Did you know there were 20 different kinds of buttercup? Me neither. But thanks to Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Gemma Walker, the Train Wood plant hunters do now.
On Sunday morning she came out bright and early with us on our first ever plant survey. We bumped into all sorts of people (as you do in Train Wood) – from the former senior curator of Natural History at Norwich Museum, Dr Tony Irwin, who wished us well – to a guerrilla conservationist, who we discovered (somewhat to her displeasure) deep in a hitherto unexplored area of the wood, clearing brambles alone and in secret. She wishes to remain nameless, and we wish her well in her task.
Many families, dog walkers, cyclists and runners also stopped and said hello to the four of us, and our number grew as family and friends joined in.
But back to the plants. There were hundreds. It was hard to get round the wood when you had to keep stopping to poke, prod and wonder; and identifying them soon became interesting, then a bit addictive.
Gemma had a tale to tell about many. Like Herb Robert, so named by an enemy of the said Robert because it is rather smelly. Or Fireweed, aka Rose Bay Willow Herb, often found near train stations. Or Hemlock, which Socrates was forced to drink one teaspoonful of, to put him to death (there is a patch just by the Marriott’s Way, so beware).
Identifying can be straightforward or it can be tricky. In the case of our special buttercup, it is easy – it has downward-pointing sepals (the bits under the petals) – which makes it a rather special Bulbous Buttercup. I did take a picture, but it blazed so golden in the sunlight that of all the shots, it was blurred.
It was fascinating to find so many currants and berries in the wood – red, white and black currant, and raspberries along the bank of the river – as well as brambles everywhere, and appleblossom too. This place used to be partly allotments, which might explain it – but Gemma mentioned that redcurrant is also a native plant of wet woodland.
Plants are of course the basis of life, and there was plenty of wildlife in the wood as well. We were serenaded by Black caps, Blackbirds and a Song thrush; a Stock Dove purred its gentle hoots, and then wood pigeon joined in. A robin followed us for a bit, and we saw a moorhen sitting on its nest, artfully constructed in tree branches overhanging but not in the water. When the babies hatch, they jump out of the nest straight in to the river.
Everywhere, insects were after the first nectar – a male orange tip butterfly, sunning itself and revealing its amazing patterned underwings (it lays its eggs on garlic mustard, which we also saw); a red tailed bumble bee and a bee fly (yes indeed, a fly that looks like a bee). It was great to share the sharp eyes and experience of the group. I never would have noticed the ‘Thrushes anvil’ – yellow and brown snail shells broken open on a hard spot where the increasingly rare bird brings its dinner to crack open.
At a conservative estimate, we counted about a hundred species of plant. As Train Wood’s very own Community Wildlife Surveyors, we’ll be listing and counting plants every month this summer, mapping all our findings with the help of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The results will be used to protect and enhance this wonderful wild wet and dry woodland, a nature oasis in the city. Do come and join us – and pop along to our BioBlitz on May 27th too.
John Batley of Friends Of Norwich City Station with an update on work to explore the railway heritage of the site…
We were back on site this weekend with superb progress on the end of the LNER engine shed.
By future removal of the earth/spoil/dredge pile at the end of the shed (by three meters), we will see the entire floor plan, and possibly the extended brick floor that was outside of the shed.
Underneath the 1946 LNER engine shed we have found the evidence of the 1882 Lynn and Fakenham shed which was there until its destruction in the bombing of the station in April 1942.
It goes to prove that the LNER built the new shed over the original shed floor. Even more impressive is that we have located fantastic remains of the still-buried platform 1 outer facing wall. This extends six meters past the end of the coal stage.
Some of the platform shows edging stones and dentine brick detailing which means some of the platform is to full height from the trackbed.
Find out more this May 27th, a very special day when the FONCs crew will be on site with more information, and there will be a chance to observe and record nature at the same time as part of the first ever Train Wood Bioblitz. There will be two railway walk and talks, and we will be laying flowers and holding a minute’s silence at the crash site of B24 Liberator ‘Lady Jane’, to mark the sacrifice 2nd Ralph Dooley and his crew made in November 1944 – yet more important history of this amazing area.
It was destroyed by bombs in the war. But now we’re planning to make Train Wood the target of a different kind of blitz.
The wood is to be the focus of attention by an army of citizen scientists and experts in nature and railway history later this spring.
