The Natural Beauty of the land around Fakenham in Norfolk

Fakenham, a charming town nestled in the heart of the Norfolk countryside, is a place of picturesque landscapes and diverse wildlife. The town is bordered by the River Wensum, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Within Fakenham, the Hawk and Owl Trust – Sculthorpe Moor, under a lease agreement with the Fakenham Town Council, manages three fields, totaling 9.32 acres or 3.77 hectares. These fields, namely Goggs’ Mill, Edmundson’s Acres, and Bacons Piece, are all part of an Environmental Stewardship – High-Level (ESHL) DEFRA agreement, aimed at enhancing the management practices and long-term sustainability of the land in and around Fakenham.

Goggs’ Mill Meadow: A Historical Gem
One of the fields managed by the Hawk and Owl Trust is Goggs Mill Meadow, named after Thomas Goggs, who owned and worked the Hempton watermill between 1854 and 1888. The mill itself was depicted on Faden's map of 1797 but was sadly demolished in 1955. This meadow spans 1.1 hectares and is an integral part of the conservation efforts undertaken in the region.

Conservation Through Environmental Stewardship
All three fields managed by the Hawk and Owl Trust fall under the ESHL DEFRA agreement. While these fields are not designated as wildflower grassland meadows, they are classified as Fen Habitats, typically characterized by rushes, sedges, and wetland grasses. As a result, the management practices for these fields are aligned with the prescribed ESHL agreements.

The ESHL agreement does not require cutting every year but rather recommends a rotational cutting approach over a 5-8 year period. This strategy aims to rejuvenate plant species and promote a balanced ecosystem. To ensure the effectiveness of cutting strategies, the Trust collaborates closely with the Sculthorpe Moor Rangers. Together, they optimize biodiversity and maintain the aesthetic appeal of the region.

Unlike traditional hay meadows, the approach taken in Fakenham allows for longer vegetation growth, providing ample habitat for voles and other small mammals. These creatures, in turn, serve as prey for Barn Owls and Kestrels, contributing to the overall ecological balance of the area. Additionally, grazing may be implemented from May to September annually to control sward height, and a margin of at least 2 meters around the edges is left longer after cutting to provide grazing opportunities for livestock and further benefit prey populations.

Preserving Biodiversity: Nesting Boxes and Wildlife Conservation
To support the local owl population, the Hawk and Owl Trust has erected Barn Owl and Tawny Owl boxes in Edmundson's Acres and the adjoining land. These purpose-built nesting boxes provide essential nesting and roosting places, creating a haven for owls to hunt and thrive. In addition to the owl boxes, small bird boxes will be installed in Edmundson's Acres, enhancing the diversity of avian species in the area.

In an effort to promote bat conservation, plans are underway to install bat boxes in the standing dead alders of Edmundson's Acres. These bat boxes serve as artificial roosting sites, providing shelter and protection for these nocturnal creatures that play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of the region.

The Commitment to a Sustainable Ecosystem
The Hawk and Owl Trust is dedicated to preserving the natural beauty and biodiversity of the Fakenham region. By implementing effective habitat management strategies, erecting nesting boxes for owls and birds, and conducting regular surveys, the initiative aims to create a sustainable ecosystem that benefits the local wildlife and fulfills the requirements of the ESHL agreement.

Through careful stewardship and collaboration, the Trust strives to ensure that Fakenham remains a haven for wildlife and a place of natural beauty for generations to come.

Additional Information:

  • The Fakenham Town Council plays a crucial role in collaborating with the Hawk and Owl Trust to manage the fields under the ESHL DEFRA agreement.
  • The River Wensum, which borders Fakenham, is not only a beautiful natural feature but also provides a habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species.
  • The Hawk and Owl Trust is actively engaging with Natural England to determine the necessary licenses and surveys required for any future work on the old pond in Goggs' Mill Meadow as this is currently not covered by the ESHL agreement.
  • Regular monitoring and surveys are conducted to assess the effectiveness of the conservation efforts and track changes in the local wildlife populations.

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