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Turnstone - Surely conservation should not be a constant battle with nature?

On February 2, the Lynn News published a report on efforts to preserve Holkham dunes.

It came as quite a shock to see photographs of volunteers apparently destroying pine seedlings and holm oaks on a National Nature Reserve!

Pine trees were planted in the 18th Century by the 2nd Earl of Leicester to stabilise the dunes. Holm oaks were added by the 3rd Earl.

It seems most unlikely that these farsighted men did not envisage that the trees they planted would reproduce, thereby providing even greater stability to the dunes.

If nature really is producing more seedlings than are thought to be necessary for natural regeneration, some of them could be transplanted to provide wind breaks elsewhere along the coast.

Surely it is better to work with nature than engage in a constant battle against it?

In 1970 – European Conservation Year – the challenge facing pupils at Hunstanton Secondary School was how to get the best out of 90 pine seedlings provided by the Forestry Commission.

After spending three years in a carefully-prepared nursery, they were planted alongside the A149, where they are currently doing a pretty good job of softening the appearance of a brutalist building - Smithdon High School.

A few years ago Hunstanton and District Civic Society suggested planting some holm oaks on The Green, to soften the appearance of Harlequin House – another brute of a building – on a site once occupied by the elegant Sandringham hotel.

Holm oaks are not as valuable to wildlife as native English oaks, but their catkins provide a source of pollen for bees and other insects, while their dense evergreen canopy offers year-round shelter for birds.

They are resistant to salt-spray, and are often planted as a windbreak in coastal locations.

However, before they are strong enough to withstand gale-force winds, the young trees need to be firmly secured to four posts.

When it was pointed out to West Norfolk Council that one post would be insufficient, the response was: “What doesn’t kill them will make them stronger!”

Out of the three trees planted, one died and the other two are looking the worse for wear!

Perhaps Holkham volunteers could send some replacements and, instead of killing holm oaks on their Nature Reserve, they could always prune them to form bushes. There are several holm oak bushes in Hunstanton – most of them growing from the stumps of felled trees!

Don’t you just Love West Norfolk?


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