Photographs of Thorpe woodlands, their varied habitats, plantlife and wildlife all taken by friends and supporters. most taken between 2010 and 2013

Friday, 23 July 2010

About the campaign to save Thorpe Woodlands

The story so far

The three woodlands (Racecourse, Belmore and Brown’s Plantations) are in Thorpe St Andrew, just outside Norwich. Their total area is 205 acres (82 hectares), and together they form the largest area of woodland within several miles of Norwich. The woodlands are owned by the Thorpe & Felthorpe Trust, the Trustees of which are five members of the Gurney family. The Trust has made clear its intention to seek planning permission for 631 ‘units’ covering most of Racecourse Plantation and large parts of Belmore and Brown’s Plantations (see development Masterplan below).

The Trustees held a series of public events between 5th & 13th July 2010 under the name of the ‘Belmore Park Charrette’ . During the ‘charrette’ the Trustees and their agent (Andres Duany of Duany Plater-Zyberk), made a number of important claims, including:

• That the woodlands shouldn’t be considered woodlands because they are merely commercial forestry plantations intended to be harvested, like an arable crop
• That the plantations were planted after World War II
• That the cost of managing the plantations is high, and continuing to manage them is becoming increasingly economically unviable
• That without continuing management the wildlife habitat value of the plantations, which they say is already not very high, would decline even further
• That they are faced with no alternative but to find alternative uses for the land which would enable them to make a profit
• That it is a legal obligation, under the terms of the Trust, that the land must make a profit for the benefit of the Trustees (ie: themselves)

However, these claims were ill-informed and highly misleading. The facts are:

• Contrary to the Trustees’ assertions, the woodlands were not planted after WWII but have been there for at least 130 years: they are shown with virtually identical boundaries on the 1882 Ordnance Survey map (see below)

• Rather than being coniferous plantation typical of commercial forestry, the woodlands are generally semi-natural broadleaved, with a wide range of native and naturalised species of a wide range of ages.

• The ecological value of the woodlands is actually very high. This fact is recognised by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust which designated the whole wooded area a County Wildlife Site (CWS) in 1997.
• There is no visible evidence of any management having taken place for many years, other than simple extraction of saleable timber. There are no signs of any replanting having taken place.

• Alternatives do exist which would generate income from the woodlands without destroying them. For example, woodfuel coppicing would not only be a profitable enterprise but would also benefit the woodlands’ ecosystems and provide carbon-neutral fuel to the local area on a permanently sustainable basis.

The Thorpe woodlands are an extremely important natural resource in their own right, as well as for their unique habitat value and their significance to local people. They are officially recognised as an area of special landscape value in the Broadland District Council (BDC) Local Plan. They are also listed as an area of ‘core biodiversity value’.

Building in the woodlands would completely destroy the ecological value of all of the habitat where houses, roads and gardens were to go. Outside land directly affected by built development, eg: retained fragments of woodland, the habitat quality would fall dramatically and become incapable of sustaining most of the important species currently to be found.

The development proposals are an outrage and everyone who values these woodlands, or woodlands and wildlife in general, should do what they can to oppose them. Look out on this blog for details of how you can get involved in the campaign; forthcoming meetings & events; details of who to write to / email / phone to make your voice heard, and for further information on the woodlands themselves.

We invite supporters of the campaign to submit their views using the comments link below.


  1. Tell us about the wildlife you have seen in the woods
    I think it would be interesting to compile a list of all the birds and animals seen by people whilst walking in Thorpe woodlands, so do please let us know what you have spotted.
    I shall start the ball rolling:
    Tawny owl
    Black Cap
    Sparrow Hawk
    Grass snake
    Song Thrush
    Muntjac deer
    Greater Spotted Woodpecker

  2. Last year we heard this loud screeching noise and looking up, we saw a kestrel with a young rabbit in its beak being chased by another kestrel. They came round three times in their chase. Also:
    large groups of long tailed tits
    red deer

  3. squirells

    nice blog thanks for the work you are putting in lorna and john, i hope the woods are saved.

  4. Well done John, you have all our support to prevent the destruction of this vital woodland and green lung for Norwich. Will Broadland DC and the developers ever learn about "quality of life" instead of profit

  5. Yes well done John,
    I first played in these woods 30 years ago & am fully behind the campaign to keep them as they are. As for the Charrette process, a very clever way to sell a developement. I fear some were taken in judging by a few comments on the final meeting at Duke Street but lets hope not too many.

  6. Today in Belmore Plantation I saw a slow worm and a vole. I once found a gold pocket watch which was valued at around £100 and was Victorian in origin. I found this in undergrowth near the lane bordered by larch trees. This proves that these woodlands were used long before WW2.

  7. Thanks so much for the info. We must keep on the case and tell as many people as possible, so many locals know nothing.
    Went for a long walk in the woods last week. Came across some felled redwoods, and have asked the trust why. They are just left on the ground almost covered by undergrowth. Saw a tiny green frog about the size of my thumbnail, dont know enough to say what it was, sorry.

