Controversial park tennis courts site ‘home to 130 wildlife species’

Citizen scientists conducted a wildlife survey in the former grass tennis courts in Heigham Park in Norwich.

Citizen scientists conducted a wildlife survey in the former grass tennis courts in Norwich. - Credit: Heigham Park Consultation

A meadow in a Norwich park that has been earmarked for hard tennis courts is home to at least 130 different species, it is claimed.

Campaigners have called for a proper consultation to be held over the future of the former Heigham Park site, which was used as Norwich’s last public grass courts until 2017.

Citizen scientists conducted a wildlife survey in the former grass tennis courts in Norwich.

Citizen scientists conducted a wildlife survey in the former grass tennis courts in Norwich. - Credit: Heigham Park Consultation

Citizen scientists, led by specialist ecologists, were given access to conduct a wildlife survey at the former courts on August 2.

Survey leader and ecologist Sarah Gelpke said: “The purpose of this survey was to establish and evidence the change in ecological conditions of the site since the last ecological survey and report were done in 2018, when the site was described as of ‘low ecological quality’.

“Since this initial survey, the tennis court area has developed into a wildflower and grass meadow, with an astonishing range of plant and animal biodiversity.”

Heigham Park

56 kinds of flowering plants and six kinds of grasses were among species found at former tennis courts. - Credit: Heigham Park Consultation

The survey identified and catalogued 56 kinds of flowering plants including lesser hawkbit, six kinds of grasses, and 12 kinds of trees and shrubs from goat willow to tree of heaven.


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Animals identified as being present included woodmouse, hedgehog, yellow-necked mouse, common shrew and Eurasian pygmy shrew.

They also observed 11 species of pollinators – bees and hoverflies, 16 kinds of invertebrates including five kinds of butterfly, and 18 kinds of dragon and damselflies, from the Norfolk hawker to the ruddy darter.

Heigham Park tennis court site

130 different species were found during survey of Heigham Park tennis court site. - Credit: Heigham Park Consultation

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A night-time bat survey revealed the presence of species, common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle and brown long-eared bat, and possibly three others the alcathoe, Brandt’s bat, and whiskered bat.

Peter Cutting, a participant in the survey, and member of the Heigham Park Consultation group, which is asking for a consultation to take place over the area’s future, said: “We knew this grassy area was rich in wildlife, but not this rich. 

Dog on the former grass courts which have become a meadow

The former grass courts have become a meadow - Credit: George Thompson

“We call upon the council, in line with its stated environmental policy, to pause this project and consider fully the value of what it has here.”

The group hopes the finding will support the case for a fresh consultation over the contested construction of hard courts that would cover more than two thirds of the wildflower meadow.

130 different species were found during survey of Heigham Park tennis court site.

130 different species were found during survey of Heigham Park tennis court site. - Credit: Heigham Park Consultation

Norwich City Council has previously said it carried out all statutory work associated with the scheme throughout, including a “rigorous planning process”.


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