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

Friday, 29 July 2011

Charette's return?

A year after Broadland Land Group spent a vast sum on Andres Duany's services in heading their 'charette', it seems they are about to do it all over again. Their first attempt having seriously backfired, they have dropped Duany and engaged Matrix Partnership, another expensive, but English-based planning consultancy.

Matrix has published a very meagre summary of its take on Thorpe Wood on its website:

Note that Matrix are perpetuating Duany's and BLG's long-discredited description of the woods as "a former pine plantation". Whether this is how they see the woods themselves (IF they've seen the woods themselves!), or whether this wording was dictated by BLG, we have no way of knowing - but we can guess!

The most striking thing about Matrix's website is the plan-view image showing how the development would look. It has clearly been decided that by sacrificing Belmore and Brown's Plantations, BLG stand a better chance of gaining some support for obliterating Racecourse.

Obliterating is not too strong a word to use: it is hard to see, on Matrix's scribbled impression, just what would go where. But close inspection reveals that Racecourse (we've outlined the boundary in red to make it clearer) would be cut in two by a major road cutting through the wood and meadowland to its north, just east of Greenborough Road. They call this an 'inner link road'. On both sides of the road, practically the whole of Racecourse wood would be turned into housing estate, just like before. A bit of green to the east and south hints at some tree retention and softens the impression a little - but no matter how you look at it, Racecourse, with all it's rich wildlife is gone.

Elsewhere on the Matrix website, references can be found to their liking for, among other things, charettes. So maybe the people of Thorpe and Norwich will be treated to yet another charade, again cleverly designed to lull people into believing that the wood really isn't much good, and will be enhanced by building all over it.

Interestingly, Broadland District Council were unaware of Matrix's involvement and knew nothing about the new plan concept until we told them. BLG had already blown their credibility in the eyes of the public long ago, but if any traces remained, these have now vanished. Last year they declared their sincere intention to keep the public informed of any changes: this proves their sincerity to be non-existent.

Monday, 18 July 2011

New Woodlands Photo Gallery

From today there's a new woodlands gallery (near top right of the Blog) with photography of everything from the smallest insects to great oaks.
This will be a growing record of the many species to be found in Racecourse, Belmore and Brown's. As such we would love to add any photos that you might have taken around these woods, especially anything that isn't recorded here, whether that be a favourite view, tree, wildlife from deer to "difficult to photograph" dragonflies or plants you haven't seen before. If you don't have photos to add you might be able to help identify species by leaving a note below any picture.

Check out the photos and if you have any you'd like to add, you can email them to:

or phone me: Paul on 01603 449839 and I'll help with either scanning or transferring to the


Thursday, 14 July 2011

Owls and Glow Worms in Racecourse Wood

I set out first to take the pictures of the Glow Worms in Racecourse Wood after first coming across them in mid May, having only seen them before on the Purbeck Coast on the path between LangtonMatravers and Dancing ledge. A beautiful unspoilt protected stretch of Dorset coastline, so I was excited to find them here.
First attempts to photograph were with a compact camera, had a good macro setting but longest exposure of only a second or so. Feeling very strongly about the threat that hangs over this remarkable place, I decided to have a better go with a more versatile camera.
I found half a dozen or more on the next warm dark night in June and got the brightest pics between 11pm and 12.30.
The Tawny Owls I didn't expect to catch, going out one evening to photograph the woods skyline at dusk, but heard the 'whispy shreeks' near the main path as I first walked in and the young Tawny Owl stayed in one then another tree near the path while I struggled to find him (or her) by taking photos with the flash, expecting it to fly off all the time, and getting used to the manual exposure settings on the camera.
The picture of the two Tawny Owls in the Oak tree, I got on a second night after following them quietly but clumsily for half an hour stumbling through ferns, pine and bramble until they settled on this low branch.
These pictures are a limited attempt at showing some of the beautiful 'real world' we still have living alongside our increasingly unsustainable one. The life in this wood is completely self sufficient and is thriving.
Unlike our world which (although we forget) depends on nature for it's existence. Nature, and maybe most importantly, the Bees that pollinate our plants, are declining.
The Racecourse Woods of this world must not be an opportunity for the rich to sustain their wealth
in a desperate further sell off, blind to anything but short term greed.
Take time if you can to explore and escape into a little piece of the nature that we have left.

Monday, 11 July 2011


July 13th 2010 was the last day of the 'Belmore Park Charette'. It seems hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since Andres Duany's 'final presentation' on the benefits of Broadland Land Group's scheme. Mr Duany spoke for nearly three hours, and managed to avoid any questions on the woodland's ecology for the first two and three-quarters.

Jerome Mayhew, who introduced the presentation told us how the woods were not really woods but "commercial crops to be harvested", a theme picked up by Duany who tried to explain away the unpopularity of his clients scheme by declaring, astutely: "The controversy is that it's wooded". He went on to sweep this irritating trivia under the carpet by repeating that these 'woods' are merely plantations whose useful lives had expired.

Mr Duany went out of his way to inform us how much better the woods would be following their development, and launched into microscopically detailed descriptions of square roundabouts, back-yard parking areas, and how the housing estate would look like a combination of South Creake and a Georgian crescent. The wildlife would, if anything, be better off it seemed.

