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

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Seeing the wood for the trees

This map is taken from a development proposal drawn up on behalf of the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust in 2001 (those who attended the T&FT's meetings in June will recall them stating that they had never considered any development in the woods until this year). The map shows the woodland types identified within the site boundaries. We have changed the colour-coding to make the various categories of woodland easier to distinguish (the original map was hand-coloured in very similar shades of green), but the map information is otherwise absolutely identical to the original.

The dark green indicates conifer plantation: those who attended the June meetings will recall the Trustees repeatedly stating that the woods were almost entirely conifer plantations, planted after the war. This map shows that, as far back as 2001, the T&FT were in possession of clear graphic evidence - commissioned by themselves - to show that only a relatively small proportion of the woodlands could be described in this way.

A lot has changed since 2001. The second map has been revised by us to show the changes. In Racecourse Plantation a large block of woodland mainly to the east of the main north-south ride, was cleared of conifers several years ago and is now 100% broadleaved woodland, consisting of a mix of regrowth from stumps & roots, mature broadleaves that were not felled, and young natural regeneration. The brown area, indicating 'disturbed ground' must have been exaggerated as it is now mainly covered by woodland. In Belmore Plantation, the block shown as coniferous towards the north has shrunk by nearly half since 2001, and is now a mix of broadleaved natural regen and wilflower-rich glade.

It is hard to imagine how the T&FT could have overlooked these facts prior to their 'charette' meetings. They own the woods after all, and went to great lengths to tell everyone how much trouble and money they have spent 'managing' them. Now that we've gone to the trouble of making their own map comprehensible and publishing it for all to see, perhaps they'll rush to apologise publicly for leading the people of Thorpe astray? It would be nice if they would.

However, in case they don't, and in the interests of maximum factual accuracy, we are hoping to carry out an aerial photography flight in January or February. When all the deciduous trees are completely leafless, the true extent of the coniferous component of the woods will be very clear to see (larch - a deciduous conifer - is not present in significant numbers, so the aerial photos will give a reliable and up-to-date picture).

We will, of course, publish our aerial photos on the blog.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Spirit of Christmas is overflowing in Thorpe Woods

Thanks to Paul Andrew, local resident, regular walker of the woods and ‘Friend’ of Thorpe Woodlands, there is a real sense of Christmas magic in Belmore woods this year. Paul, like so many others, loves the woods and wanted to do something to raise their profile this Christmas, so he came up with the great idea of inviting everyone who wanted to show concern for their future, to hang a decoration on a particular, appropriately shaped Holly tree in Belmore woods. People’s response has been wonderful and within days the tree has become laden with messages of affection and support, baubles with children’s names upon them, and decorations galore from both those who regularly walk in the woods and others who have come in especially to show they care.

Paul has said that: ‘for every bauble we get in support we will be hanging a fat ball (obviously out of the netting) in the woods to help the birds during this tough time’, so all will gain.
I have been going daily to the woods to take photos of the tree as it’s taken shape, and every time I have had the treat of seeing the look of surprise and delight on unsuspecting walkers faces when they come upon the tree for the first time, most declaring they will be back the next day with their own contribution. This tree has become the heart of the woods and a symbol of the local communities love for the woodlands, people gather to read the messages, discuss with one another the plight of this much treasured place, and to wish one another a merry Christmas, with the added hope of, and ‘May these woods be here for many Christmases to come’ (I quote from one of the messages tied to a bauble). It is impossible, amid all this festive goodwill and community spirit, not to feel the Ebenezer Scrooge like spectre of the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trustees hanging over both the local people and woodlands, and like Dickens’ immortal story, it is their heartless greed and meanness of spirit which casts such a dark shadow over so many lives, but sadly, unlike this moral fictional tale, few have hope that the Trustees will come to see the error of their ways and choose to do the decent thing, and therefore it is up to us, the community, to fight for the woodlands future survival.

But I have no intention of ending this blog entry on such a note, far from it, I want to share with you an email I received from another Thorpe Woodlands ‘Friend’ on Tuesday night:

Hi Lorna,
Just to say the tree looks beautiful, even in the moonlight! My boyfriend proposed to me by the holly tree tonight, so we are officially engaged.... we have left a note on the tree :)

It was a special evening for us, being winter solstice, the lunar eclipse and the anniversary of our first meeting all rolled into one, and what better setting in the snow, under the moonlight, by the pretty holly tree in our woods !

Thanks for your continuing work to help save our woods.

You couldn’t get a more magical or ‘feel good factor’ than that, and in so many ways Lynda’s message sums up what this time of the year and our fight to save the woods is all about.

So congratulations to John and Lynda and a happy Christmas to all our supporters and may the New Year be a good one for man, tree and animal alike.

Monday, 20 December 2010

From Russia with love?

