Conservation on the Felbrigg Estate

Heron in water meadow at Felbrtigg

Felbrigg has SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) conservation sites - the Great Wood and some of the parkland. There are ancient Beech which are reputedly the furthest north on acid soil, and also some rare fungi and lichens.

A helping hand for nature

A large part of the estate is in High Level Stewardship (HLS) with currently 240 hectares in our direct management. As part of the HLS, tenant farmers agree to maintain seed and nectar strips and reduced stocking levels of grazing animals. We use no fertilizer, insecticide or pesticides although a minimal amount of herbicide is used to control thistle and ragwort. 
 

Rare species

33 new species of insects not found before in Norfolk have been identified and nine Red Data Book species. A fungal midge, and the Slender or Lemon slug have been found in the Great Wood.

The mousetail, a tiny annual being an unlikely member of the Buttercup family, was last seen on the estate in May 2001 and was thought to have been lost. However in Spring 2016 around 30 plants have just been re found, busily flowering, though sadly in a place not open to the public .

Mousetail alive and well at Felbrigg
flowering mousetail

The plant has hard fruits which benefit  from trampling, so it often grows where cattle graze. It is probably the rarest flowering plant on the estate in terms of its distribution across Norfolk

Scarrow Beck

The realigning of the beck was part of a Higher Level agricultural Scheme (HLS). The stream now no longer runs in a straight line but meanders, flowing into the small pond close to the footpath and then into the lake through the newly constructed weir which will allow the stream to behave in a much more natural manner mean that much less silt should reach the lake.

This work has encouraged wet loving species to spread, providing a greater diversity of plants and insects and we hope to see wading birds, such as Snipe and Lapwing, return to nest on the pasture. 

Already we have seen greater numbers of duck and geese using the water and a Bittern, normally they just come for a look round, stayed for several months. We have seen Oyster Catchers prospecting and our grass management should mean that they will stay with us in the coming years.

Reconstituting the heath

On the right as you drive into the main entrance of Felbrigg, about 10 hectares is being returned to the heathland that it would have been in 1860.

The first signs of wavy hair grass
Wavy hair grass on reconstituted heath

The Wavy Hairgrass, has come up in the heathland restoration area, a typical heathland grass which hasn’t been recorded at Felbrigg in the last ten years. We are removing the non-native species such as conifers, digging up and grinding out the stumps. The nutrient rich soil/leaf mould is then stripped off to get back to the basic seed bed. Ling heather is already coming through and it is hoped that we will see Bell heather in time.

It is hoped that this heathland will encourage Nightjar and Woodlark to nest there; also this environment will increase biodiversity and be good for Green Tiger Beetles, Bumble Bees; Wasps and Solitary Bees.

There will be some thinning of the woodland around this heathland area - in all some 15 hectares. In 1860 this heathland would have been managed by gorse cutting (gorse was used for fires and bedding) and animal grazing. We will cut the heather using a tractor and it is hoped that maybe some native breeds of cattle can be introduced to graze this heathland.

Ranger Richard with his catapult to collect seeds

Felbrigg rangers help save nation's beech trees 

Felbrigg's rangers have been helping to ensure the survival of Norfolk's rare beech trees.

Video

Caring for Felbrigg's oldest tree

The Sessile Oak is probably the oldest tree on the Felbrigg Estate. It was most likely planted in the 1500s, when Henry VII started an oak planting scheme to produce more oak to build ships. Now we're carrying out work to extend its life.