woodlands being severely damaged (or destroyed pretty well altogether in Racecourse Plantation's case). The wildife author Richard Mabey is also supporting us, and we hope to gain support from others as the campaign progresses.
  • We have compiled a full species list for Racecourse Plantation - this will soon be added to the blog as a separate page, together with a gallery page of photographs of the woodlands' wildlife and landscapes. The species list is very impressive, including numerous scarce and rare species of flora and fauna. We welcome input to the species records - if you know of species not mentioned on the list (when it's available), please let us know by emailing Lorna on: . In order to treat records as reliable we must have your name and address, together with details of what species you noted, where in the woodlands, and when. We have to reserve the right to hold publication of submitted records until verified, as we must maintain high standards of accuracy.
  • The landowners, ie: the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust, a.k.a. the Broadland Land Group, went to great lengths during their 'charrette' to assure everyone that they were acting openly and honestly, and were keen to involve the local community as much as possible. They told us they would be happy to answer questions if people sent them via email to: Well, we have sent them a number of questions since the end of the 'charrette' (July 13th), and they have not answered any. People who sent questions received a brief response on 23rd July promising that they would receive proper answers soon. No answers have yet been forthcoming. This doesn't do much to help the squeaky-clean, 'only trying to do what local people want' public image they've been so eager to present. Our questions have been very reasonable, eg: Andres Duany told everyone at the 'charrette' final presentation: "There's no need to take notes - this whole thing is being recorded [motioning towards a tripod-mounted camera with big fluffy microphone at the back] and you can all get a copy of the recording after this is over" - When will people be able to get a copy of the recording, and in what format? - no answer. Are they prepared to confirm that their description of the woodlands as "commercial conifer plantations planted after the end of the second world war" was wildly inaccurate: - no answer. Are they willing to concede that Andres Duany's assertion that the housing density would be: "3.1 per acre - that's low density housing, nothing like Dussindale estate" was grossly misleading: this figure can only be arrived at if dividing the whole 200+ acres by 631 houses: when taking into account the clear fact that his 'masterplan' shows the vast majority of housing on Racecourse Plantation, in which a small proportion of open space is retained, the true figure here works out at more than double that density! No answers to these, or any other questions so far.
  • Anyone who feels like asking these people any questions should do so by sending them to:
  • At their 'charrette' drop-in session on July 13th (to which only two people other than myself turned up, incidentally - and they were both from Broadland District Council) I found myself debating the ecological implications of their scheme with Gail Mayhew, the Trust's consultant. Gail was keen to tell me how all sorts of allotments, market gardens, cycle paths and other green things could be created every time I asked about the destruction of irreplaceable wildlife habitats. When it became obvious that I wasn't going to be deflected away from my queries, Gail kindly showed me the door, telling me the session was closed for the day. But not before I managed to ask her whether they had ever had an ecological survey carried out on the woodlands. Her reply was an unequivocal: "Of course we have". When I asked if I could see it, she told me it was publicly accessible at Broadland District Council to whom they had submitted a copy. Surprisingly, despite having made a concerted effort to track down anything resembling an ecological survey from the Trust or Broadland Land Group, BDC has been unable to find anything even remotely answering that description.
  • Save Thorpe Woodlands will keep you updated at least once a week until this is over. Please look out for the 'gallery' page and the species list page. Please also make your feelings known where they count (reasonably and politely please!). Full contact details can be found on the previous blog post.
  • Your comments are very welcome - please click on the comments icon and say what you want to say.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Your Woods Need You

The next few weeks are a critical time for the future of Thorpe Woodlands.

Possibly as early as next month the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust may submit their planning application to develop the woods, therefore we need to let our councillors and MP’s know that we are opposed to these plans and want to save this much loved woodland.

We have already brought these destructive proposals to the attention of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, all of whom are monitoring the situation closely and have asked us to keep them informed of developments. We have even received support from the highly respected naturalist and nature writer Richard Mabey.

But even with the help of groups and individuals such as these your support is vital, it is your opinion that will guide the views of our local politicians. Therefore if you want to help at this vital time please write or email to as many of the following as you can.

And remember we want to hear from you, so please post your comments on this blog and keep in touch with us at or 01603 438603.

Broadland Councillors, Thorpe St Andrew north-west:

· John Fisher: Address: 88 Yarmouth Road, TSA, NR7 0QZ. Phone: (h) 01603 432838 (w) 01638 712328; email:

· Ian Mackie: Address: 14 Chandlers Court, Norwich, NR4 6EY. Phone: 01603 454122. Email:

· Nigel Shaw: Address: 34 Firtree Road, TSA, NR7 9LG. Phone: 01603 435839. Email:

Thorpe St Andrew south-east:

· Kim Davis-Claydon: Address: Mangreen Hall Farmhouse, Mangreen, Swardeston, Norwich, NR14 8DD. Phone: 01508 571133; mobile: 07771 797966. Email:

· Suzanne Hayes: Address: 8 The West Wing, St Andrews Park, TSA, NR7 0GU. Phone: 01603 433163. Email:

· Graham Walker: Address: Fern House, 21 Crowes Loke, Little Plumstead, Norwich NR13 5JB. Phone: (h) 01603 722631; (w) 01603 619620. Email:


· Chloe Smith, Norwich North: Addresses: Ms Chloe Smith MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Office at 157 Aylsham Road, Norwich NR3 2AD. Phone: 01603 414756. Email: The office is open to any constituent to drop in Monday-Friday, 9am-1pm.

· Keith Simpson, Broadland: Conservative. Addresses: Mr Keith Simpson MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA Phone: 01603 865763. Email: