Holt Lowes with Simon Harrap (10th July 2011)

Alkaline bog in valley bottom

Horse tail

Louse wort

Marsh Thistle in fen mire

Recent management

Alder Buckthorn

Fragrant Orchid

Ground water measurement

Marsh Heleborine

Ten world war 2 mortar bombs

Holt Lowes – originally allocated to the ‘poor of the parish’ - is administered by a board of trustees with the NWT as tenants. The Lowes had three areas – dry land covered in birch and oak – fen and bog mire – and wet woodland. The trustees are now trying to convert 25 acres of dry land back to the original heath land. 1946 aerial photos show no trees, the woodland having grown up since. On the first part we saw all the trees and shrubs have been removed along with thousands of tons of humus, although on the next slope only trees and not the humus because archaeological surveys had found potential ‘pot boilers’ there. A constant battle with bracken, gorse, birch and now worryingly rhododendron is ongoing.

On reaching the fen and bog mire we were treated to a sight of the keeled skimmer dragonfly and had pointed out the alder buckthorn which has been retained for the brimstone butterfly.

Although woodland had taken over most the site there was one area of more alkaline soil where there was an open area with completely different flora and no trees. Simon was pleased that the marsh fragrant orchid was increasing in numbers. We counted 28 spikes in one area alongside swathes of common spotted orchids and some marsh heleborines.

Around the edge of the Lowes is some wet woodland where interestingly the rarest plants can be found. We saw the rare wood horsetail which has ‘branches off branches’ unlike the garden ‘marestails’ giving it a more delicate feathery look.

Near here we met people from the Norfolk Conservation Corps who had just found 11 unexploded WW2 mortar bombs – probably dug up by metal detectorists. This area was used by the military for training during both wars and several bomb craters can be seen as well. We left Simon waiting for the police to arrive and deal with the bombs! [Simon adds: ‘In the end 13 mortar shells were destroyed by the bomb disposal people on Sunday evening. They were smoke bombs, and had probably already gone off, but they said you never know....’]

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