The ‘Aylmerton Barn Owl’ will struggle to find food now that it’s favourite hunting ground has been destroyed. This photo, courtesy of Andy Benson, will be appearing in The Birds of Felbrigg, to be published shortly by North East Norfolk Bird Club – all profits from which will go to wildlife conservation
Whilst we’ve been away I’ve been contemplating the devastation of Aylmerton Common. Of course, this was no-ones fault, after all it’s farming land, albeit of very limited use – it’s only been used to take a hay crop off in recent years, it’s value to wildlife poorly recorded and the site not designated in any way. The trouble with Norfolk is it’s all ‘countryside’ but still it has some of the highest agricultural land prices in the country. This means that few areas just get left, like Aylmerton Common has been, and the habitat which had grown up there can and is easily destroyed. The work of one person and a digger for a couple of days eradicating a precious habitat which has, through a process of benign neglect, taken probably thirty years or more to develop, judging by the age of some of the scrub removed. By contrast, a band of Felbeck Trust volunteers have dedicated over 600 hours during the past year to restoring the habitat of a much smaller site at Sustead Common. As a consequence, according to our survey reports and the increasingly rapid emptying of the bird feeders (!), the wildlife is returning, but we’re still someway off getting The Common registered as a County Wildlife Site, which should provide some longer term security. I guess it was this ‘David and Goliath’ moment which temporarily overwhelmed me the other day. That and the knowledge that this place, Aylmerton Common, will never be the same again and the loss to local wildlife practically irreversible, at least in my remaining life-time. So, no-ones fault but everyones fault – we have to work harder together to achieve the right balance between cheap food for a growing population and space for nature. A more sustainable future for Norfolk’s countryside.