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

Monday, 28 November 2011

Flourishing Fungi in Thorpe Woods


(Read on for article 'Flourishing Fungi in Thorpe Woods')









The Thorpe woods gallery now has a new section dedicated to some of the simplest and less obvious plants, the Fungi that form an essential link in the intricate life of the woodland habitat.
The abundance of fungi that's been present this Autumn is evidence of the wealth and heritage of life in the soil of Thorpe Woods. The fungi, many only flowering in the autumn, are ever present in the soil and in the living and fallen trees processing and passing on the essential elements of life to the next generation of plants and trees which in turn support all the life of the woods.
This year, photographers, naturalists and friends of the woods have photographed a growing selection of the fruit of some of these fungi species, and with photographer David Boulton
now adding to the Gallery and fungi expert Tony Leech helping where possible to name those discovered, it should be possible to build up a good partial record.

If you'd like to add to those discovered you might still have time before winter arrives and many die back until next year, Also some fungi do survive the colder weather and others appear in very early spring.

Please note if you go looking for fungi that many species are beautiful but some are seriously poisonous.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

QUESTIONS ABOUT QUESTIONS

Friends of Thorpe Woodlands have raised concerns with Broadland District Council's planning department over a Draft Framework Document for the North-East Norwich Growth Triangle. The document states that the environmental value of Racecourse plantation has been questioned. The doubts over the woods' "ecological and arboricultural values" can only have been raised by the landowners, who hope to make millions from developing the woods.

FTW are also concerned about the document's description of Thorpe woodlands as simply "coniferous plantation" and again later as "coniferous commercial with some broad-leaved woodland". Surely the planners ought to know by now that the woodlands are over two thirds semi-natural broadleaved and mixed woodland (which is only increasing), with some isolated areas remaining of conifer plantation.
Thorpe woodlands was understood by it's owners over a decade ago to be a varied and improving habitat, all designated as a County Wildlife Site since 1997. This was confirmed for them in the "Thorpe Estate Forest Plan for 2001-2020'" which was produced for the landowners in 2000 by a forestry consultancy. The description in this present planning draft seems closer to the misleading description of the woods used by the owners at their failed planning Charrette last year.
Members of FTW have requested that, as the final version of this document will form the framework for future decision making, the unqualified statements seeking to minimise the woodlands' value are explained and attributed to those who would profit from them. And, in the case of the woodlands' description, that those points are corrected as they are clearly inaccurate and render the woods more vulnerable than they deserve be.

Also worrying, in the same draft document, is the fourth planning option titled "Urban Extension" (see above with Racecourse wood outlined for clarity).
Under this option, Racecourse plantation - the heart of Thorpe woods and the County Wildlife Site - is zoned for housing development with new roads. This is especially concerning as, by BDC's own criteria, the recognised ecological value of Racecourse should provide strong protection against development.
We wonder what BDC's Conservation Team will have to say about this: last year they told FTW that they had decided they couldn't put a Tree Preservation Order on the woods because: "we don't consider the woods to be under immediate threat from development". Well they are now, under one of BDC's own planning options!

The document containing all these inaccuracies and unattributed challenges to the importance of the woods is only a draft, meaning that there is scope for corrections and changes to be made. FTW will be pressing for such changes. It is vital that BDC's material is as factual and throughly researched as possible before it becomes finalised.
Some very significant new information about the ecological importance of the woods is expected to materialise very soon, which BDC will need to consider carefully before proceeding with their draft framework plan. Keep watching the blog for updates!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Local photographer adds to the Thorpe woods wildlife gallery.

Thorpe st Andrews based phographer Tony Howes, has during his walks in Belmore and Browns collected a great variety of the Woods furry, feather'd and insect inhabitants plus some of its less and more familiar plants. He's kindly supplied a collection of his favourites and they've now been added
to the 'Friends of thorpe woods' gallery.

Check out the gallery and if you have any
wildlife or landscape pics you've taken around the wood contact: Paul on 01603 449839 or you can email them to: paulsnewplace@ntlworld.com.




Thursday, 25 August 2011

Important Broadland Planning Meetings

In previous posts we have mentioned that the next few months will be a critical time for the future of Thorpe Woods. Over the last year local people have fought to save these much loved woods, however the owners remain determined to build an estate of over 600 houses over them.

Currently the woods are not included within Broadland District Councils plans for housing development and our in fact identified as green space.

However as a result of the recently adopted Joint Core Strategy the council have placed Thorpe Woods, and the surrounding area within what is called a Development Triangle.

Over the next 3 to 4 months the council will be selecting sites within that triangle for development and identifying sites that should be retained as green spaces. It is essential that Thorpe Woods retains it protection as a green space within these new plans and is not identified as a potential site for development.

This is where you can play an important part in making clear to the council that you want Thorpe Woods to be protected and safeguarded from any threat of development.

The council are about to consult on the Area Action Plan which will identify where within the Triangle future development will be allowed to take place. Next month they will be holding two exhibitions which look at this consultation and possible sites for development, these are taking place at:

Morse Pavilion, Recreation Ground, Laundry Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, NR7 0XP
on Wednesday 28th September between 12.30 and 7.30pm

Thorpe End Village Hall on Thursday 29th September between 12.30 and 7.30pm.


Following on from these the council will be holding a series of workshops which will cover development plans and most importantly the Area Action Plan.These workshops will take place at:

Thorpe End Village Hall on Tuesday 27th October between 6.30 and 9pm

Sprowston Parish Council Offices, Recreation Ground Road NR7 8EW, Sprowston on 24th October between 6.30 and 9pm.

Rackheath Holy Trinity Church Hall on 13th October between 6.30 to 9pm

We will certainly be attending the exhibition and workshops and we would ask all local people and members of the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands to attend if they possibly can.

To book a place on one of the workshops call the council policy unit on 01603 430567 or email policy@broadland.gov.uk.

The campaign to save Thorpe Woods has had many successes, the Friends have several hundred members with new people still joining, our local councillors are supporting us and the press has provided us with a great deal of coverage.