Looking through the blog's statistics reveals some interesting figures. Predictably, over 99% of 'hits' are from UK sources, with a fair chunk of the remainder from USA (also predictably - Christmas greetings to Andres Duany & co!). But a significant number of others are viewing this blog from all around the world - including, in the past few weeks, a surprising number from Russia.

Friends of Thorpe Woodlands would be very interested to hear from any followers of our campaign from Russia - or indeed from Holland, Germany, Italy, France, Ukraine, Greece, Israel, Niger, South Africa, India, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada or Brazil (apologies to anyone from countries I've overlooked).

Everyone in the world is more than welcome to look at our blog, and it's gratifying that it is attracting such widespread interest. We would really like to hear from anyone abroad who is involved in fighting similar development threats to their woodland or other habitats. Please feel free to leave a comment using the link below, or send us an email to:

Wishing all who are fighting to save what remains of our precious natural world a sincere happy Christmas and a successful 2011. And to all who are trying to destroy it for personal gain, we hope your Bentleys get stuck in snowdrifts!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Two negatives make a positive!

A supporter has recently commented that the blog is too negative, and requests some good news for a change.

I suppose it is simply in the nature of this campaign that much of what we have to say is highly critical, though I'd disagree that it is negative. An important fact to bear in mind is that, right from the outset, we have been dealing with a group of people (ie: the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust and their agents) who have tried every trick in the book to persuade people that they mean well, and that what they want to do will be good for local people and the environment.

It was noticeable shortly after the T&FT's series of charette sessions and meetings that a number of people had been swayed towards the T&FT's side of the argument. These people are extremely persuasive and highly skilled in public communication techniques that succeed in diverting attention away from the basic issue (ie: that they want to turn the woods into a housing estate), onto theoretical and very particular issues that seem quite 'green'. In the early days, their persuasiveness was showing signs of paying off. Several local people commented that although they wouldn't want the woods to be built on, perhaps it would be better to agree with the scheme because the owners would get their way anyway (one of the tactics deployed during the charette was to portray the scheme as if it was a foregone conclusion). Others remarked that as it was the Gurney family we were up against we didn't stand a chance (it's true that the Gurneys have many friends in high places in Norfolk). Others believed that unless they got what they wanted, the owners would fell the entire woodlands out of spite (something one of the T&FT Trustees was apparently heard saying at one of the meetings). Yet others believed the Trustees' tale that they found themselves forced into a situation where they had no alternative but to build on the woods, as they had outlived their economic usefulness as woodland. And many originally accepted at face value the T&FT's claim that the woods were not much more than modern plantations of conifers.

Faced with a situation in which a significant number of people had picked up so many misapprehensions, half-truths and outright lies, Friends of Thorpe Woodlands considered it crucial to set the record straight, and then to provide as much well-researched, factual and reliable information as possible to the public.

So here's the good news: We have gone a long way towards achieving this objective!

On July 6th this year, hardly anyone even knew about the plans being hatched by the previously unheard of T&FT. By July 13th, ie: the end of their charette, hundreds of people were aware and up in arms about it, but there was a lot of misinformation and confusion in circulation as to what exactly was planned and what could be done about it. By August, Friends of Thorpe Woodlands had been formed and, by the end of August we had over 100 people turning out on a demonstration walk through the woods, and all of the Broadland District Councillors for the Thorpe area in full support of the campaign, as well as Chloe Smith , MP for Norwich North.

FTW members and supporters have worked together to raise the profile of the threat to the woods, and their ecological importance, to the point where the issues are now well known and well understood. FTW's membership list has grown to around 400 and continues to grow. Richard Mabey, the well known author and ecologist has publicly stated his support. The Woodland Trust is supporting us, and will issue a position statement soon. Norfolk Wildlife Trust's position statement has been widely circulated and has done much to overcome the falsehood that the woods are not of high ecological value. We have also attracted support and assistance from a wide range of other environmental organisations and campaign groups, though many do not wish to be identified as such yet (though we hope to be able to make some announcements soon).

We have tried to organise some positive events as well as concentrating on getting the message across about the dire threat to the woods. We have considered a litter-picking day and nature walks through the woods, but the T&FT have made it clear that - despite their public assertions that they want to engage in a dialogue with FTW and that they are concerned about protecting the natural environment - they will stand in the way of any such initiatives. On the day of the mass walk in the woods they placed 'Keep Out' notices at all entrances, and they have completely ignored our numerous attempts to engage in discussion with them.

To conclude, although the facts can be somewhat depressing I don't think we have been unduly negative. It is simply undeniable that unless all who care about the woods do whatever they can to save them, they could be buried under streets named after the wildlife that once lived there. FTW welcomes all suggestions for ways in which we can improve and develop the campaign - please contact us (see 'Your Woods Need You' posted on 2nd August) if you'd like to suggest anything or become a member. And feel free to add a comment via the link below.