Plans go in for Methwold wetland site

Norfolk Wildlife Trust's wetland site at Hilgay and hope to recreate this scene on land near Methwold
Norfolk Wildlife Trust's wetland site at Hilgay and hope to recreate this scene on land near Methwold

West Norfolk could become a haven for wildlife if plans to create a new wetland are approved.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is looking to create reed beds on land near Methwold, which could become home to displaced bitterns and marsh harriers.

The trust is working with the Environment Agency to provide inland reed beds to replace those on the Suffolk coastline which will lost by rising sea levels.

Officers are hoping this site could compliment another set of reed beds which have been planted in nearby Hilgay, which are proving a draw for wildlife.

Plans to create the wetland on a 50 hectare site off College Road, Wretton, were submitted to West Norfolk Council last week.

Project manager Nick Carter said this was an exciting project.

He said: “We want to try and get two pairs of marsh harriers and bitterns at Hilgay and a pair of each at Methwold. These may not seem enormous numbers but maintain the populations.

“These beds will compensate for the loss of those on the Suffolk coast.

“The project is in its early stages but it would be good to watch the habitat change and birds start to move in.”

Bitterns are one of the most threatened species in the UK which require reed beds to live and hunt. There are just 120 males.

Marsh harriers are found in the East of England and there are an estimated 320 to 380 breeding pairs.

Although these are the target species, the organisers also hope the wetland would attract water voles, otters and water rails.

Mr Carter said: “The wetland could take five years or more to establish it but it could become a real visitor attraction.

“Welney and Lakenheath attract tens of thousands of visitors every year.”

If the plans get the go-ahead, the trust wants to create a reservoir, which would have a depth of 25 to 30cm, by building banks. Water would be taken from the nearby Hilgay site.

Reeds would be planted on 18 to 19 hectares of the site while the remainder would be taken up with wet grassland. This could be grazed by sheep plus there is also a nearby population of red deer.

Work could start in the summer if planning is granted.

Mr Carter said: “There are some reeds on the site already but there will be some planting.”

The Hilgay site is almost finished after work started in 2010 and wildlife has already started to move in.

Shelducks are currently displaying on the site, snipe and its more secretive relative Jack Snipe have also been spotted. King Fishers have been seen on the wetland.

Mr Carter said: “There is at least one King Fisher there so we must have fish but it is a slight mystery how they got there.”