Your support is essential and with it we can save Thorpe woods for future generations.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Petition to save Amazon from law change danger



The Amazon is in serious danger: Brazil is on the verge of gutting its forest protection laws -- unless we act now, vast tracts of our planet’s lungs could be opened up to clear-cutting devastation.
This threat to the Amazon has sparked widespread anger and protests across the country and tensions are rising. In an effort to stifle criticism, armed thugs, allegedly hired by loggers, have murdered environmental advocates. But the movement is fighting back -- this weekend, brave indigenous people are leading massive marches across Brazil to demand action and inside sources say President Dilma is considering vetoing the changes.
79% of Brazilians support a veto of the forest law changes and this internal pressure is leading some in Dilma's administration to back a veto. But we need a global cry of solidarity with the Brazilian people to really force Dilma's hand. Our global petition will be boldly displayed on banners at the front of the massive marches for Amazon protection. Let's urgently build a 1.5-million-strong petition to SAVE THE AMAZON! Sign now and send this on to everyone.
To sign the petition, click the link:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_amazon_a/?vl

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Update

The hacking issue seems to have been solved. It was apparently a random phishing attempt by somebody in eastern Europe. Passwords etc have been changed. However, the species list update (as promised a few weeks ago) will still be delayed for some time. This is mainly because quite a lot of work is involved: there is a large number of new species to add, and we are still waiting to positively identify a couple of specimens. Until this work is complete I think it best to keep our powder dry.

Apologies to all blog-followers who are interested in the woods' ecology. But for the forseeable future, I'm afraid you'll just have to make do with last year's very out of date species list. When the situation changes, a post will appear here to let you all know.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Charette's return?

A year after Broadland Land Group spent a vast sum on Andres Duany's services in heading their 'charette', it seems they are about to do it all over again. Their first attempt having seriously backfired, they have dropped Duany and engaged Matrix Partnership, another expensive, but English-based planning consultancy.

Matrix has published a very meagre summary of its take on Thorpe Wood on its website: http://www.matrixpartnership.co.uk/project-Thorpe-Woods.html

Note that Matrix are perpetuating Duany's and BLG's long-discredited description of the woods as "a former pine plantation". Whether this is how they see the woods themselves (IF they've seen the woods themselves!), or whether this wording was dictated by BLG, we have no way of knowing - but we can guess!
























The most striking thing about Matrix's website is the plan-view image showing how the development would look. It has clearly been decided that by sacrificing Belmore and Brown's Plantations, BLG stand a better chance of gaining some support for obliterating Racecourse.

Obliterating is not too strong a word to use: it is hard to see, on Matrix's scribbled impression, just what would go where. But close inspection reveals that Racecourse (we've outlined the boundary in red to make it clearer) would be cut in two by a major road cutting through the wood and meadowland to its north, just east of Greenborough Road. They call this an 'inner link road'. On both sides of the road, practically the whole of Racecourse wood would be turned into housing estate, just like before. A bit of green to the east and south hints at some tree retention and softens the impression a little - but no matter how you look at it, Racecourse, with all it's rich wildlife is gone.

Elsewhere on the Matrix website, references can be found to their liking for, among other things, charettes. So maybe the people of Thorpe and Norwich will be treated to yet another charade, again cleverly designed to lull people into believing that the wood really isn't much good, and will be enhanced by building all over it.

Interestingly, Broadland District Council were unaware of Matrix's involvement and knew nothing about the new plan concept until we told them. BLG had already blown their credibility in the eyes of the public long ago, but if any traces remained, these have now vanished. Last year they declared their sincere intention to keep the public informed of any changes: this proves their sincerity to be non-existent.

Monday, 18 July 2011

New Woodlands Photo Gallery

From today there's a new woodlands gallery (near top right of the Blog) with photography of everything from the smallest insects to great oaks.
This will be a growing record of the many species to be found in Racecourse, Belmore and Brown's. As such we would love to add any photos that you might have taken around these woods, especially anything that isn't recorded here, whether that be a favourite view, tree, wildlife from deer to "difficult to photograph" dragonflies or plants you haven't seen before. If you don't have photos to add you might be able to help identify species by leaving a note below any picture.

Check out the photos and if you have any you'd like to add, you can email them to:

paulsnewplace@ntlworld.com

or phone me: Paul on 01603 449839 and I'll help with either scanning or transferring to the

Gallery.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Owls and Glow Worms in Racecourse Wood



I set out first to take the pictures of the Glow Worms in Racecourse Wood after first coming across them in mid May, having only seen them before on the Purbeck Coast on the path between LangtonMatravers and Dancing ledge. A beautiful unspoilt protected stretch of Dorset coastline, so I was excited to find them here.
First attempts to photograph were with a compact camera, had a good macro setting but longest exposure of only a second or so. Feeling very strongly about the threat that hangs over this remarkable place, I decided to have a better go with a more versatile camera.
I found half a dozen or more on the next warm dark night in June and got the brightest pics between 11pm and 12.30.
The Tawny Owls I didn't expect to catch, going out one evening to photograph the woods skyline at dusk, but heard the 'whispy shreeks' near the main path as I first walked in and the young Tawny Owl stayed in one then another tree near the path while I struggled to find him (or her) by taking photos with the flash, expecting it to fly off all the time, and getting used to the manual exposure settings on the camera.
The picture of the two Tawny Owls in the Oak tree, I got on a second night after following them quietly but clumsily for half an hour stumbling through ferns, pine and bramble until they settled on this low branch.
These pictures are a limited attempt at showing some of the beautiful 'real world' we still have living alongside our increasingly unsustainable one. The life in this wood is completely self sufficient and is thriving.
Unlike our world which (although we forget) depends on nature for it's existence. Nature, and maybe most importantly, the Bees that pollinate our plants, are declining.
The Racecourse Woods of this world must not be an opportunity for the rich to sustain their wealth
in a desperate further sell off, blind to anything but short term greed.
Take time if you can to explore and escape into a little piece of the nature that we have left.

Monday, 11 July 2011

ONE YEAR ON ...

July 13th 2010 was the last day of the 'Belmore Park Charette'. It seems hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since Andres Duany's 'final presentation' on the benefits of Broadland Land Group's scheme. Mr Duany spoke for nearly three hours, and managed to avoid any questions on the woodland's ecology for the first two and three-quarters.

Jerome Mayhew, who introduced the presentation told us how the woods were not really woods but "commercial crops to be harvested", a theme picked up by Duany who tried to explain away the unpopularity of his clients scheme by declaring, astutely: "The controversy is that it's wooded". He went on to sweep this irritating trivia under the carpet by repeating that these 'woods' are merely plantations whose useful lives had expired.



Mr Duany went out of his way to inform us how much better the woods would be following their development, and launched into microscopically detailed descriptions of square roundabouts, back-yard parking areas, and how the housing estate would look like a combination of South Creake and a Georgian crescent. The wildlife would, if anything, be better off it seemed.



Towards the end a heated exchange took place between some of the audience and Duany. Audience members were forced to interrupt Duany's flow as, by 9.45pm it was obvious that he would talk about anything other than the woods until the building closed at 10. His suave persona deserted him as he floundered in unfamiliar waters, becoming increasingly angry at those demanding justification for the absurd claim that building a massive housing estate all over Racecourse Plantation would improve and enhance it. Even his own 'Masterplan', liberally splashed with friendly green and blue, couldn't hide the inescapable fact that Racecourse would be reduced to a shell, and the other two woods would be very largely suburbanised.