  8. Nightingales have been heard singing in Racecourse Plantation quite recently.

  9. It's very important that people realise that there is a very definite option to say NO to building over the woodlands and that it's not a matter of trying to make the best deal as to how many houses are built, as the Gurneys and the Charrette process would try and make people believe. Unbeknown to most of us, the Gurneys have been trying to get planning permission to build on the woods repeatedly for years and have always been turned down, if we all stand together and say no there is no reason why, once again, their plans will be refused.
    Please do spead this message to all you know, it's so important.

  10. also seen
    frogs & toads
    various tits
    dragonflies & damselflies

    There is:
    wild garlic, borage, comfrey, bluebells, snowdrops of several varieties, daffodils, crocus, violets white & purple, ground ivy, dead nettle, herb robert, st john's wort, wild geranium, wild rose, chickweed

    wild raspberries, gooseberries, red currents, blackberries,

    rowen, oak, beech, chestnut, horse chestnut, hazel, holly, wild honeysuckle, birch, ash, alder, sycamore, elder

    There is so many more too... a few years back I did see foxgloves, but since they massacred the woodland on racecourse plantation I haven't seen any :(

    They say they manage the woodland, those of us that have walked through on regular basis know this is not true. The hazel shows evidence it was once coppiced, but I have not seen them do this in years. (I have been here for over 18years) There are NO new trees apart from those which have naturally seeded.

    When they last felled trees in Racecourse Plantation, it was a crime that brought tears to many. They used large heavy machinery which not only ripped up the trees, ran along the trunks stripping branches then cut into logs. The Machinery also dug deep trenches where it travelled due to the weight, destroying pathways, young and older saplings, and the wild habitat.

    The wildlife hid and many species were distant for ages during and after the felling. Plus it was also done at a time when animals such as foxes and birds would have had their young.

    How can this be called woodland management? Sustainable?
    Most importantly they say that the management only has been breaking even. Why did they do all of the above and then leave most of the wood they cut down, (perfectly good wood for using as timber) to rot in the woods!

  11. The woodland must be saved. However it is no co-incidence that the Broadland Land Group have chosen now to try to obtain planning permission, with the North East growth triangle and the obsession for mass housing that Broadland District Council have developed over the last decade being the catalyst. Lorna is right that we must all stand together against the Belmore application but we also need to stand together against the huge growth proposed in this area as a whole.

  12. All this pressure for building development, whether it’s at Thorpe St. Andrew, Rackheath, Wymondham, Attleborough or somewhere else, is all based upon a crazy and irrational urge on the part of our Councils – for material growth at any cost. The argument is that we’ve got to have lots more houses for lots more workers, for lots more industries, for lots more wealth that all Norfolk needs all the time and endlessly into the future.

    It’s obviously balmy, but in a way one can’t blame them, because the same madness drives our bankrupt national government too. Yet the planet is already over-populated by us, over-polluted by us, over-heated by us, and its resources over-exploited by us – all because of this madness. And this country is one of the maddest. It’s indisputably wrecking the planet, and we haven’t much hope of finding another one in time, even if it were morally acceptable to evacuate to one, leaving this wreck behind.

    All airy-fairy stuff, isn’t it? Until you realise that this demented fantasy of material growth is the basis on which capitalism rests. Without it capitalism would crumble. And capitalism is the only system we know and trust, by which to run the country. No matter that I have just proved to you that it’s deservedly doomed, we have no other recognisable system of managing our country’s affairs.

    Our vision in opposing this development - that we ought to oppose the accumulation of material quantity in order to conserve some quality instead - is deeply heretical.

    So, as I wave my SNUB placard, practise hugging trees in Belmore Park and paint a banner to drop from Heathersett water tower, I have to understand that I am a dangerous revolutionary. So I must expect things to be tough, because the establishment is going to feel deeply threatened by me.

    I have some spare placards, and I hope you’ll join me hugging the trees; but let us be under no illusion about what we’re up against.

  13. These woods are a great asset to the look and distinctive feel of this eastern side of Norwich. They contribute enormously to the quality of life in the neighbouring parishes. Stand out late on a summer evening and hear the racket of the owls and see the swooping and twisting of the bats;joys to behold indeed.

  14. the wood has ,and still being used by a field archery club called broadland bowmen ,who have been using this wood for almost 30 years,maybe more,

  15. Would an application for lottery funding enable the Norfolk Wildlife Trust to purchase the woods? After all, if the current trustees are losing money we wouldn't want them to suffer any more financial hardship than they have to. Poor things. :-)

  16. How great it is to know that there are still some full blooded British people within our community,who will do battle to preserve what remains of our natural heritage. It would seem that no matter where one goes within Norfolk these days, every where you look there is nothing but destruction of our heritage and what remains of our wonderful unique countryside and wildlife. Infills with the loss of green fields to both concrete, bricks and mortar,is being carried out under the guise of progress, when infact it is blatant profiteering and shear financial greed, by speculators, and others who continue to allow it happen, by looking the other way. Such as those who were elected to look after the interest for the members of constituencies, but are walking the corridors of Westminster and the Council Offices gleefully rubbing their hands on receipt of their expenses. Good luck to all those that that are fighting to save these wonderful trees, woodlands, and wildlife. Hopefully they will win the day, and take over complete control, away from the so called existing trustees