Sweet Briar nature reserve for Norwich
Sweet Briar Map

NWT launch appeal for flagship nature reserve for Norwich

Conservation charity seeks to raise £600,000, in partnership with Aviva, to protect rare wildlife and connect the city’s residents to nature.

Today, NWT announced its ambition to create a brand new nature reserve for Norwich, located on Sweet Briar Marshes.

Supported by Aviva, today marks the beginning of a public appeal to raise £600,000 (see note 1) to make its vision a reality.

Long-term supporters of NWT, Aviva have generously pledged up to £300,000 in match funding, so that every penny given to the appeal will work twice as hard.

Sweet Briar nature reserve for Norwich
Sweetbriar Marshes credit Richard Osbourne

The 90-acre site, found running along the River Wensum close to the city centre, was arable farmland until as recently as the late 1990s, and today provides a haven of wildness and peace.

The site is a mosaic of fen, rough meadow, grazing marsh, old hedgerows and young woodland, and home to rare and scarce species of plant and animal, including water vole, water shrew, common toad and frog, orchids, reed bunting, willow warbler and snipe.

Increasingly surrounded by urban development, this special wild place, which includes a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), is in danger of deterioration and fragmentation, and could be lost as a vital home for wildlife.

When the site came up for sale, Norfolk Wildlife Trust saw an opportunity to create a flagship nature reserve for the City, its wildlife and residents. Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, which aims to improve the natural world and strengthen communities across the UK, intervened to support NWT and purchased the land earlier in 2022, giving NWT the opportunity to buy it back if it can raise the funds needed.

Patrick Barkham, NWT President, said: “Imagine stepping into a secret wild marsh in the heart of Norwich. A place where kingfishers whistle, water voles swim and orchids bloom. A place of tranquillity for people too, where city children – and adults – can connect with nature. This is not a dream – Sweet Briar Marshes is a miraculous treasure – but we need your help to save it.”

Eliot Lyne, NWT CEO, said: “We are inviting people to come together to create a wilder Norwich for all.

“Urban wildlife is increasingly under threat from human impact, and nature exists in smaller and smaller disconnected pockets of wildness. A flagship urban nature reserve of this scale will act as a vital stepping stone for wildlife in an otherwise urban landscape, giving wildlife in Norwich a better chance to survive and thrive.

“Now, more than ever, we also recognise the importance of nature to our own wellbeing. A healthier, wilder and more accessible Sweet Briar Marshes will provide local communities with a valuable connection to the natural world, and with 40 schools within two miles of the site, local children will grow up happier, healthier, and better connected to nature too.

“We are incredibly grateful to Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Aviva for sharing our vision for the future of Sweet Briar, and its value to the wildlife and people of Norwich.”

Sweet Briar nature reserve for Norwich
From L-R Liam Calvert, Lucy Galvin, Karen Paterson (Aviva), Eliot Lyne credit Richard Osbourne

Aviva’s Chief Brand and Corporate Affairs Officer, Stephen Doherty, said: “We are delighted to partner with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust on the Sweet Briar Marshes nature reserve project. Partnerships of this kind form a vital part of meeting one of our sustainability ambitions to ‘act now on climate change’. The project also delivers many benefits to a community that Aviva has been a proud citizen of for more than 200 years. The Sweet Briar Marshes nature reserve not only protects and enhances biodiversity, but will also help to build a stronger community locally – a key focus for Aviva wherever we have a presence. By working together we can protect and preserve the nature on our doorsteps while developing a reserve of significant scale in the heart of Norwich that our colleagues, their families, and all local people can enjoy for generations to come.”

Sweet Briar Marshes has been long valued by the local community, who have been campaigning for many years to save the site.

Lucy Galvin, chair of Marlpit Community Centre, said: “When we found out the land was up for sale we started a community campaign to make sure it was protected from development and restored for nature. We talked with the Wildlife Trust and we are beyond delighted that it has responded and stepped up with this bold move, to save this incredible wilderness which is treasured by local people.”

Liam Calvert, chair of Wensum Residents Association, added: “Open spaces are of vital importance to the physical and mental wellbeing of residents in our area and a wild area away from the pressures of the city, right on our doorstep, will be an incredible asset.”

You can give to the appeal, by:

visiting www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/appeal

donating in person at an NWT visitor centre

calling 01603 625540

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