£850,000 appeal launched to buy land at Sculthorpe Nature Reserve

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Bosses at a popular nature reserve near Fakenham are today launching an £850,000 appeal to help raise funds to buy and manage land for wildlife.

The Hawk and Owl Trust, a national UK charity founded in 1969, wants members of the public to sponsor a parcel of the land at the 15-hectare site at Sculthorpe.

The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase land surrounding the reserve, more than tripling the size of the protected area, will prevent the land being sold on the open market.

For the past 10 years the trust has delivered agricultural stewardship for the owners of the land surrounding its popular and environmentally important Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve.

No public access has been possible to the 62 hectares which virtually encircle the existing reserve, and management intervention has been limited.

After many years of unsuccessfully trying to secure this land, that opportunity has now arisen in tandem with an Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) application.

A successful appeal will offer the chance to manage the land fully for wildlife, encourage public access and celebrate its long and vibrant history.

The Sculthorpe Fen land has a long and very varied history with peat cutting, gravel extraction, reed cutting, gunpowder manufacture, brush making, shooting range, charcoal making, water mills and a Medieval motte-and-bailey castle just some of the activities to have take place.

The vision for Sculthorpe Fen is a future where a rich ecosystem co-exists with the local community with access for all where rural history, rural crafts and traditional sustainable management which benefits the landscape, people and wildlife are all celebrated.

Hides, boardwalks and wheelchair-friendly paths will allow access to the whole area where habitat management will be achieved through use of traditional rare breed livestock

Officials said that will be achieved using the best animals for the job, rather than those that return the greatest economic value, while rural crafts will make use of the by-products from reserve management and Barn Owls and Marsh Harriers hunt over the land.

The thriving nature reserve came into being in 2001 when the Hawk and Owl Trust leased 12 hectares (29 acres) of land from the Frances Berkham Trust in order to protect the important fen habitat for many species but particularly the magnificent marsh harrier.

From the beginning, the team managing the reserve wanted to encourage people of all ages and from all walks of life to enjoy the reserve.

A successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and European Union-ERDF enabled the Hawk and Owl Trust to provide the conservation, education and visitor facilities that now exist.