Momentum grows for new Norwich nature reserve

Photo: Pexels from Pixabay

Plans for a new city nature reserve, NWT (Norfolk Nature Trust) Sweet Briar Marshes, are taking shape following the end of the first stage of community engagement.

The NWT said feedback from the community will be used to map out a long-term vision for the reserve and surrounding area – known as a masterplan – which will be subject to further public and stakeholder engagement later in the year.

More than 1,000 people shared their views about the new nature reserve, and how they would like to be involved, at a series of drop-ins, guided walks, presentations and workshops run in and around the neighbourhoods surrounding Sweet Briar Marshes, as well as via an online survey.

The NWT purchased the 90-acre wildlife-rich site in the Mile Cross and Wensum areas of the city last year, thanks to financial support from project partners Aviva, the Geoffrey Watling Charity, The Paul Bassham and Leslie Mary Carter Charitable Trusts alongside others, and public donations. The NWT said it was the fastest appeal in its history.

NWT director of engagement, Natalie Bailey, said: “Nature plays such an important role, not only in terms of the health of our planet but also for our own personal health and wellbeing.

“We need people to be able to enjoy and connect with nature, so they value and care for it. So, we are hugely excited about this fantastic opportunity to help urban communities in Norwich access a nature reserve on their doorstep and experience all the benefits nature offers.”

Senior engagement officer, Gemma Walker, added: “This is the first time NWT has worked alongside the local community in this way to create a shared vision for one of our nature reserves – and we have been delighted by the response.

“NWT Sweet Briar Marshes is important for so many reasons. There is fantastic biodiversity, habitat and wildlife, which we will look after and improve, and it provides a natural oasis for the residents of Norwich, which we hope will inspire more people to act for nature.”

Landscape specialists SheilsFlynn are working with the NWT and the local community to jointly design a plan for the future of Sweet Briar Marshes. The masterplan will map out a long-term vision for the reserve. It will capture the feedback received from community engagement, as well as show the possibilities and constraints from in-depth research and growing knowledge of the site.

The intention is that NWT Sweet Briar Marshes will open to the public before the end of the 2023, although work to fully complete the vision for the reserve will continue over the next few years.