On swallows and swallowtails

When April arrives it really feels winter is behind us – there is blossom in the hedgerows, bird song has increased, and the sun, when it shines, is warm on our backs.

Although the Trust is, of course, principally engaged with conserving archaeological sites, their rural settings provide beautiful green spaces for wildlife - and for people who enjoy seeing the wildlife, of which I am one.  At this time of year I look forward to hearing the cuckoo at Burnham Norton Friary, seeing the swallows swooping out of the Gatehouse at St Benet’s Abbey, and walking through the wild flower meadows at Caistor to view the Roman Town below. Interestingly, the short-listed consultants, who submitted bids for the ‘Onwards & Upwards’ project recently, all identified this aspect of our sites as a potentially significant factor in attracting more diverse audiences.

An encounter with a Swallowtail butterfly at St Benet’s Abbey was one of the highlights of my summer last year. It is therefore unwelcome news to hear that research carried out at the UEA indicates that Norfolk's butterflies, bees, bugs, birds, trees and mammals are at risk from climate change, including the Swallowtail.  

In an article on the website https://www.eurekalert.org the lead researcher, Dr Jeff Price, reminds us that the foundations of phenology – the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena – were laid down through the work of Robert Marsham (1708-1797) who lived at Stratton Strawless, and there is a long tradition of citizen science in the county. The Norfolk and Norwich Naturalist's Society, which has published the results of the current research (1) was founded in 1869 and its members provided data used in the study.

A dedicated group of TFOSBA volunteers already carry out wildlife surveys at St Benet’s every month, come rain or shine or snow, and are building up a fascinating picture of the seasonal patterns of visiting birds. A wider and systematic programme of such data collection at our sites could potentially provide a valuable contribution to similar future research programmes, as well as helping us to understand how are management can support wildlife.

If you would be interested in taking part in such surveys please do get in touch.

1) ‘The potential impacts of climate change on the biodiversity of Norfolk Species' is published in Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society. nnns.org.uk

New in brief

Imagined Land at Burnham Norton

SATURDAY 14TH APRIL & SATURDAY 28TH APRIL: THE FRIARY, THE FRIARS AND THE HISTORIC LANDSCAPE: three events exploring the history of the Friary and its context. Contributors include:

  • Dr Andrew Rogerson (until recently Senior Historic Environment Officer, Norfolk County Council)
  • Jonathan Hooton (historical geographer and author of ‘The Glaven Ports’)
  • Dr Brendan Chester-Kadwell (landscape historian).
  • Dr Sally Francis (local historian)

For full details and to book please visit the project website: https://sites.google.com/site/burnhamnortonimaginedland/training-and-events

  • Saturday 21 April AND Saturday 28 April 2018 10.00 - 4.00 pm Caistor Roman Project/Norfolk Archaeological Trust Visitor Guide Training. Please note attendance is required on both days. Course leader: Stewart Alexander, Storyline Designs. Still one or two places on this two-part free training course. To find out more or to book contact info@norfarchtrust.org.uk
  • Saturday 14 April 2.30 pm NAHRG AGM and lecture ‘From Brewing to Gentry: Creating Small Country Estates, 1780-1830’. Margaret Bird (Hon Research Fellow, Royal Holloway, University of London; FRHistS) at the Thomas Paine Centre, UEA. Non-members are welcome to try a couple of meetings before joining (no charge) www.nahrg.org.uk
  • Wednesday 4 April: start of 8 Week Palaeography Course - Improvers' Palaeography: Norwich City and Church Records 4 Apr-23 May Norfolk Record Office, 1-2.30pm, Booking necessary: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/palaeography-course-norwich-city-church-records-for-improvers-tickets-41302686447
  • Wednesday 11 April 2018 at 7.30pm 'Roman Fort in Swanton Morley' David Gurney. Dereham Antiquarian Society, Trinity Methodist Church, Dereham. Talks are held at Trinity Methodist Church Hall, Theatre Street, Dereham, NR19 2EP. Admission is £1 for members and £3 for non-members. www.derehamhistory.com/talks
  • Saturday 21 July 2018: Bookings have opened for NAHRG's summer conference, this year in memory of the late Norfolk archaeologists Peter Robins and Trevor Ashwin, both of them prehistorians who will have been known to many NAT members. The theme is 'Prehistoric East Anglia' and the event will take place at the UEA on. It is open to all - click HERE for details