Mr Duany had promised at the beginning that all in attendance would receive a copy of the video recording that was being made of the presentation. Afterwards we were reassured by his assistants that it would be made available "in a few days".

On 22nd September 2010, BLG wrote to Thorpe St Andrew Town Council, assuring the clerk that: "The full video recording will be available on our website shortly. We are, as you know, keen to maintain an open channel of discussion with the local community, and we will shortly be placing more information and details of the ideas that emerged through the Charette process on our website. We will of course keep you informed of any changes".

On October 1st 2010 they sent an email to FTW supporters who had repeatedly asked when they'd get to see the recording (and who had also sought assurances that the recording would not be edited and sanitised). That email said: "We are sorry it has taken so very long to get the video up onto our website, we have in fact had to change our website providers in order to do this, we really do hope to have it up and running within the next few days. The charette and final presentation were all fully public events: to present an edited and sanitised version would be completely counter to our approach".

We can only judge them by what they have done or failed to do, against what they promised. Did they keep TSATC "informed of any changes"? No. Not even when they changed the number of houses to be built from 631 to 800.

After an entire year there is still no sign of the recording, or any other information. Despite innumerable requests and reminders, nobody from BLG has replied to any messages since last October. Nothing has been added to their website since the last day of their charette. We can only assume that they've realised the only thing to do when in a hole is to stop digging.

After a year, a lot has been acheived towards the goal of saving the woods. Since FTW was formed last August the campaign has communicated clear, factual information to a very wide audience. Virtually everyone in the Thorpe, Heartsease, Thorpe End and Dussindale areas is now well aware of the threat to the woods and the campaign to save them. FTW has succeeded in correcting the numerous misunderstandings among the local community that were generated through BLG's charette. Nobody any longer believes the woods to be tedious overgrown Xmas tree plantations; everybody wants the woods to remain intact rather than see them bulldozed for a housing estate. Thorpe's district councillors have been concerned about the threat from the start, and have worked hard to help the flow of information between their electorate and Broadland District Council. The campaign has received help from many people, not all of them local, including printers, pilots, graphic designers, photographers, artists, ecologists, botanists, landscape historians, cartographers and many others. There have been several events organised and very well attended by local people. The Evening News and EDP have covered the campaign very fairly. This blog has become a popular source of information not only locally but far and wide.

Surveys of the woods have been undertaken to assess the full extent and significance of their biodiversity: we hope to have the results collated and in publishable form before much longer. We are almost ready to publish an updated species list, which now includes considerably more flora and fauna than the original. This will appear as a link on the right-hand side of the blog, with a special post introducing it.

The campaign's relentless pursuit of the truth has exposed BLG for both what they are and what they're not. It has turned out they are not - as it seemed to many a year ago - a group of sincere, earnest and open characters who found themselves faced with a genuine dilemma: an urgent need to do something with the worthless plantations they'd found themselves lumbered with, and who wanted to keep as much of the woodland as possible for public benefit by earning an honest crust from a little bit of development. We haven't forgotten their careless admission, on July 7th last year, that they actually make a "small profit" from the woods as they stand. It has become clear that they are simply a group of wealthy individuals who have spotted an opportunity to become even wealthier by turning the woods so many people love, and which are of enormous ecological importance, into a housing estate.

They may have become silent, but they have not gone away. Millions of pounds are at stake, and their failed attempt to win-over the public won't stop them. All who care about the woods must remain vigilant. Keep watching the blog for updates and, if you'd like to help in any way, from writing a letter or email to delivering leaflets, please get your name on the FTW contacts list by emailing Lorna on: lornacbeckett@yahoo.co.uk

Friday, 8 July 2011

Tree Warden Walk Update


Last weeks Tree Warden walk was a big success.

In spite of bad weather between 80 to 100 people turned up at Belmore Woods.

Marion Amos, Thorpe St Andrew Tree Warden, led the walk and pointed out many of the fascinating and beautiful species present in Belmore woods.

As many of you will know the owners of the wood, The Broadland Land Group (BLG), plan to build over at least a third of Belmore woods and therefore it was a surprise to see one of their number in the form of Gail Mayhew (who is married to one of the Trustees) on the walk.

At the end of the walk some of the Friends tried once again to ask her about BLG's plans but she refused to answer any questions.

The walk was covered in The Eastern Evening News on the 1st of July (please see attached) which once again highlighted the love that local people have for this 'popular beauty spot'.

We would like to thank Marion Amos and Steven Ford for organising the walk, Neil Evans for telling us about the history of the Second World War bunker located in the woods and everybody who turned up.

Hopefully we will be able to join the wardens for another walk before too long around Racecourse woods.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

GAIL WARNING!

FTW has issued the following Gail warning, valid for 19:00 hours on 28th June:

Gail Mayhew, consultant to Broadland Land Group and BLG's most loquacious public promoter, has invited herself to a Thorpe tree wardens' walk around Belmore Plantation next Tuesday. The tree wardens' walks are open to anyone interested in trees and woodland, and a high turnout is expected at this one.

It may seem odd that the promoter of a scheme that would involve reducing the 144 acre Racecourse wood to a fringe of trees around a housing estate, would wish to voluntarily appear at a walk through the neighbouring wood. But Gail Mayhew is extremely persuasive and expert at avoiding the fundamental issues by deflecting attention onto minute, theoretical details.

At last year's charette, Gail held forth with an unstoppable stream of near-evangelical praise for her own ideas. She spoke tirelessly about footpaths and cycleways, allotments, self-sufficiency, walkable communities, garden birds and an endless array of other nice, green-seeming topics. A lot of her ideas would be quite nice, if it weren't for the fact that they all hinge upon eradicating a huge area of superb woodland. But Gail's enthusiasm isn't hindered by such details. Questions about the appalling effects of her scheme on the woodland and its ecology were batted away with evasive responses: wouldn't we like to see people growing their own vegetables? don't we think that housing where people can walk and cycle to work would be a good thing? aren't we as concerned as her about global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions?

A few well-meaning souls left their Gail encounters feeling a tad guilty about standing in the way of such worthy concepts, and forgot about the heart of the matter, ie: that Gail was not describing a development on some brownfield site, but on a 200 acre County Wildlife Site woodland. The ecological diversity and richness of the woods is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to their scheme, and Gail & co have been careful to avoid straying far into that territory. What little they have publicly uttered on the subject has been frankly ridiculous.

