Upton Fen (11th June 2011)

Meadow Brown

Red Admiral






Norfolk Hawker




15 Members arrived at the Low Road, South Walsham car park to be met by George Taylor former warden of the reserve. George started by filling us in on some of the history of the reserve from quite modest beginnings when he first became warden to the much more extensive area that forms the reserve today. We also learnt of the flooded medieval peat digging that had formed Upton Broad and the rather scary fact that we were standing on vegetation that was 'floating' on several feet of liquid mud which accounted for the description of the area as 'quaking fen' and meant that we could feel the vibrations created by each other as we moved about, even on some of the paths.

It all looks as if it's left to nature to do what it wants but the vegetation is in fact managed by such things as cutting some areas and removing the debris to maintain poor nutrient levels which enables the interesting less vigorous species of plants to thrive. Historically this was achieved as a by product of the reed etc being cut and transported to London for the many horses that lived and worked in the capital. Left to it's own devices the reserve would be gradually taken over by trees so some of the wet woodland is cleared to maintain open areas of water and fen with the occasional dead trees being left in strategic places to give such birds as Marsh Harriers a perch where they could be easily seen by visitors.

We were hoping to see Swallowtail butterflies that had apparently been about in good numbers the previous day but were keeping themselves out of sight during our visit, however as the morning warmed up a bit we were able to observe a number of dragonflies including Norfolk Hawkers hunting for a late breakfast and a Hobby was also seen hunting the hunters.

Having a knowledgeable guide meant that we were able to identify many of the flowers and plants that we saw (I was particularly please to find a marsh pea which George identified). Orchids were in full flower for our visit but were more difficult to identify as they cross breed so many had the characteristics of more than one member of the orchid family.

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