West Dereham Sign Gary Trouton


November 2009

A report on the September meeting of the West Dereham Heritage Group

On the 12th of September some members took part in the History Fair at St. Edmonds Church in Downham Market. The arrangements were set up by Janet Gough and was able to get us space from the organisers. It was an all day event and we were able to display many of the booklets that have been published during the past four years by group members. There was also a display of T shirts and mugs all embellished with emblems relating to West Dereham. There were lots of other villages represented including Fincham, Hilgay and Ten Mile Bank. There was a great deal of interest in our village from visitors many of whom were tracing family members. Useful contacts were made and some names were matched with the cottages where they lived in the mid part of the last century. (1950s)

There were activities throughout the day with guided tours of the Church and a group of Saxon re-enactors who dressed, displayed articles and weapons of the period.

Members who took part were, Janet who made all the arrangements along with Pam Bullas. Ruth Marsters, Jack Walker and Pam Walker and myself. Our regular meeting was held at the village hall on the 17th of September when the guest speaker was Dave White local promoter for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. He gave us an illustrated talk with the main emphasis on the wet lands of the Fens. The RSPB started as an organised Society in the 1880s when many birds were becoming extinct due to the demand for exotic feathers for the Ladies hat trade.

The Avocet had not been seen nesting for over 150 years and the Bittern was almost gone. Many of these birds were able to start breeding again during the second world war when many secret locations were set up along the coast line for testing and training purposes. The wet lands of the Fens once covered 1,300 square miles and in the late 20th. century almost all this acerage had been drained,the land being used for intensive agriculture. Over the past 50 years there has been great efforts by the Society to recover some of these areas and recreate what was there 400 years ago and put back small sites to the same condition they were in before the Adventurers started there draining work in the 17th & 18th centuries.

The Hanson Wetland Project has been instrumental in recreating reed bed fens at Needingworth Quarry and Lakenheath Fen which we visited on one of our outings a couple of years ago. These schemes also bring back the plants that loved the wet lands such as the cookcoo pint,water violet and common meadow rue. Other areas include Redmere, Whittlesea Fen, the Nene washes and Fen Drayton. As a consequence of all this work many of our rarer birds are coming in to breed in ever greater numbers and in particular those that are reed bed dwellers. Reed & Sedge Warblers, the Reed Bunting and Bitterns are just some of these.

The Golden Oriel has been nesting in the Black Poplars that remain at Lakenham Fen since 1967. The Bearded Tit has increased to 72 pairs and the Bittern has nested this year for the first time. Other birds included the Plover or Lapwing, Red Shank and Snipe have all been coming to the sites in numbers. Of the more exotic birds there are the Black Tailed Godwits and Yellow Wagtails who are summer migrants to our shores. Water Fowl abound of course with the Swans, Bewicks,Mute and Hooper, Ducks include Pintail, Widgeon,Potchard and Garganie. Birds of Prey find good pickings as well so in come the Marsh Harrier and the Merlin, Britain smallest predator bird.

In 2007 a pair of Cranes turned up and stayed the winter to be joined by a second pair a year later. One pair has raised a chick this year and the others managed to hatch off two chicks but subsequently lost them. Actually the best site to see Cranes is Heigham Holmes which is in East Norfolk and owned by the National Trust. It lies close to the village of Martham and covers about 500 acres,the boundaries of which have remained unchanged for 100s of years. It is open for only one day a year and is grazed by a tenants farmers cattle during the summer months. There are at least 20 pairs of Cranes and in the winter there are 18,000 Pink Footed Geese with a total wildfowl population of 22,000.

The meeting closed at 9.30pm after a vote of thanks given by our Chairman Jack Walker. The subject matter of the talk proved to be very popular with over 35 members and guests attending which also resulted in new members joining.


Richard C.French

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