Grid Reference: TG 326 097

GPS Coordinates: 52.635993, 1.4370337

what3words: singing.pickup.shaped

Size: 0.98 ha (2.4 acres)

Parish: Blofield

Owned by: Norfolk County Council

Access Parking: Private. Access by prior arrangement or during BADCOG work parties. Limited parking space is available, either on the narrow verge or further along Shack Lane near the entrance to Clarke’s Wood. Please take care not to obstruct the lane or entrances. A network of mown paths provides access around the site.

Underfoot: Wet in places – wellies advisable throughout the year.

Habitats: Fen-meadow, marshy grassland, tall-herb fen, stream, scrub and hedgerow.

Main Conservation Interest: Wetland habitats including floristically-rich marshy grassland and fen-meadow.

Conservation Status: County Wildlife Site 2071 (notified in 1998).

Management: Managed by BADCOG since 1984 on behalf of Norfolk County Council Countryside Team, with help from The Conservation Volunteers (TCV). NCC management plan for the meadow.

Description: Some 200 years ago Howes Meadow was referred to as ‘Long Goldours’. It is likely that the site was grazed by cattle or horses until well into the 20th century and it is now actively managed for its wildlife interest by BADCOG on behalf of the NCC Countryside Team and has recently been notified as a County Wildlife Site.

The site consists predominantly of marshy grassland, fen-meadow and tall-herb fen enclosed by hedgerows and scrub. Tall-herb fen in the northwestern part of the site is dominated by common reed which recently has spread into adjacent areas.

A straightened, eutrophic stream runs through the site, providing a focus of interest as well as a valuable wetland habitat. At the western end of the site, the stream has been widened to form a pond. This is inhabited by common frog, three-spine stickleback and water scorpion, a fearsome looking but harmless aquatic invertebrate. It is also an excellent place to see both submerged and emergent aquatic plants, including water-starwort, water-plantain and bulrush. Sluices, which have been replaced or repaired on a number of occasions, help to maintain a high water level. During periods of prolonged or heavy rainfall, localised wet flushes occur around some of the derelict foot drains to the north of the stream. Most of the site is mown annually in July, August or September. As part of the management regime, some areas receive extra cuts or are left unmanaged to diversify the structure of the site. The fen-meadow, tall-herb fen and parts of the marshy grassland support a species-rich flora including cuckooflower, hemp-agrimony, meadowsweet, marsh thistle, yellow iris, greater bird’s-foot-trefoil, meadow vetchling, ragged-robin, water mint, southern marsh-orchid and common spotted-orchid (see here for annual orchid counts). Butterflies include common blue, skippers and ringlet. A black poplar has been planted in the southwest corner and young white willow pollards have been created along the stream.

Management objectives include the maintenance of a high water table and a high water level in the stream. The existing areas of fen-meadow, marshy grassland and tall-herb fen require regular, active management to prevent drying out and successional changes to rank vegetation and scrub. This entails constant effort, with several work parties taking place every year. Common reed has recently spread throughout the site and requires constant management to prevent domination. The reintroduction of grazing as a management tool is a potential option for the future which would enhance the site’s structural diversity and floral composition, whilst reducing BADCOG’s workload.

The Shack Lane hedgerow is believed to be very old. It runs along the site’s southern boundary and is raised above the site along a sandy ridge. Hazel, holly, field maple and elm are the dominant woody species, with ferns, bluebell and primrose on the sloping bank. The inside of the hedge is cut every second or third year by BADCOG, whilst the top and the outside is maintained by the local farmer.

When To Visit: In spring for lesser celandine, primrose and cuckooflower, June for southern marsh-orchid, common spotted-orchid, yellow irises and warblers, and July for ringlet butterfly. At any time of the year you may be fortunate enough to see either a water vole or a kingfisher. Dragonflies occur during late spring and summer, and November is a good time to see the changing autumn leaf colours in the superb boundary hedgerow along Shack Lane.