Hopes to turn hidden 'haven of wildness' into city nature reserve

Norfolk Wildlife Trust Sweet Briar Marshes Norwich

Norfolk Wildlife trust has announced its ambitions to turn Sweet Briar Marshes in Norwich into a nature reserve - Credit: Richard Osbourne

A hidden "haven of wildness" in Norwich could soon be protected for future generations thanks to the efforts of environmental campaigners.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) has announced its ambition to turn Sweet Briar Marshes into a "flagship nature reserve", helping to protect rare wildlife and connect city folk to nature. 

The conservation charity has launched an appeal to help this become a reality, and seeks to raise £600,000 for the project.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust plans to turn Sweet Briar Marsh into nature reserve

Representatives from Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Aviva and local community groups gathered on Sweet Briar Marsh on Tuesday - Credit: Archant 2022

The 90-acre site located next to the River Wensum to the west of the city is an area of disused farmland that has since become home to many rare species of birds, amphibians, insects and flowers.

Early in 2021, the plots were put up for sale for £500,000 which led to calls from the local community for the land to be protected. 

The land was purchased at the start of this year by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, which intervened to give NWT the chance to buy it if it can raise the funds.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust Sweet Briar Marshes Nature Reserve

Eliot Lyne, Norfolk Wildlife Trust CEO - Credit: Archant 2022

Eliot Lyne, NWT CEO, said: “We are inviting people to come together to create a wilder Norwich for all.  

“Urban wildlife is increasingly under threat from human impact, and nature exists in smaller and smaller disconnected pockets of wildness.

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"A flagship urban nature reserve of this scale will act as a vital stepping stone for wildlife in an otherwise urban landscape, giving wildlife in Norwich a better chance to survive and thrive. 

“Sweet Briar Marshes will provide local communities with a valuable connection to the natural world, and with 40 schools within two miles of the site, local children will grow up happier, healthier, and better connected to nature too."

Sweet Briar Marshes Norfolk Wildlife trust Nature Reserve Project Norwich

Sweet Briar Marshes is a mosaic of fen, rough meadow, grazing marsh, old hedgerows and young woodland, and is home to rare and scarce species like the water vole, orchids, willow warbler and snipe. - Credit: Richard Osbourne

The site is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) but has become increasingly surrounded by urban development. 

It has long been valued by the local community, who have campaigned for many years to save the site.

Lucy Galvin, chair of Marlpit Community Centre, said: "We are beyond delighted that (NWT) has responded and stepped up with this bold move, to save this incredible wilderness which is treasured by local people.” 

Insurance giant Aviva has pledged up to £300,000 in match funding, offering a boost to NWT's ambitions for the land. 

Donations to the appeal can be made here.