This project brought together Norfolk and Suffolk Wildlife Trusts who both work in the Brecks and the BNG project area. The aim of the project was to ensure the conservation of the County Wildlife Sites (CWS) in the BNG project area. Starting in 2014, 45 CWS sites were surveyed for condition assessment, 15 more than was originally intended due to good planning and opportunistic assessment of neighbouring sites. Volunteers helped with these surveys, specifically monitoring invertebrate biodiversity. Six surveys were undertaken on potential new CWS which led to four new sites receiving CWS designation – Thetford Castle Mounds, Cloverfields and Abbey Meadows in Norfolk and RAF Barnham, Gorse Industrial Estate in Suffolk. Two further sites will be designated CWS on Thetford Town Council land in 2017 as a direct result of the work carried out to date by Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
Ten management plans/statements were written by NWT and management statements or recommendations for a further 14 CWS. For some sites a full detailed management plan was not required by the landowners, or not appropriate due to the size, or type of habitats found on the site. This was often because the site was already in an agri-environment scheme. As a result, it was possible to provide management recommendations to a larger number of sites than originally planned, thus increasing the spread of the project. Conservation management work was undertaken on 12 sites to maintain and improve biodiversity. This work included scrub clearance, Calamagrostis control, ground disturbance and erection of deer fencing.
Two training workshops were held for owners of CWSs and those who undertake management for them. The first in 2015 focussed on Countryside Stewardship options and led by Norfolk FWAG. The second focussed on the management of pingos that fall within CWSs, this was something that stakeholders were keen to learn more about in order to manage them effectively and received very positive feedback.
A County Wildlife Site designation is non-statutory but is recognition of a site's high value for wildlife, with many sites being of county and often regional or national importance. They support a wide range of biodiversity, including many priority habitats and species identified by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Together with Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), they are the most important areas for wildlife in the county
John Hiskett, Norfolk Wildlife Trust