30 Days Wild - The Beginning

This blog has been sadly neglected of late, not because there has been nothing of interest to report, but because I’m just lazy. Simple as that. Time to make amends, and what better stimulus than the 30 day’s wild initiative generated by the Wildlife Trusts. For the next month then, I intend to blog every day. On this basis some posts may be short and simple, but I hope nonetheless interesting. Best intentions and all that......…

1st June - Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Ranworth Broad.

It always surprises me how at this time of year you turn your back and the landscape changes. I missed a week of volunteering here (Rolling Stones concert - brilliant), so a fortnight has passed since I strolled along the boardwalk to the Visitor Centre. What a transformation! The reeds have shot up, the yellow flag have bloomed, the guelder rose wafts it sickly sweet fragrance through the wet woodland and the gulls have cleared from the tern rafts allowing the common terns themselves, the emblem of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, to move in and commence the frantic task of raising a new generation.

It’s half term so the Visitor Centre is quite busy with families seeking some distraction. One particular group books onto a guided walk I am leading, the first of the season, and are joined by another gentleman that wishes to see more of the wildlife living on the reserve. These six people are enough as a debutante group, especially when most of the event is confined to a narrow boardwalk and the sun is not shining. The theme of the walk is a broad one - wildlife - and despite the overcast, slightly cool day there is plenty to be found. First up plants, some of which are coming into bloom, others just poking their heads out of the swamp. The star attraction is of course the milk parsley that is growing well here, it’s feathery, delicate leaf competing successfully with the more aggressive reed that would suffocate the plant if the site wasn’t managed by annual alternate cutting either side of the boardwalk. Marsh thistle, ragged robin, marsh fern, marsh valerian, meadowsweet and hop join the list before we find a small cluster of common twayblade, which is anything but common hereabouts. These delicate orchids need a close up look to be fully appreciated, their more robust relatives, southern marsh orchid are far more obvious with their bright purple flower heads spotted across the marsh.

Yellow Flag in the Woodland

Milk Parsley

Common Twayblade
There are birds: reed warblers chuntering their rhythmic chant from the stands of last year’s brown reed stems adorning the uncut side of our path. Blackcaps, wrens, robin and chaffinches join the cast whilst terns and gulls screech overhead. We reach the wood.

Here the focus is talking about the various uses of the trees, shrubs and plants in times gone by: hazel for fencing, willow bark as a form of aspirin, meadowsweet for fragrant flooring, how the trees when they reach a certain size cannot be supported by the boggy ground and sink slowly into the mire; infant peat deposits in the making. And then we reach the majestic oak, a remnant of ancient times, yet a reminder of the ultimate fate of the whole system were it not for the management regime. How many creatures does this king amongst trees support? Measured in thousands surely, a whole ecosystem in its own right.

Royal Fern
We loop back to the Visitor Centre seeing a bright deep orange breasted bird on the way which stirs the children in our party to excited pointing and debate. There is disagreement whether this half seen bird is a kingfisher, there is a pair in this very area, but it’s position high in a willow mitigates against this. It is a male bullfinch that flies quickly off once it realises it has been spotted. A good sighting though.

We arrive back just as the air is beginning to warm, encouraging banded demoiselles to emerge from their sheltering spot in the reeds. We see grebes and terns fishing, a heron plunge diving into the edge of the broad and swallows at last flipping around the thatch ready, hopefully, to build their mud nests once again and entertain the visitors over the coming summer months.