By Victoria Plum
Founded in 1959, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) is a social enterprise group. Its aim is healthier and happier communities; it sees mutual gain not just for the natural area undergoing conservation, but also for the people volunteering and working to make something better.
Mark Webster gave a fascinating talk at the Reepham & District Gardening Club focusing on the work undertaken locally by TCV in many little secret “reserves” close by, including Foxley Wood, Mayfields Farm at Themelthorpe, Sparham Pools, Bawdeswell Heath and Guestwick churchyard.
The main message is that “nature” needs a little help to maintain specific habitats that have evolved through usage but sometimes fall into disrepair – and that is what TCV provides.
An example to clarify this is a photo we saw of what looked like a lush hay meadow that had been planted as a wildflower meadow, but not maintained.
You would think that a wildflower meadow would look after itself with no effort because nature looks after itself. However, the law of the jungle (the survival of the fittest) soon takes over.
Therefore, the meadow must be cut every year and the cut foliage raked off so that soil poverty is maintained, which enables the wildflowers to flourish.
If you don’t remove the litter it puts fertility back into the soil, encouraging the lush grasses, which smother the wildflowers, and you lose your meadow.
Another example is Booton Common, which is essentially a wet area that has for a number of years had the naturally occurring alder and birch cut low because of the electricity cables that pass overhead.
As a result, the light gaining access to the whole area has enabled much flora and fauna to flourish. This is maintained by TCV – if it was just left then the alder scrub would take over, completely easing out the orchids, comma butterflies and much else besides.
Above: A wild area to the edge of Booton Common, which shows what it would look like if left alone. Below: A cleared area of Booton Common where the power lines pass, which is full of flowers and insects.