We’ve teamed up with Norfolk Wildlife Trust to hold a ‘BioBlitz’.
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the event aims to record as many species possible in one day – 27 May – in the 12 acres of the wood. And there will be walks and talks on railway history too, harking back to the days when the site was Norwich’s ‘City Station’. The event will be suitable for all ages and all activities will be free.
The team met on site this week to plan the set of ‘stations’ where wildlife including plants, birds, trees, mosses and minibeasts will be spotted and recorded. We expect hundreds of people to turn up to help us, by taking tickets and walking the site recording as they go.
We’re aiming for at least 300 species, and the day will also feature railway walks and talks by the John Batley and his team at the Friends of Norwich City Station, and pond and river dipping by the Norfolk Rivers Trust. Bat walks, bird walks and tree walks are also planned.
We already have the support of lots of experts, including Patrick Barkham, author of The Butterfly Isles and Badgerlands, who said: “Train Wood hasn’t been surveyed for years. So this year’s BioBlitz is a great chance to experience the magic of discovery. Knowing our local nature is so important – it’s also fun!”
The main activities of the Train Wood BioBlitz will run from 11am – 4pm on 27 May 2017, with extra walks and talks planned from dawn till dusk. The latest details of the event will be posted here as it is organised.
Do get in touch if you would like to help out on the day!
Friends of Train Wood and Marriott’s Way are delighted to announce that they have been awarded £400 by the Goodman Trust for the purchase of tools. Norfolk Community Foundation helped the Friends apply for the cash. Chairman Alan Cubbage said: “This cash is a boost to help us restore and protect this precious woodland, which has been neglected in the past. We are aiming to help maintain and even increase species diversity and enable people to get involved in and enjoy one of Norwich’s best kept secrets, a rare wet and dry woodland by the lovely river Wensum.”
Lots got done by Friends of Train Wood and Marriott’s Way using the Bags of Help Grant at the end of last year – and many great partners and volunteers rallied round to help in the effort.
With the help of the Norwich Fringe Project, which supplied all tools, material and training, refreshments and Personal Protective Equipment, volunteers got busy tackling fishing platforms, clearing paths and installing new benches.
Two new fishing platforms were installed, others were repaired, eight new benches were put in and paths mowed. Our thanks go out to the Fringe Project and their volunteers who made it all possible.
Our thanks too, to volunteers from Aviva who also lent a hand installing benches one work day and to a group of pupils from Framingham Earl High School who installed another two benches near the Barn Road entrance.
The Trust for Conservation volunteers were also involved and helped by supporting the work of installing benches, on repairing the fishing platforms and cutting back the path and around the platforms. They also helped by leading the work on cutting and raking off the wildflower meadow.
Thanks to the Groundwork Trust and Tesco for the funding which made it possible.
Well over 150 people enjoyed the lovely Train Wood and Marriott’s Way in the sunshine at the first-ever Autumn Festival, opened in style by local TV presenter Helen McDermott.
Coffee, cake, nature and railway walks, woodland activities, impromptu music, Norwich Cycling Campaign, a nature trail and even a dog café drew the crowds all day.
The festival was organised by the Friends of Train Wood and Marriott’s Way to celebrate the rare urban woodland which they saved from sale by Norfolk County Council, and the progress made by the community to look after it. The group are one of the first in Norfolk to sign up to the Woodland Trust’s national Charter for Trees, Woods and People.
Held on the former engine sheds area near to the start of the Marriott’s Way at Barn Rd roundabout, Norwich, the event was supported by local pub the White Lion, which even put on a special menu for the occasion.
Helen McDermott cut the ribbon on one of the new benches that Friends of Marriott’s Way and Train Wood have installed thanks to funding the group won from Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme – which has also led to the installation of new fishing platforms and vital woodland work.
Former marathon runner Helen said: “It’s great to be down here and see what you are doing as a community group to take action and rescue this place – and I’ve never opened a bench before!”
Chairman Alan Cubbage paid tribute to the many helpers made the festival possible, including Friends of Norwich City Station, Norwich Cycling Campaign, Norwich Fringe Project and the Really Awesome Coffee van.
“People enjoyed two great walk and talks – on nature in the wood from Rose Baulcombe, and on the train heritage from John Batley. It was great to see everyone so involved. So big thanks to those guest speakers – and to the musicians including sax, guitar, drums and even a hurdy gurdy man. It has been a real team effort on the part of all the volunteers who are part of the Friends. But most of all thank you to all those who came along and made the event such fun.”
