Sculthorpe Moor Reserve
“One of those hidden ‘must visit’ little gems” – Neil Glynn
“Sculthorpe seemed more ancient and echoing than any wet place I’d seen” – Richard Mabey
When we visited Sculthorpe Moor Reserve in September 2013 the Hawk and Owl Trust, were about to mark its tenth anniversary with a “Big Birthday Bioblitz” weekend – including a FREE BUG POT for every family!
The place must have changed since nature writer Richard Mabey visited at the start of the new millennium. In his book “Nature Cure” (the story of his return to health from depression) he describes Sculthorpe as more ancient and echoing than any wet place he had seen. Although impressed by the new owners ambitious conservation plans he expressed concerns for the future of ancient coppice alder stools – which he said could well have been five hundred years old.
By the time, Neil Glenn (another writer with an eye for Norfolk’s wildlife) visited a couple of years later, restoration work was well under way. A woodland hide was open, boardwalks were partly complete and there were plans to extend it to the River Wensum. When finished, he suggested, the reserve would be one of those hidden ‘must-visit’ little Norfolk gems.
The result now is easy access to much of the reserve, viewing platforms and hides to observe the wildlife and seats for those who just want to contemplate the place. For a relatively small reserve it packs in a lot of wildlife spotting potential with bird feeders and nest boxes along the way to encourage it. The elevated Whitley Hide gives spectacular views over the fen and reed bed – but has a polite notice asking over keen photographers not to hog the hide.
Of course, observing wildlife is the attraction here, with the chance to see tawny and barn owls, willow and marsh tits (if you can tell the difference), great and lesser spotted woodpeckers (you should be able to tell the difference) and much more. The Frank Jarvis hide overlooks a feeding station that attracts common woodland birds and the possibility of Bramblings in winter.
The boardwalk now extends to the River Wensum and when we were there major construction work was underway on neighbouring land. The riverside path continues on a temporary surface to two more hides overlooking a water filled scrape. This, for us, provided the highlight of the visit. Initially diverted by the sight of distant Marsh Harriers, I noticed a Kingfisher in the classic situation, perched on a partly submerged bough. It performed for several minutes hovering like a kestrel and skimming the surface before darting of to try its luck along the adjoining dyke. Our neighbour in the hide kept saying that they wished they had brought their camera. I had mine but not the skill to capture the moment, but then for some of us it’s memories that matter most.
A strong community involvement lies behind the success of the reserve. The Friends of Sculthorpe Moor are there to meet and greet and successful fundraising has contributed to impressive conservation, education and visitor facilities available now and for future generations of what they rightly describe as this hidden gem.