Monday, 4 June 2012

Roydon Common, North Norfolk

I'm afraid my posting on here has been a bit sporadic of late. All will come clear in time.

At the end of April I visited my brother, Martin, at his new abode in the village of Congham, near King's Lynn (quite a long way from the Mersey Valley, of course). I thought that the readers of this blog might be interested in the highlight of this trip (sorry that its taken this long to get round to writing it up).

About 20 minutes walk from Martin's house is a Norfolk Naturalists Trust nature reserve called Roydon Common. This is a large area of sandy heathland with a high water-table. During the Second World War it was used as a bombing range and and after the War was covered in conifers by the Forestry Commission. Luckily, local naturalists had recognised the importance of this area for wildlife and it was bought by the Trust and restored to sandy, heather dominated heathland by removing the conifers (which must have been an enormous job!). Today the reserve is grazed by Dartmoor ponies to keep it in tip-top condition.

The plant list alone from the area is remarkable, with many rare wetland plants like Black Bog Rush and all three British species of Sundew. Adders and Nightingales also occur on the site.

I hoped to see some of these, and other rarities, on my visit - but didn't actually see any of them. The day was cold and (very) wet - and I was probably a month or two too early. But I did see, in a ditch, the plant that I really, really, really wanted to see above all the others on the list: Marsh Fern (Thelypteris palustris)! Yes!!!

On sober reflection I suppose that this doesn't mean much if you're not a 'fern fanatic' like me (musn't write 'fernatic', mustn't write 'fernatic', mustn't ... drat, I've written it ... twice!). Anyway, I was thrilled!

This plant is rather uncommon in Britain. According to one of my books (see ref.): "T. palustris declined before 1930 due to drainage, but it can be remarkably tenacious where natural succession has occurred, and has been re-found in several of its stations after many decades. There have been few losses [since the early 1960s]."

Soon after this momentous find the heavens opened (remember the rain in April?) and I was forced to beat a hasty retreat.

The pictures above show a general view of the Common (with rain clouds) and the fern growing in the ditch.

Unfortunately, I've recently learned from Martin that there are more than rain clouds on the horizon. A big quarrying operation wants to dig for sand in areas near the Common. These operations could well alter the water-table - which would have a disastrous effect on the Common's ecology. Watch this space.

Dave Bishop, June 2012

Ref: 'New Atlas of Ferns & Allied Plants of Britain & Ireland' Ed. by A.C. Wardlaw & A. Leonard, British Pteridological Society, 2005.

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