HELLO AND THANK YOU FOR VISITING NORFOK NATURE SAFARI. The website is intended to be an adventure through Norfolk's natural history, engaging with the habitats and wild creatures that live here, and not only those that are regarded as rare or endangered, existing in protected areas and sanctuaries, but also those that are regularly taken for granted or seldom talked about; animals that we see often but think about very little.
We rove across the East Anglian Plain that contains the last remnants of the region's ancient broad leaved woodland, to Britain's largest swamp, the iconic Norfolk Broadland; through the unique semi-continental Breckland landscape to the outstanding Norfolk Coastline; it's a safari across one of England's most environmentally diverse counties.
Many outsiders see the county of Norfolk -- and indeed many that live within it -- as a bucolic landscape, void of breathtaking vistas and scenic beauty. This is almost certainly due to the relative flatness of the terrain and profusion of arable farmland, inherently 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 22 of England's 226 National Nature Reserves.
The reason behind this unusually high number of National Nature Reserves in one county can be attributed 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 outstanding coastline which holds two estuaries and precious hectares of unspoilt salt marsh; and not forgetting the intensively farmed East Anglian Plain, hiding rare ancient woodland, wild flower meadows and some of the county's most charismatic fauna.
Modern society is changing at a rapid pace, something that we are all a part of and responsible for, whether we like to admit it or not. How we adapt to this change is crucial to our own future and the environment in which we live but it will also affect the lives and very existence of the wildlife living beside us. The habitats that they need to survive are under great pressure from a swelling human population demanding 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, more 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 precarious slack pools of Norfolk's diminishing heathlands and coastal dunes; both extraordinary animals with diverse, pernickety requirements for survival.
The natural multifariousness of the county makes it a very special place that needs to be appreciated, explored and protected, not only by landowners and officials but also by the people living within it. Many organisations already work extremely hard to achieve this goal and there is no doubt that public awareness of diminishing natural areas has been well documented over recent years. However, these media driven approaches can often seem impersonal and lacking in emotion, released through press offices for necessity's sake or to raise money and funding for unnecessary acquisitions.
Occasionally a personal approach can put a fresh face on highlighting what damage can be done if attitudes and lifestyles are not moderated towards a sustainable future. Norfolk Nature Safari is just that, an introspective view of Norfolk's flora, fauna and landscapes, singling out its natural history, its unique diversity and its fragility in a bid to engage and at the same time call attention to what we are responsible for and what we can lose.
Pink footed geese taking to the air at dusk is reason enough to visit Norfolk's farmland during the winter. The gaggle will increase as they fly across open fields, collecting other feeding flocks on route to their favoured nighttimes' roosts: the coastal mudflats and grazing marshes.
Red deer stags are the largest wild land animals you will encounter in Norfolk. This impressive individual is emerging from the shelter of Thetford Forest to compete for hinds during the autumnal rut.
Two of Norfolk's most valuable crops, barley and sugar beet, grow side-by-side under sprawling open skies. All is not monocultures however, as the fat hen growing through the middle of the field will provide a safe haven for many pollinating invertebrates.
Exploring The Wild Side Of Norfolk's Countryside and Landscapes
The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago... had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands.
Havelock Ellis, "The Dance of Life", 1923