Three prizes were on offer – thanks to local baker Annie Grange for a big chocolate cake, Go Outdoors for a £25 voucher and Awesome Coffee for a big bag of coffee beans. They were won (respectively) by Jean Bishop, Miriam Barnett and Vicki Lambert.
New members joined Friends of Train Wood and Marriott’s Way on the day, and many surveys were also filled in about what people would like to see done to restore this important piece of city heritage – we’ll share in another post some of the many great ideas.
For now, here’s the words of some young participants. 10 year old Emily Doria said “I like that we are free to ride our bikes and run about with no traffic. More seats and picnic areas would be good!”
Jenny Hopkins said: “It’s a really long path and it’s fun and spooky. Plant more flowers.” while Iona Lincoln liked that “it is a wood and it is near a river,” but would like to see less dog poo.
Luke Chittenden liked that the wood “is big and has lots of funghi and mushrooms” and suggested putting hammocks in the willow trees and a children’s park in the wood.
If you would like to get involved, please contact us.
Thank you to management committee member Stuart McPherson for the photographs.
Plans are steaming ahead for an autumn festival to share the secrets of Norwich’s most unique urban woodland.
The fun, free festival in the wood at the start of Marriott’s Way, Norwich will start at 11am on 29th October and go on until 4pm.
As well as information about the wood, there will be refreshments, railway heritage walks, a prize treasure trail, woodland activities and a cake stall.
Norwich Cycling Campaign will be coming along to give more information and share their thoughts about how cycling in Norwich can be improved.
Bring your friends, come along and support the nature and heritage of this highly popular cycling and walking route, bordered by the incredible River Wensum, which only three years ago was under direct threat as the county council sought to sell it off.
Chairman Alan Cubbage said: “We are looking forward to welcoming members old, new and prospective, and many members of the public to have a look around the wood to see what we have been up to on their behalf since we fought and won the battle to keep it in public hands. We’ll be launching our new fishing platforms and showing off the benches we gained through applying for and winning funding from Tesco and the Groundwork Trust.”
Thanks to the success of our first-ever funding application, a series of eight hands-on work days will extend throughout September, to help restore wildness to the wood as well as providing places to fish and sit down and enjoy Norwich’s rarest woodland.
All are welcome to join in restoring fishing platforms on the bank of the River Wensum. The TCV and Aviva will also be lending a hand, helping to install four new benches, and mow paths and wildflower meadows.
Friends of Train Wood and Marriott’s Way chairman Alan Cubbage said:
“Having rescued this rare urban wood from sale, we have been busy litter picking and monitoring it. But we always wanted to go further for this special place. We asked people what they wanted, then with the backing of Norfolk County Council environment team officers, we put in a bid for funding to repair some of the derelict fishing platforms, build new benches and create wildflower meadows.”
“We are delighted to be able to get on with this work having applied for and won an £8,000 grant from Tesco and the Groundwork Trust’s Bags of Help initiative. We have asked Norwich Fringe Project to help us deliver this spruce up – the first of what we know will be a constant series of improvements to this long-neglected wood. It will be restored to be more natural and wild, to increase biodiversity and enjoyment for all.”
Train Wood community work day: all welcome
Repair fishing platforms 7 September 9.30am to 3pm Meet 9.30am at the Barn Road entrance to the Marriott’s Way. All tools, material and training and refreshments will be supplied. Bring your own packed lunch and wear walking boots, safety boots or wellingtons.
Did you know that Train Wood has bats?! It’s not really surprising that this long, narrow natural corridor is a haven for all sorts of wildlife.
Last year we did a bat survey which uncovered some interesting facts. Yet there is still so much to know. Do they navigate using the river? Do they feed on the wing? Do they sleep hanging upside down in the trees? Would they ever really get tangled in your hair?
Now is your chance to find out more. The first of Friends of Train Wood and Marriott’s Way’s upcoming events is a bat walk. Led by Michelle Fielden of Ecology Consultancy on Wednesday 31 August at 7.45pm, meet at the Barn Road entrance to the Marriott’s Way. Suitable for adults, and children aged 9+, who must be accompanied by adults. Cost £2 per adult, children free.