Towards the end a heated exchange took place between some of the audience and Duany. Audience members were forced to interrupt Duany's flow as, by 9.45pm it was obvious that he would talk about anything other than the woods until the building closed at 10. His suave persona deserted him as he floundered in unfamiliar waters, becoming increasingly angry at those demanding justification for the absurd claim that building a massive housing estate all over Racecourse Plantation would improve and enhance it. Even his own 'Masterplan', liberally splashed with friendly green and blue, couldn't hide the inescapable fact that Racecourse would be reduced to a shell, and the other two woods would be very largely suburbanised.

Mr Duany had promised at the beginning that all in attendance would receive a copy of the video recording that was being made of the presentation. Afterwards we were reassured by his assistants that it would be made available "in a few days".

On 22nd September 2010, BLG wrote to Thorpe St Andrew Town Council, assuring the clerk that: "The full video recording will be available on our website shortly. We are, as you know, keen to maintain an open channel of discussion with the local community, and we will shortly be placing more information and details of the ideas that emerged through the Charette process on our website. We will of course keep you informed of any changes".

On October 1st 2010 they sent an email to FTW supporters who had repeatedly asked when they'd get to see the recording (and who had also sought assurances that the recording would not be edited and sanitised). That email said: "We are sorry it has taken so very long to get the video up onto our website, we have in fact had to change our website providers in order to do this, we really do hope to have it up and running within the next few days. The charette and final presentation were all fully public events: to present an edited and sanitised version would be completely counter to our approach".

We can only judge them by what they have done or failed to do, against what they promised. Did they keep TSATC "informed of any changes"? No. Not even when they changed the number of houses to be built from 631 to 800.

After an entire year there is still no sign of the recording, or any other information. Despite innumerable requests and reminders, nobody from BLG has replied to any messages since last October. Nothing has been added to their website since the last day of their charette. We can only assume that they've realised the only thing to do when in a hole is to stop digging.

After a year, a lot has been acheived towards the goal of saving the woods. Since FTW was formed last August the campaign has communicated clear, factual information to a very wide audience. Virtually everyone in the Thorpe, Heartsease, Thorpe End and Dussindale areas is now well aware of the threat to the woods and the campaign to save them. FTW has succeeded in correcting the numerous misunderstandings among the local community that were generated through BLG's charette. Nobody any longer believes the woods to be tedious overgrown Xmas tree plantations; everybody wants the woods to remain intact rather than see them bulldozed for a housing estate. Thorpe's district councillors have been concerned about the threat from the start, and have worked hard to help the flow of information between their electorate and Broadland District Council. The campaign has received help from many people, not all of them local, including printers, pilots, graphic designers, photographers, artists, ecologists, botanists, landscape historians, cartographers and many others. There have been several events organised and very well attended by local people. The Evening News and EDP have covered the campaign very fairly. This blog has become a popular source of information not only locally but far and wide.

Surveys of the woods have been undertaken to assess the full extent and significance of their biodiversity: we hope to have the results collated and in publishable form before much longer. We are almost ready to publish an updated species list, which now includes considerably more flora and fauna than the original. This will appear as a link on the right-hand side of the blog, with a special post introducing it.

The campaign's relentless pursuit of the truth has exposed BLG for both what they are and what they're not. It has turned out they are not - as it seemed to many a year ago - a group of sincere, earnest and open characters who found themselves faced with a genuine dilemma: an urgent need to do something with the worthless plantations they'd found themselves lumbered with, and who wanted to keep as much of the woodland as possible for public benefit by earning an honest crust from a little bit of development. We haven't forgotten their careless admission, on July 7th last year, that they actually make a "small profit" from the woods as they stand. It has become clear that they are simply a group of wealthy individuals who have spotted an opportunity to become even wealthier by turning the woods so many people love, and which are of enormous ecological importance, into a housing estate.

They may have become silent, but they have not gone away. Millions of pounds are at stake, and their failed attempt to win-over the public won't stop them. All who care about the woods must remain vigilant. Keep watching the blog for updates and, if you'd like to help in any way, from writing a letter or email to delivering leaflets, please get your name on the FTW contacts list by emailing Lorna on:

Friday, 8 July 2011

Tree Warden Walk Update

Last weeks Tree Warden walk was a big success.

In spite of bad weather between 80 to 100 people turned up at Belmore Woods.

Marion Amos, Thorpe St Andrew Tree Warden, led the walk and pointed out many of the fascinating and beautiful species present in Belmore woods.

As many of you will know the owners of the wood, The Broadland Land Group (BLG), plan to build over at least a third of Belmore woods and therefore it was a surprise to see one of their number in the form of Gail Mayhew (who is married to one of the Trustees) on the walk.

At the end of the walk some of the Friends tried once again to ask her about BLG's plans but she refused to answer any questions.

The walk was covered in The Eastern Evening News on the 1st of July (please see attached) which once again highlighted the love that local people have for this 'popular beauty spot'.

We would like to thank Marion Amos and Steven Ford for organising the walk, Neil Evans for telling us about the history of the Second World War bunker located in the woods and everybody who turned up.

Hopefully we will be able to join the wardens for another walk before too long around Racecourse woods.