They have claimed that only parts of the woods are of CWS quality and that they could build around these small areas without harming them. They are especially keen to play down the ecological value in Racecourse, both because this is where the bulk of the housing would go, and also because this wood has by far the richest ecosystem. Racecourse contains an amazing range of habitats and numerous scarce and rare plant species, including several that are found at only a handful of other sites, and one that occurs nowhere else in Norfolk. To suggest - as they have - that such a unique ecosystem could be not only conserved but enhanced by turning most of it into a housing estate is quite incredible. Either they are well aware of the absurdity of such a notion, or they are genuinely so ignorant about ecology that they honestly believe what they say. Either way, they cannot be trusted on this subject.

The situation in Belmore is slightly different. Only around half of Belmore would disappear under their original 631 houses scheme, with the area closest to the local population supposedly retained with public access. This was the bait: the hope must have been that enough people would care only about the bit of woodland they walked their dogs in, and be sufficiently afraid of losing even that, that they'd gain local support for the scheme. Unfortunately for BLG, the local people have proved far less selfish and gullible than that. We would remind anyone inclined towards this way of thinking that BLG has already increased the proposed housing number to 800, and that during last summer's charette, it was revealed that up to 1200 'units' had been considered an ideal number. Not only that, but keeping 25 acres or so of woodland at the expense of the rest would be a very foolish trade-off.

The tree wardens' walk through Belmore might seem to Gail like an ideal public relations opportunity. We hope she won't try to exploit it in this way; if she does though, many people are ready to provide the counter-argument if necessary.

If you want to come along, the walk is on Tuesday 28th June, starting at 7pm at the South Hill Road entrance to the wood. All welcome!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

WOODLAND WILDLIFE WATCH

Broadland Land Group, or Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust as they also call themselves, have commissioned an ecological survey for Thorpe's woods. Their objective is almost certainly to obtain a report that contradicts Norfolk Wildlife Trust's assessment of the woods' habitat quality.

We don't know which ecological consultancy BLG has employed, but we sincerely hope that they do a thorough job and produce an honest report. There are some ecological consultants who will twist results to suit their clients. We will be in a good position to judge whenever we get to see their report, because several experienced local ecologists have been carrying out their own surveys on behalf of Friends of Thorpe Woodlands. The feedback so far is very encouraging. All of the rare and scarce plant species recorded in Norfolk Wildlife Trust's 1997 survey are confirmed as still present, mostly in greater numbers and/or more locations than previously. Additionally, at least 30 'new' species have been recorded, including several more rarities. We will be updating the species list soon (see right-hand column of blog for this), when more survey work has been completed.

While we mustn't pre-judge the quality of BLG's survey, it is fair to say that their reptile refuges (felt mats placed on the ground to attract lizards, slow worms, adders and grass snakes) have not, in many cases, been sensibly located. Many of the 35 or so refuges in Racecourse wood have been placed very close to paths (see photo) and have - predictably - been frequently disturbed by curious walkers. On a number of visits in April & May, several walkers told me what they'd seen under them! Such levels of disturbance render the refuges unlikely to provide meaningful results, and under-recording of all four species of reptiles known to occur in the wood is probable.


For other fauna species, the surveyors have used some quite fancy pices of kit. They fitted an Anabat recorder to one tree (pictured). These digitally record the various sound frequencies emitted by bats flying within detectable range, and the recordings are analysed to determine which bat species are present, and give an indication of numbers. The location they chose was good, but unless we've failed to spot other Anabats, only one in a 144 acre wood like Racecourse will give a snapshot picture at best, and its results won't necessarily enable an accurate assessment of bat species and populations throughout the site.

They also placed a moth/insect trap in another tree (pictured), presumably to gain samples of the range of flying invertebrates present near that location. Again, there only seemed to be one of these in Racecourse, and similar limitations to those applicable to the Anabat must apply. Both of these pieces of equipment had been removed by early June, but the reptile refuges remain in place.



At last November's public examination into the GNDP's Joint Core Strategy, BLG claimed that only parts of the woods are worthy of County Wildlife Site (CWS) status, and that their development of 800 houses plus shops, roads and a supermarket would fit nicely into the woods without harming any important bits. They went so far as to claim that their development would actually enhance the woods' wildlife value!

The woods' CWS status has been something of a thorn in BLG's side for years, as it makes the concept of building on them seem even more unthinkable than it would anyway. Not only that, but all Norfolk councils have policies against developments that would harm or destroy CWSs.

If the report commissioned by BLG concludes - as it should - that the woods in general and Racecourse in particular are extremely valuable ecological treasures that would suffer devastating damage if any development were permitted, it must be within the bounds of possibility that BLG concede defeat and abandon their scheme. However, going by their record to date, this seems highly unlikely. We will have our own survey results soon, and shortly afterwards we will get them written up into a proper report. It will be interesting to discover the extent of contrast between 'ours' and 'theirs'. Watch this space for more news.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Thorpe Woods – Some things are worth more than money

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment
Last week the UK Government was one of the first in the world to publish a report that looked at the social, economic and scientific benefits this country gains from its wonderful natural environment.

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) is the first analysis of the UK natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and the nation’s continuing prosperity. It is based on the processes that link human societies and their well-being with the environment and emphasises the role of ecosystems in providing services that bring improvements in well-being to people.

It is envisaged that the Ministers who commissioned the NEA will use it to re-shape planning policy.

"The natural world is vital to our existence, providing us with essentials such as food, water and clean air - but also cultural and health benefits not always fully appreciated because we get them for free," said Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

"The UK NEA is a vital step forward in our ability to understand the true value of nature and how to sustain the benefits it gives us."

Woodlands, such as Thorpe woods, were identified as a key resource for the wellbeing of the country and its people.

Two-thirds of the UK’s current woodland area of around 3million hectares is productive plantation, mostly less than 100 years old and much of it comprising non-native species. These facts emphasises the importance of Thorpe woods which are largely native, semi natural woodlands that are well over 100 years old.

The benefits of local woodlands

Woodland such as ours were identified as having many benefits, they support biodiversity, carbon regulation, help prevent flooding and contribute to our mental and physical health. In fact the report calculates that the health benefits of merely living close to a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year.

The social benefits of woodlands and other green spaces are often underestimated. Most of us appreciate the wildlife value of our woods but the report identifies their importance as green spaces, particularly when they exist as green spaces in urban areas.

