BOUGHTON FEN ANNUAL REPORT, 2007-2008
Little did I know what was waiting around the corner when last summer Frank asked the Parish Councillors if they would like to look after any particular aspect of the village, and I replied “The Fen”.
This all started when Steve Saunders handed me a letter that he had received recently from Natural England, stating that our Wildlife Enhancement Scheme Agreement was coming to an end, and that a new agreement would be required. After several calls and discussions wth Natural England, it became apparent that this was not a job for one person. In August 2007, a sub-committee was formed consisting of myself, Frank Reid, Angela Faherty, Kevin Fisher, Allan Hale and soon after, David Cooper.
Each of these people have various skills to enable us to progress the management of the fen.
Since the formation of the sub—committee, we have made considerable
progress. Initially, our contact with
Natural England was not particularly fruitful, but after further discussions, some of us met
with a delegation from Natural England on site.
Following this meeting, they decided that our enthusiasm and potential
abilities would be rewarded with the chance to enter into Higher Level
Stewardship, which would give Boughton guaranteed funding for work on the fen
for the next ten years. At the same
time, they awarded the village £5000 as a one off payment to assist with much
needed scrub clearance. (We are one of
only two recipients of this kind of funding in the whole of
At present, the progress into HLS is continuing with our scheduled entry into the scheme
in August 2008. In the meantime, members of your sub-committee have visited Wicken Fen, where the head warden, Martin Lester spent his morning sharing his expertise and experience with us. We have also been fortunate enough to have been visited by Norman Sills of the RSPB who is one of the country’s best known experts on wetlands, and renowned for his work at the new bird reserve at Lakenheath, and is currently working at the Great Fen project. These people along with others have been generous with their knowledge as to how we may best improve the Fen, and bring it back to an acceptable standard.
Enough of the paperwork side of things. What have we actually done since August last year?
On January 20th 08 we had our first working party, with twenty four local people attending together with members of the West Norfolk Conservation Volunteers, all helping to remove and burn some of the invasive scrub in the Highland Fen. The sub-committee was somewhat taken aback by both the numbers and enthusiasm of all those who came along on the day.
We decided that in view of the potential numbers, and the type of work involved, at our next working party on 2nd March 08, more attention should be given to Health and Safety. Under the expert guidance of Kevin Fisher, a comprehensive Health and Safety Policy, and Risk Assessment were prepared to cover all aspects of our work, including the use of chainsaws. At the start of the day, Frank gave a ‘toolbox talk’ to everyone present, and basic safety equipment was made available to everyone. This equipment was purchased by the sub-committee, and remains the property of the Parish Council. Despite this more formal approach, everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and the day culminated with an al-fresco lunch of baked potatoes cooked in the bonfire.
Having learned from our efforts at the first working party, we were able to achieve much more on this occasion, including forming an access onto the Fen, to be used by our chosen contractor when he commenced work the following week.
The contractors were able to clear scrub in waterlogged areas that were inaccessible to us ordinary folk. The results of his work are clearly visible form the road. To date, they have cost us £2000 from our one off payment of £5000. We expect that they will resume work in the Autumn of 2008, as and when conditions permit, using the remainder of the £5000.
Things have not stopped at the working parties. On 5th April 2008, we gave a presentation to all interested people on the work done, and our plans for the future. This was attended by a good number of villagers, and a significant number of people from the surrounding area who expressed an interest in the fen, and in many cases would be interested in helping at future working parties.
Moving now to the knock on effects of our successful hands-on work down on the fen, we have learnt from work done previously that it is essential to keep on top of regrowth and invasive plants. To do this we will need small working parties which will be greatly assisted by a bit of mechanical help. Althought parish already owns a strimmer, this is intended for relatively light use, keeping the green neat and tidy. Having assessed the problem, and discussed it with our contractor, we need a heavy duty strimmer/brush cutter, which we are researching at present. I am sure all those of you who were involved in the working parties will agree that this will require more than a bit of trimming.
As usual, everything turns round to the financial side of life, which needs reporting to
From 1999 to 2007, English Nature (now known as NE) gave us £100 per year towards the management of the fen all as per the signed WES agreement. To date this has not been spent. Luckily, the saga of the poplars, which ran for a number of years, was concluded with the trees being felled free of charge, and no other costs were incurred over that period. This means that within the Parish funds, there is still £700, untouched, which was allocated to Boughton for use on the fen. Some of you here tonight may have helped us with the fen, or you may enjoy the landscape and its wildlife. I am sure that you would concur with us that the money should be used as English Nature intended.
In order that we do not cause too large a hole in the finances in one go, I think it would be prudent to allocate this money on the basis of £350 this year, and £350 next.
I have been asked by some people why the Parish Council voted unanimously for separate banking facilities to be created for the fen. The main reason is that Natural
As with all financial systems, you will see that the fen finances for year ending April 2008
are part of the Parish Accounts.
To come completely up to date, only last Sunday morning we held a very successful Dawn Chorus Walk with over thirty people gathering at 4.30am Sub committee member Alan Hale, whose knowledge of the fen and its birdlife is outstanding, with a colleague gave us the most wonderful insight into the natural history of the fen, identifying birds by song as we progressed.
If almost to order, our wildlife did respond; the song of the nightingale as the sun rose, the barn owl quartering the Stringside, and some people lucky enough to see the nightingale. In true Boughton tradition, this was finished off with bacon butties cooked in situ!! As well as villagers, people came from the surrounding area, many envious that we should have such a lovely place to call part of our village.
Finally – I would like to thank all the people who have given so much time and effort over the past year to this mammoth task – the fen sub-commitee, fellow councillors and all the volunteers and helpers. It is hard work, but we have had some fun.
6th May 2008