Many outsiders see the county of Norfolk, and indeed many that live within it, as an agricultural land, void of vistas and scenic beauty. This is due to the relative flatness of the terrain and profundity of arable farmland, lacking the rolling, verdant hillsides of the western counties of Britain or the ruggedness of the northern Shires. However, those people that know Norfolk well or are able to look at this spacious landscape with an open mind will recognise that it is a diverse place, full of hidden wonders and unique habitats. Indeed, it is one of the most important counties within the British Isles for wildlife, containing no fewer than 20 of England's 224 National Nature Reserves.
Change is ahead of us all; this is something we cannot avoid. How we adapt to this change is crucial to our future and the environment in which we live but it will also affect the lives and very existence of the wildlife living with us. The habitats that they need are under great pressure from a swelling human population that demands more energy, more water, more food and more recreational areas for their families and friends, often with little thought to where and how these resources are gathered.
It is imperative that we learn to understand the needs of the wild animals that we share Norfolk with and refrain from encroaching into their living spaces more than we need to. However, Norfolk Nature Safari is not an attempt to preach the values of habitat conservation with a draconian mindset but a reason to get enthused about our surroundings and marvel at what a special place this county is. Why not begin an exploration of Norfolk's special wildlife and unique habitats on these pages before heading outdoors to discover them in a wild place, close to where you live.
Such a variety of unique habitats creates niche areas for wildlife specialists to take hold, the swallowtail butterfly of the Norfolk Broads for example, or the extremely rare natterjack toad finding refuge in the precious slack pools of heathland and dune; extraordinary animals with diverse requirements for survival. The multifariousness of the county makes it a very special place that needs to be understood, explored and protected, not only by landowners and officials but also by the people living within it.
The reason behind this unusually high number of National Nature Reserves in one county is due mainly to the extraordinary number of different natural habitats apparent in such a small space; from the comparatively arid Breckland with its heaths and ice-aged pingos to the unique wetlands of the Norfolk Broads; the many miles of coastline which holds two estuaries and precious hectares of unspoilt salt marsh; or the intensively farmed East Anglian Plain, hiding rare ancient woodland and wild flower meadows.