'The growth of the UK population, combined with a trend for smaller households, has driven up housing demand everywhere. This has led both to an expansion of urban settlement into the countryside and also to an increase in housing density in inner cities. In metropolitan areas, per capita
green space provision has therefore declined, particularly in the most deprived areas, adversely affecting health by reducing childhood development, mental and physical well-being, for example through less exercise, less community cohesion, and a diminished sense of security, and by causing the loss of a sense of place. In particular, the sale of playing fields and loss of associated wildlife has reduced opportunities for young people to participate in sporting activities and to study nature. This has affected their education, ecological knowledge and understanding of the natural environment and its importance to them, and risks long-term detriment'.

Recent Forestry Commission surveys found that a majority of people agreed that ‘trees are good because they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in wood’, ‘that woodlands are places to reduce stress and anxiety’, and ‘that they felt healthier when spending time outdoors in the woodlands’

This once again underlines how lucky Thorpe and Norwich are to have this wonderful green space that stretches for 200 acres and which enhances all of our lives, it also underlines what a terrible loss it would be if we were to lose such an irreplaceable treasure.

A rare a vital treasure

Only 9% of England is wooded, despite cover increasing by 45% since 1945.Woodlands possibly deliver the greatest number of ecosystem services including carbon storage, recreation, timber and a contribution to water regulation.

This report tells many of us what we knew already, that the people of Thorpe and Norwich are very lucky to have such a beautiful, rich and life enhancing woodland to enjoy, and that if we were to lose it our live’s would be much poorer.

Thorpe Woods are still under threat, the Broadland Land Group are continuing with their plans to cut this woodland down and cover it with concrete and tarmac, their sole concern is money and how much they can make, it would appear they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

You can save these woods, not only for yourself but for your children, and their children. Over the next few months the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands will be working with our local councillors to ensure the woods are preserved and protected within the joint Core Strategy. Once again we will be asking you to play an important part in in protecting these precious woods.

BBC Coverage

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Councillors Speak Out in Defence of Thorpe Woodlands

As mentioned in the previous post, both Councillors Nigel Shaw and Ian Mackie spoke out in defence of Thorpe Woodlands at the Broadland District Council meeting held on 22 March, prior to the Joint Core Strategy being voted in. Cllr Shaw voiced his strong support of the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands and was keen to draw attention to the fact that Thorpe Woodlands are identified as an area of Green Infrastructure on page 29 of the JCS documents. Cllr Mackie then made the following statement, ending in a question to Cllr Proctor (Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Planning Policy & Conservation):

Chairman, the Growth Triangle obviously contains Thorpe St Andrew and my constituents are rightly interested to know what this may mean for them, in both the provision of community facilities, the impact it could have up to 2026 (15 years. […]

Para 65 – states that some quite large parts of the Joint Core Strategy are not developable because of existence of a range of constraints. Even in parts which have relatively few constraints it will be necessary to ensure that the issue of biodiversity enhancement is kept to the fore of the Area Action Plan. Map on page 205 – shows area of existing green infrastructure. Thorpe woods included as an orange area. Strategic open space and core biodiversity areas. Page 177 – policy for protecting environmental assets – to increase public access to the countryside Page 197 – re-establish the link to Mousehold heath – Policy 12.

With this in mind, I would like to know the answer to my question – what areas are considered not developable in Broadland?

I note that in para 3.6 the inspector notes with praise the cooperation between Anglian Water, env agency and Natural England, indeed the inspector states under 3.7 the growth triangle represents the soundest approach to accommodating the scale of growth in Broadland.

As you know the Racecourse, Belmore and Browns Plantation (Thorpe woods as they are collectively known) are within private hands, but are widely used and form a green lung and are home for an incredible depth of biodiversity. Therefore I welcome that under Infrastructure Framework Priority 1 – page 147/148 Appendix 2 of the report, which states the importance of surrounding countryside. As you may be aware a significant proportion of these woods formed a wedge which linked Mousehold to Thorpe End. Many will know of the name Dussindale that was one of Robert Kett’s battles, as his struggle moved to that area through the woods from Mousehold

Natural England were consulted on a scoping opinion for a proposal in this area in 2007, which was later refused by Broadland District Council, and its response to any future application would cover the same issues. They recognised that until the Joint Core Strategy is adopted all planning decisions should accord with the local sites policy in the Broadland District Local Plan, ENV7. Development which would significantly adversely affect the wildlife interests of areas of local nature conservation importance, including County Wildlife Sites and ancient woodlands identified by English Nature…will not be permitted.

The Joint Core Strategy also provides some protection for County Wildlife Sites in the wording of its Policy 1: Addressing climate change and protecting environmental assets:

In areas not protected through international or national designations, development will minimise fragmentation of habitats and seek to conserve and enhance existing environmental assets of acknowledged regional or local importance.

Just recently the Thorpe woods have come under review again by developers, therefore I am keen to secure the long term future of these woods even within the Growth triangle, whilst and during the gap between the BDLP, JCS and AAP, and beyond. We have seen how important the Country views areas of woodland, given the recent government actions regarding the Forestry Commission. I believe that the JCS provides some security for these woods, via the policy recommendations I have noted above, however I would like to place a minuted response to a question for Cllr Proctor:

Cllr Proctor rightly stated that as part of the JCS the Area Action Plan will also be required to allocate sites which will be retained as strategic green infrastructure, such as woodlands.

Question: Could he assure me that the existing Racecourse, Browns and Belmore Plantations will be included in the new Area Action Plan and retained as that strategic infrastructure?

Reply by Cllr Proctor: Area Action Plan will be considered by the new administration; however, if I form part of that administration I would need some convincing why they should not be included in the new Area Action Plan.


[NB. Following the meeting we were advised that taking into account the legal constraints on Councillor Proctor this statement should be seen as being strongly in favour of the preservation of Thorpe Woodlands.]


To view the minutes please click HERE

Friday, 1 April 2011

Thorpe Woods within the Joint Core Strategy



(Read on for article 'Thorpe woods within the Joint Core Strategy')
Many of you will have seen the announcement in the press last week that on the 22nd March Broadland District Council voted to adopt the Joint Core Strategy, this will act as the basis for all housing development in the Broadland area for the next 15 years.
Thorpe Woodlands (which is a County Wildlife Site - CWS) fall within the JCS and are situated in a growth triangle that covers the area surrounding Thorpe St Andrews.
The Friends have been working hard to ensure that Thorpe Woodlands unique environmental and ecological benefits are recognised and protected under the JCS.
In the run up to the JCS vote we have been in contact with Natural England who are a statutory consultee in the planning process and are consulted on all Local Development Framework documents. In their latest letter, which was released on the day of the JCS vote, they drew attention to the fact that:
County Wildlife Sites form a vital element of green infrastructure provision for the city, and their value is specifically mentioned in the JCS, supporting Policy 1 - Climate change and protecting environmental assets: ‘Assets of local importance, such as County Wildlife Sites, are valuable in their own right and in combination provide a significant resource.’ (page 25). The policy itself contains a high level of protection for local sites, which requires all losses to be mitigated:


In areas not protected through international or national designations, development will:

· minimise fragmentation of habitats and seek to conserve and enhance

existing environmental assets of acknowledged regional or local importance.

