Smockmill Common – Habitat Management

Friday 2nd December 2016

Today took me back in time at least twenty years to a time when I used to visit this site, on Friday evenings with the local Scout Group. At that time, I was an Assistant Scout Leader with ‘The 43rd Saxlingham Nethergate Scout Group’ (now Scout & Guide Group) whose HQ is only about two miles from ‘Smockmill Common’ (which is designated as a ‘Local Nature Reserve’ –LNR- by Natural England) and is located on Cargate Lane, Saxlingham Thorpe.

At that time, we used to organise wide games to be played on Smockmill Common on dark Friday evenings, for the scouts, which was always a popular event. As the game was going on, one of the leaders would set up two primus stoves and prepare quantities of tomato and vegetable soup, for the boys to have with chunks of bread, when the game was over, before they were collected by their parents at the end of the evening.

July 1984 - Smockmill Common
July 1984 – Smockmill Common, with the 43rd Saxlingham Nethergate Scout & Guide Group near the entrance facing North (Photo supplied by Chris Kemp).

Looking at the common now and how it was then, shows that those games would not have been so popular if they were played today. The area now is choked with brambles which would have made running about in the dark rather precarious and I am sure would have resulted in a lot of scratches and possibly ripped clothes. A scouting friend from our Scout Group provided me with a photograph which shows how little bramble there was back in July 1984; photographs taken today show much the brambles have spread and if left unchecked, soon there would be no open common left to walk on.

Mowing some of the vegetation back with the mower, which Matt very expertly got stuck for us. Nice one Matt!!

Places like Smockmill Common might look as if they are left completely wild but in reality, these havens of wildlife do need a degree of management otherwise they would go — completely wild!

The results of some solid work by our volunteers has reclaimed back some more of the common from the encroaching vegetation.

Two days of cutting brambles, some larger bushes and shrubs as well as a few self-seeded smaller trees, have left this area with a lot more open space which I am sure will be appreciated by all that use this Local Nature Reserve.

Written by Alan Rae, Norwich Fringe Project Volunteer.