An Exciting New Wetland Nature Recovery Project for West Norfolk

Ditches-and-reed-fringes-Stoke-Ferry-Wetland-April-2024

An Exciting New Wetland Nature Recovery Project for West Norfolk

Andy Millar, Environment Manager,  Norfolk

A hum of dragonflies, chorus of warblers and ‘drumming’ snipe will hopefully be serenading a quiet corner of west Norfolk soon. The Albanwise Environment team have been quietly beavering away behind the scenes, either in welly boots or on our laptops (or both). We are planning a large new wildlife-rich, peat restoring, carbon sequestering, water storing wetland. We’ve kept it under the radar so far, but we’re excited by it and want to share it more widely.

Our project is at Stoke Ferry by the River Wissey in west Norfolk.  It is120ha of floodplain on peat soils. Until recently it has been drained arable cropland and the last winter only served to reinforce it being firmly in the ‘difficult to farm’ category.

Our project is part of the wider Fens East Peat Partnership. This is a Lincs Wildlife Trust led group of landowners and conservation bodies restoring peatland soils across the Fens, funded through the Defra ‘Nature for Climate’ Peat programme. The site is also at the northern end of the Ouse Washes Landscape Recovery Project, an ambitious nature recovery partnership initiative to restore wetlands at scale, stretching from our site southwards across the Fens towards Cambridge.

Our ambition is to transform what is currently bare, dried out and compacted peat, into a fantastic new watery landscape, teeming with wetland birds, plants and insects. We want to create a place that people can see and experience nature.  Raising water levels will begin the healing process for the peat soils. It will start to draw carbon back into the ground instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. That hoped-for return of snipe wasn’t just a dream, we flushed one from the site last winter. That, and the calling lapwing and marsh harrier patrolling overhead hint of more exciting things to come.

The farming story will not end here either, it will just be different. This wetland will need extensive grazing to maintain its wildlife habitats. The potential for high welfare marsh-fed beef could create a compelling ‘fen to fork’ story.

Our partners on this journey, including our neighbours, are going to be very important. The plan is to fund the ongoing management of this new wetland with nature finance, either as Biodiversity uplift or carbon offsetting. These are exciting new opportunities. Mills and Reeve solicitors have already come on board, funding some soil eDNA sampling, and most importantly their staff joining in and experiencing the place first hand.

It gets more interesting when one zooms out and looks at the project in its wider landscape setting. It’s close to an existing wetland SSSI, buffered by County Wildlife Sites, and Nattergal’s High Fen Wildland project is just across the Wissey to the south. These are all potential stepping stones in a wetland Nature Recovery Network for this part of Norfolk.

It is one of a growing number of nature recovery projects that Albanwise Environment will be developing, either solo or by supporting partnerships. Watch this space!

Andy Millar

Contact Andy Millar

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