Where harm is unavoidable, it will provide for appropriate mitigation or

replacement with the objective of achieving a long-term maintenance or

enhancement of the local biodiversity baseline.

It would appear from your website and petition that there is a strong case to be made for these County Wildlife Site woodlands to be recognised as of ‘local importance’, and therefore there is a duty enshrined in policy to ‘conserve and enhance’.
In addition to the above the Joint Core Strategy Document itself also sets out the area of green infrastructure for the Greater Norwich Area. Page 29 (see picture) maps all these areas, one of which is clearly Thorpe Woods.

Table 1 of the JCS sets out the priority one infrastructure requirements for the delivery of the JCS. The green infrastructure section of this table (see picture) has amongst its green priorities, the Retention and re-creation of Mousehold Heath to the surrounding countryside. This requirement is required to allow for the growth within the Old Catton, Sprowston, Rackheath and Thorpe St Andrew Growth Triangle. 
As can be seen from the aerial photograph Thorpe Woods forms part of what once was Mousehold Heath and therefore if this priority is to be implemented the woods should not only be conserved, they should be enhanced.


Finally, but most importantly at the Council Meeting held on the 22nd our local councillors Ian Mackie and Nigel Shaw spoke out in support of the preservation of Thorpe Woodlands. Councillor Shaw drew the councils attention to the fact that Thorpe Woods are identified as an area of Green Infrastruture on page 29 of the JCS documents (see above) whilst Councillor Mackie pointed out that under the pre-existing Broadland District Local Plan, ENV7 it states: Development which would significantly adversely affect the wildlife interest of areas of local nature conservation importance, including County Wildlife Sites and ancient woodlands identified by English Nature …will not be permitted.Councillor Mackie also drew attention to the fact that on page 25 of the JCS under the heading of Policy 1: Addressing climate change and protecting environmental assets it sets out the level of protection that should be afforded to sites such as Thorpe Woods, he asked Councillor Proctor, Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Planning Policy & Conservation, that in light of this how would any development proposals for the woods be viewed, Councillor Proctor replied that he would "require a good deal of convincing" before he would consider any such proposal, following the meeting we were advised that taking into account the legal constraints on Councillor Proctor this statement should be seen as being strongly in favour of the preservation of Thorpe Woodlands.

Your support together with the support of our local councillors has been vital to the campaign to save and preserve these wonderful and unique woodlands.

In the coming months the council will be drawing up their Area Action Plan which will identify the specific locations for housing development and Green Infrastructure under the JCS. It is vital that all of us work together to ensure that Thorpe Woods are identified as an area of Green Infrastructure, as by doing this we will guarantee their protection for the next 15 years.

We will be in touch to explain how you can help to make sure that Thorpe Woods are protected well into the 21st Century.

The Joint Core Strategy document can be accessed by clicking HERE

Friday, 4 March 2011

A picture is worth a thousand words


Paul Osborne, one of the founding members of the Friends of Thorpe Woodlands, has created a wonderful painting which captures one of the most beautiful areas within Racecourse Plantation.

The painting was published in this Monday's Eastern Evening News together with another picture, this time an ariel photograph of the woods.

Both pictures help to show why these superb woods need to be saved.

The Photograph graphically illustrates the dominance of deciduous trees in the wood (remember the Trustees are claiming these woods are a pine plantation with little wildlife). Paul's beautiful painting illustrates the beauty of the woods and the way that they can inspire people.

Paul's painting can be seen in more detail in our gallery or by clicking here.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

People Power works!

As everyone must know by now, the government has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn on their plans to sell-off the Forestry Commission's woodlands. Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, publicly apologised on Radio 5 for 'getting it wrong'. It is very unusual for anyone in government to admit to having been wrong about anything, but the scale of public outcry about their privatisation scheme was so overwhelming that they were faced with little choice but to make the best of a bad job. "We have listened to what the public have told us and acted accordingly", said Ms Spelman.

The overwhelming pressure to scrap their plans arose largely through the efforts of 38 Degrees, a fairly new campaigning group which has developed a huge internet following. 38 Degrees started an online petition that grew to over half a million signatures, as well as encouraging tens of thousands of people to write to, email or phone their MPs. They also raised enough money to pay for adverts in national newspapers and a YouGov opinion poll that showed that 87% of the public were strongly opposed to the sell-off. All of this grew from the inspiration of a handful of well informed and highly organised campaigners. Many other groups were of course involved - these are credited on the 38 Degrees website
( http://38degrees.org.uk/  ) but it was 38 Degrees' brilliant initiative that really did the trick.

38 Degrees recognised the public's heartfelt appreciation for woodlands and knew that, given an easy way to register their disgust at the proposed sell-off, large numbers would seize the opportunity. But even they were taken aback by the scale of the response, and under such pressure the government could only try to spin their climbdown into appearing to illustrate their willingness to heed public opinion.

Thorpe's woodlands provide an example of the threats that our public forests would have faced if they had been sold. Racecourse, Belmore and Brown's woods are recognised as important biodiversity sites for Norfolk and are treasured by thousands of local people - yet these facts mean nothing to their owners, who would happily tarmac and concrete over the lot if they could.

The success of the 38 Degrees campaign shows all who are striving to protect woods and other habitats that people power can work. However, it needs to be harnessed with great efficiency and in very large volume in order to be as successful as was the case here. This campaign's success has sent a powerful message, not only to the government but to all local authorities, that people love woodlands and care passionately about them.

Our woods in Thorpe remain under threat. The fact that the campaign to save them is so enthusiastically supported by the local councillors is very good, but we must recognise that there may be other members of Broadland District Council, and possibly some officers, who don't yet share their enthusiasm. If the owners (Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust) submit a planning application, the fate of the woods will ultimately hang on a vote of less than 20 planning committee members. If planning permission is given, there is no right of appeal other than a judicial review in the High Court. We must therefore do all we can to create a 38 Degrees-style avalanche of opposition when the time comes.

Opportunities for the public to make their voice heard will arise over the course of this year, when BDC start consulting on the various development planning policies they must produce, following the GNDP Joint Core Strategy inspector's report (expected very soon). Friends of Thorpe Woodlands will be ready to inform everyone when the time comes, but in order to do the best job possible we need your help. If you can spare some time delivering leaflets, door-knocking, forming an email tree, or if you have any ideas or suggestions, please contact us (see Lorna Beckett's email address at top right of screen - its probably easier to write it down or copy & paste than try clicking on it!).

