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Massive expansion will make nature reserve world-class

Midsummer sun rising over Sculthorpe Moor nature reserve. Pictures: Andy Thompson.

Midsummer sun rising over Sculthorpe Moor nature reserve. Pictures: Andy Thompson.

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Almost 100 supporters gathered to celebrate the launch of a major three-year project aimed at making a nationally important nature reserve world-class.

A male marsh harrier in the mist at Sculthorpe Moor. Picture: Andrew ParkinsonA male marsh harrier in the mist at Sculthorpe Moor. Picture: Andrew Parkinson

Earlier this summer the Hawk and Owl Trust, which manages Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, near Fakenham, bought the two parcels of land adjoining the existing nature reserve, extending it from 45 acres to over 200 acres.

The land on either side of the reserve was bought using funds raised by the public and from major donors, as part of a £1.7m project.

Nigel Middleton, Sculthorpe Moor reserve manager, said: "It was 18 years ago, cutting my way onto the overgrown land of Sculthorpe Moor, whilst monitoring marsh harriers nesting in the valley of the River Wensum, that I first experienced what would become the reserve.

"From that point on I've dreamed and believed we could expand the reserve and turn it into a significant place for wildlife and community.

"To reach this point is just amazing, and we couldn't have done it without our fantastic volunteers."

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The existing reserve is important for its wildlife, with breeding marsh harriers, barn owls and a range of other birds of prey and owls making their homes in the area, which is also the H&OT's national headquarters.

The project will ensure that the new parts of the reserve will become equally attractive for wildlife such as marsh tits, brambling, cetti's warblers, bearded reedlings, bullfinches and kingfishers.

Wild flowers will be encouraged, meaning insects will be abundant and diverse and mammals including otter and water vole will make it their home.

Adrian Blumfield, chief operations director at the H&OT, said "The generosity of over 1,300 individual donors has allowed us to start to realise Nigel's vision for the reserve. Expanding the land is the first step. Now this drastic looking work will ensure a wonderful habitat for wildlife for the future. It will be astonishing how quickly this settles and starts attracting birds and other creatures."

Naturalist David Lindo launched the project on Monday, August 9, by digging the first buckets-full of soil from an area that will become a new open water scrape.

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