3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to EDP Norfolk today click here

The pace of nature

PUBLISHED: 05:28 26 January 2015

Veteran iced oak  by Neville Yardy

Veteran iced oak by Neville Yardy

© Richard Osbourne

A visit to Thursford Wood puts time in perspective for Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s wildlife evangelist Nick Acheson.

It is grey and cold today; that cold that lingers in fingers and clasps faces in a raw embrace. The tops of the trees are lost in this midwinter gloom; I too lost in a mind-winter of my own. Even pugnacious robins keep their thoughts to themselves today, saving their sad songs for happier days. The home of these unwontedly silent robins is NWT Thursford Wood, in the valley of the River Stiffkey in north Norfolk. In this ancient pasture wood are oaks believed to have grown here for more than 500 years, and possibly much longer still. Today’s cold is of small moment to them.

In a centuries-ago past the acorns which became these trees were missed by the inquiring snouts of spotted sows, brought here by herders exercising their autumn rights of pannage. Spared by the sows, the acorns broke their leathery cases and began the slow, meditative mission of becoming an oak. Impossibly unlikely though it seems, they dodged the many perils which may befall a flimsy seedling oak: The rubbery lips of deer, the light-stealing spread of bracken and bramble, the knife’s flick of an idle boy. Impossibly unlikely though it was, they became oaks.

They have stood, these oaks, if they are 500 years old, through 180,000 nights and days in Thursford Wood. Tens of thousands of frosts have crisped their hard, tan buds. Tens of thousands of mists have hung over them in this quiet north Norfolk valley. Five-hundred times they have shed their tired leaves in autumn and retreated to the mute contemplation of winter. Today’s cold, though it shreds my throat with each breath, is of small moment.

A sense of landscape, its genesis and, sadly in the case of much wildlife, its exodus, is fundamental to Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s management of nature reserves today. And not just of nature reserves. A reserve has no meaning to a centennial oak, whose genes arrived encoded in an acorn in the crop of a post-glacial jay, some 10,000 years ago or more. Since that time, soils, climate, wild animals, domestic animals, people and their economies have shaped the landscape of our Norfolk and influenced the movement of our oaks’ genes across it.

So it is across landscapes, within nature reserves and without, that Norfolk Wildlife Trust protects wildlife and advocates conservation today. These are landscapes stretching back through hundreds of years of human history and millions of years of landscape history; and they are landscapes stretching miles along the courses of rivers or across farmland between isolated nature reserves. This is a vision of a reconnected landscape; with connections re-established between old, wild places orphaned by modern landscape management; connections re-established between isolated populations of rare species, and, crucially, connections re-established between people and their landscape.

Our sow-herder in Thursford Wood in the Middle Ages knew who he was in the context of a landscape. The oaks had a meaning for him, economic, social and most probably mythological. His sows roamed with the seasons through a landscape quick with connections and meanings and values; as genes, seeds and wild animals roamed too. And this is the landscape which Norfolk Wildlife Trust envisions for the future: A Living Landscape, in which ancient oaks and their flimsy seedlings, and thousands of other species, offer meaning – genetic, artistic, economic and spiritual – to numberless generations to come.

NWT Thursford Wood is part of Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s North Norfolk Woods Living Landscape, which also includes NWT Foxley Wood, and NWT Brett’s Wood. For more information about this scheme, and the other seven Living Landscapes in Norfolk visit www.mylivinglandscape.org.uk

More from Out & About

Tue, 13:19

Do you know your Bawdseys from your Blakeneys and your Cromers from your Covehithes? Take our quiz to test your knowledge of the Suffolk and Norfolk coast!

Read more
Monday, September 10, 2018

An ancient castle and a massive mill are two of the highlights on this walk with Norfolk Ramblers

Read more
September 2018
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Golden sands, silver darlings, candyfloss and rock, festival fun, white-knuckle thrills and a heady cocktail of sun, sea and history are just some of the great things about Yarmouth

Read more
September 2018
Thursday, August 23, 2018

Cobbled roads, rural pathways and coastal walks, Norfolk has a plethora of streets that are a pleasure to explore. Here we have collected just eight of the pretty streets in Nelson’s County

Read more
Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A lovely walk around historic Reepham, Whitwell and the Marriott’s Way path

Read more
August 2018
Friday, August 10, 2018

From sunrise to sunset, from sandcastles to surfing, from deserted dunes to dazzling arcades, Norfolk’s 90-plus miles of coastline offer wave after wave of wonder. We pick 15 fun things to do at the seaside

Read more
Monday, August 6, 2018

Beautiful boaty Blakeney, famous for its saltmarshes and seals, was once a bustling cargo port - with pirates!

Read more
August 2018
Friday, August 3, 2018

Looking for great things to do with the kids in Norfolk this summer? We have gathered some great tourist attractions that are sure to please

Read more
Monday, July 30, 2018

Norfolk Wildlife Trust ambassador Dr Ben Garrod says we all need to do our bit to protect the magical marine megafauna living off our coastline

Read more
July 2018

Lindsay Want goes on an wonderful adventure behind the closed doors of Wolterton Hall near Aylsham, to see one of Norfolk’s Palladian mansion masterpieces being loved back to life

Read more
July 2018

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search