38 Degrees takes its curious-sounding name from the angle of incline needed to start an avalanche. They certainly started one against the forests sell-off. The government could call itself 180 Degrees as this is how far out of alignment with public opinion they were on this issue. They should be making moves to compulsorily purchase private woods whose owners don't respect them, not trying to sell those the public already own!

A few days left to protect ancient woods!

At present, ancient woods are afforded fairly strong protection against damaging development. Among numerous government guidelines that must be followed by local authorities when considering planning applications and producing development policies, Planning Policy Statement 9 requires ancient woods to be given special consideration.

However, the government is in the process of changing its planning guidelines by amalgamating them all into one all-encompassing framework. Conservation organisations are worried that this will result in the existing protection for ancient woods being severely diluted.

The government is running a public consultation on this, and it is important that as many people as possible make their views known. The consultation ends on 28th February - it is therefore important that all who care respond immediately!

Fortunately, the Woodland Trust has made responding easy. Go to the Woodland Trust's website at
http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/campaigning/planning-changes/Pages/default.aspx
then click on 'What is the problem?' for more information, then click on 'Take action' to go to a very user-friendly online response form.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Councillors say NO to proposals to build on Thorpe Woods


Following on from our last update Council Support for Thorpe Woodlands our local Broadland District Councillors have just issued their latest intouch newsletter.

The front page sets out their opposition to the proposals put forward by Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust and their determination to protect Belmore, Browns and Racecourse plantations against any development plans.

They firmly state that “we do not want this beautiful area built on and will do what we can to stop any plans which may come forward” and that they “are pleased that the original plans for hundreds of houses were not submitted last year”

We will be meeting again with the council at the end of next month and will report back on how we are working together to provide long-term protection for these much loved and ecologically important woods.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Council Support for Thorpe Woodlands

The Friends recently held another highly constructive and positive meeting with councillors from Broadland District Council.

Councillors Ian Mackie, Nigel Shaw and John Fisher pictured on the march through the woods last August held by the Friends and their supporters ,( See post: Get Off Our Land), met with members of the Friends to discuss the progress that had been made so far with the campaign, and how in 2011 we could broaden the campaign and start to take steps to put in place long term measures to protect Thorpe woods, measures that not only recognise the importance of these woods to the people of Thorpe St Andrew, but also to Norwich and Norfolk.

The councillors confirmed that the Trustees had made no further attempts to contact them or arrange any meetings, this matched up with our own experience as the Trustees have continued to ignore any attempts we and local residents have made to contact them.

However, the Trustees and their plans have not gone away. We discussed with the councillors the proposals that the Trustees had submitted to the recent series of Planning Inspectorate meetings which were held to consider the Greater Norwich Development Partnerships (which is made up of Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council and Broadland District Council) Joint Core Strategy which sets out the development proposals for the east of Norwich.

Gail Mayhew (see MEET THE MAYHEWS) was present at these meetings as were the Trustees agents Savills. They submitted documents supporting their development proposals, and in response to the inspectors request for a plan B if the Northern Distributor Road did not proceed as planned they put forward proposals for a link road that would connect the proposed 800 homes of the Belmore Park Development homes to the Salhouse Road.

Last year the campaign made a very good start, the Friends have a growing and active membership, a friendly press, good publicity, and a good working relationship with the council.

This year our main aim is to put in place some form of concrete long term protection for the woods. Although any potential development may be some time away we are still determined to put in place protection as soon as possible, especially as an application by the Trustees for planning permission could be made at any time and considerably in advance of any actual development.

We discussed the possibility of excluding the woods from the development triangle; and providing them with clear protection under the Action Plan that would have to be drawn up by Broadland District Council prior to the allocation of development sites as part of the Joint Core Strategy mentioned above.

It was agreed that the councillors would actively look into how long-term protection could be provided and the Friends would provide them with evidence to support this, for example letters from bodies such as the Norfolk Wildlife Trust identifying why the woods should be afforded such protection.

We were also happy to agree to the councillors’ request to refer to us in their newsletters and to create links to our blog in their websites etc.

The Friends and Councillors will meet again at the end of March to discuss progress and the current position of the campaign.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Now we can see the woods for the trees...



Here are some aerial photographs of the woods, kindly taken for us on 24th January by Mike Page (shown by his plane). In winter, the distinction between coniferous and deciduous trees is clear.




This photo is looking west with Dussindale Drive in the foreground.



This photo is looking west, with Plumstead Road parallel with left margin.



This photo is looking east, Plumstead Road through vertical centre.



This photo is looking west, Plumstead Road through vertical centre.


These pictures show the woods that the landowners told everyone were coniferous plantations planted after the war. We think the pictures tell their own story.


Friends of Thorpe Woodlands would like to express our great appreciation to Mike for his help in taking these photos. There can now be no doubt that the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust were mistaken (to put it at its kindest) in their claims. The total coniferous area can be no more than 15% at most.


We know you watch our blog, T&FT Trustees - will you now issue a statement apologising for misleading the public and acknowledging that the woods are nothing like the description you foisted upon us?

Friday, 7 January 2011

MEET THE MAYHEWS

Thorpe's woodlands are owned by the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust, the Trustees of which are five of the grand-children of John Gurney MP, who died in 2000. We had the pleasure of meeting three of the Trustees during their 'charette' last July. Barney Mayhew and Justin Meath-Baker addressed the Thorpe Town Council meeting. Justin also made himself available for questions at the charette drop-in sessions, as did Gail Mayhew (who is not a trustee but is married to Henry Mayhew). Jerome Mayhew introduced the charette's final presentation.

John Gurney had eight grand-children. We don't yet know which of the others are the remaining Trustees, but we now know quite a lot about some of them, thanks to information from other groups campaigning against various Mayhew money-making schemes.

At the charette meetings, the Trustees gave the impression of being quite ordinary people. Certainly, their appearance and manner of speech scarcely hinted at any lofty social status. One Trustee actually seemed quite offended at the suggestion that they didn't need to make money from the woods as they were already rich. But any impression of ordinariness was just that. The Mayhews and Meath-Bakers aren't merely a bit well-off - they are genuine upper class landed gentry. And at least some have fingers in other lucrative pies involving exploitation of woodlands.

