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

Thursday, 16 June 2011


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.


  1. Hi, just looked at this blog for first time, it was mentioned in a letter in todays evening news so I thought Id go and have a look for myself. Never been in the wood before but I was'nt expecting what I found. Its amazing. Just got back, soking wet but happy and sad at the same time. Im no expert but I have worked at RSPB reseves so I do know something and this wood is fantastic. Did they really say it was a conifer plantation - can't understnd how they can lie like this! Keep up the good work this wood MUST BE SAVED!!!

  2. Welcome to our blog Jerry, glad you're finding it informative. Glad you've had a look around the wood/s too, it's quite an eye-opener! Yes, the owners really did tell people, at several public meetings during their 'charrette' last July, that the woods were confier plantations, planted after the war. On one occasion, one of the trustees said they were little more than overgrown Christmas trees! If you haven't joined Friends of Thorpe Woodlands yet, please do. Best way is to email Lorna on:

    Please keep watching the blog - I'm hoping to keep it updated more frequently than of late.

  3. There are bits of the wood that really are overgrown conifer plantations, but they are relatively small bits and if they were removed they would quickly colonise with more interesting stuff. For evidence of this on a much larger scale take a look at Foxley Wood. That recolonised vast areas of exconifer plantation, created on the site of a former proper wood, within a few years - naturally.
    They cannot develop the bits that are currently conifer plantation for housing without wrecking the rest, that's the nub.


  4. Racecourse has a relatively small area of conifer plantation towards it western end, and tiny patches in one or two other spots, and Belmore has a tiny patch of pines near its northern boundary, but that's about it - and there are no Xmas trees, overgrown or otherwise! They are all species planted for timber. The woods are predominantly broadleaved (see the post 'Seeing the woods for the trees')

    You're absolutely right in your comparison with Foxley Wood: the speed at which its pre-existing flora returned after the conifers were felled was something to behold. In Racecourse, similar natural regeneration has occurred where conifers have been felled, and also where forestry tractors have made big ruts through the wood. As it stands, Racecourse is very good ecologically and it has enormous potential for further improvement, given quite simple management.

    Please keep watching the blog for more news on what we've found - won't be long now!