The Mayhew's father is Baron Mayhew of Twysden (a.k.a. Patrick Mayhew, a former big-wig in the Thatcher & Major cabinets). The Hon. James Barnabas Burke Mayhew (a.k.a. 'Barney') is a barrister now practising as a 'security' advisor to foreign aid agencies. Henry Edmund Burke Mayhew lives in a nice house in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea with his wife Gail, owns a business consultancy and stood as a UKIP candidate in the 2005 general election. Jerome Patrick Burke Mayhew and his brother Tristram Thomas Burke Mayhew are owners of Go Ape, a company that builds 'adventure' courses in woods and forests.
Samuel Justin Francis Meath-Baker (ie: Justin Meath-Baker) said at the charette that he was an interior designer, but he is no mere wallpaper salesman - Justin has offices in Mayfair and a shop in Covent Garden, and designs interiors for the likes of Christies boardroom, exclusive London clubs and top-class hotels. When an empty property next door to his five bedroom London house started lowering the tone, his preferred solution was to simply buy it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/movinghouse/3324151/Trouble-next-door.html
William John Clovis Meath-Baker owns Walsingham Abbey and is an ex-diplomat and MI6 officer. We currently know little about Hugh Lysander Meath-Baker (honestly, I'm not making these names up!) and Joshua Ralph Meath-Baker, but it seems safe to assume neither are busking for a living. Details on each family can be seen here: http://lackfamily.net/genealogy/names/whole%20family/f731.html#f990 and http://lackfamily.net/genealogy/names/whole%20family/f204.html#f956

Jerome & Tristram's Go Ape business is interesting. Go Ape has a very close relationship with the Forestry Commission, with which the Mayhews have sealed a deal that effectively allows them to put forward Go Ape schemes in every Forestry Commission woodland in Britain: http://www.moneyweek.com/news-and-charts/tristram-mayhew-how-i-shook-1m-from-the-money-tree-43538.aspx They are already raking in millions from 22 Go Ape courses but they have ambitions to expand to 40 by 2012 and to set themselves up in USA and Australia.
In Wales, the Mayhews want to build what they're calling a 'Zip Wild' Go Ape course on Moel Famau, a beautiful, unspoilt forested mountain that is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Friends of Moel Famau are campaigning as hard as they can against this scheme, and have even been to meet the Mayhews, only to find them unmoved by their pleas to leave their wonderful countryside alone. See this link for more info: http://moelfamau.com/ Interestingly, the Mayhews have produced a website to promote their scheme here: http://moelfammau.openforum.zipwild.com/about-zip-wild.asp Note the swathe of missing woodland beneath the zipping girl; the mis-spelling of Moel Famau, and - most amusingly - the section headed: 'And our values?' Uncannily similar to the worthy-seeming platitudes they lavished on us at their charette.

The Mayhews' ambitions have led them beyond Forestry Commission land into public parks. Near Liverpool, Lever Park has been a tranquil wooded landscape for all to enjoy for 100 years. This hasn't stopped the Mayhews transforming it with a Go Ape course. The promise of a slice of the money-pie lured the local council on-side and they began work on the course, illegally felling trees (until they were stopped) and causing outrage among the local community - whom the council had failed to consult! The outraged organised themselves into The Friends of Lever Park: http://www.leverpark.co.uk/ whose complaint to the local government ombudsman was upheld: the council were found to have been guilty of maladminsitration on several counts. The Mayhews employed their usual formula for presenting their schemes to the public: nature conservation was, they said, uppermost in their concerns, and their scheme would benefit the environment, avoid any damage to trees and provide deprived urban-dwellers with a unique opportunity to enjoy the natural world. FLP pointed out that - even if they were to overlook their felling of trees without even waiting for permission - their courses entail banging numerous six-inch nails into trees which probably isn't good for them, create lots of noise, attract excessive traffic and - at £25 upward for a go on the course - are way out of the range of kids from deprived areas.

In Glasgow, a public park that was gifted to the city nearly a century ago was only saved at the last moment by a unique Scottish law called "Common Good". Friends of Pollok Park fought a long battle against the Mayhews and - to their shame - their own city council against a Go Ape in North Wood, an ancient area of the Park much loved by local people. The Mayhews said: "We will work with the local community to address any concerns they may have" - again, sounds rather like what they've told us at Thorpe, doesn't it? And like Thorpe, they addressed the barrage of concerns that flooded in by completely ignoring them. We can't give a link to Save Pollok Park because they closed their website last year, having won their campaign. Nor can we give a link to Save Thorndon Park as this campaign, in Essex, also succeeded in thwarting the Mayhews. Here, the presence of great crested newts in harm's way, and an objection from Natural England, derailed the scheme.

The Mayhews' Australian venture also turned into an embarrassing defeat. They had decided that a Go Ape course would be nice in Bidjigal Reserve - a fantastic primeval forest on rocky outcrops just outside Sydney. Local campaigners thought otherwise, as did the Oz equivalent of Natural England and many eminent ecologists. Again, the promise of a piece of the cash-cake seems to have seduced the council, which failed in its job of standing up for one of the most important nature reserves in that part of Australia. If it hadn't been for the huge efforts of Save Bidjigal Reserve: http: //savebidjigalreserve.net/ together with the Aboriginal people (whose land it is anyway!) the peace and beauty of Bidjigal would have been lost. Yet again, the Mayhews told everyone that they only wanted to bring much needed facilities, economic benefits and environmental respect to the area.

The examples above show several things of interest to us in Norwich. They show that the people we're up against have plenty of experience in trying to push environmentally damaging schemes through regardless of local opposition. They show that they have a carefully crafted formula to work to, involving skilful persuasion to entice people into believing they wouldn't harm a fly. They show that they are immune to appeals for reason or recognition of the obvious. And they show that they are very good at getting local authorities on board.
However, these examples also show that they can be defeated and - when the opposition is sufficiently well informed and organised - often are. We should take heart that - so far at least - they have not succeeded in securing any support from Broadland District Council. As far as we are able to know, BDC's councillors and officers are not inclined to support their scheme, and are well aware of the scale of opposition locally. With the May 2011 local elections on the horizon, and a big shake-up of local planning policies in the wake of the GNDP's Joint Core Strategy, it is up to all who care about our woods to let BDC know that we want them kept free from development.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Leaving 2010 on a High Note!

As 2010 comes to a close, it's good to be able to end on a high note by adding these scans of the Eastern Evening News front page from Christmas Eve, where the woodlands made the headlines thanks to Paul Andrew, whose excellent idea it was to start the Christmas tree, and Lynda and John who were happy to let us share their special story with the press. None of us could have hoped that we would get such great publicity, which in turn has led to high numbers of visits to this blog and new people joining the Friends. Above all, it highlights the great community spirit both in and around the woods and how loved and valued they are.

Thank you and a happy New Year to all of you who have supported us in 2010. We enter 2011 with an impressive amount of local community support and feeling more determined than ever to save beautiful Thorpe Woodlands for the future.