Swardeston Common

This area of common land was grazed by cattle until the early 1960s, after which it was left to become overgrown and wild.  In the 1980s it was cleared by a group of local people, since then it has been managed by the Norwich Fringe Project on behalf of South Norfolk District Council and Swardeston Parish Council. It is an area of 11.1 acres (4.49 ha) supporting several different habitat types including dry grassland, scrub, marshy grassland and ponds.   

Prior to the Norwich Fringe Project managing the site, the species and biodiversity of the Common was poor, grassland areas had scrubbed over due to the lack of grazing and where there were once nightingales, none could be seen or heard onsite.

A management plan was written up to identify the key habitats, and how they were to be developed and maintained. A key area of the plan was to try and encourage the nightingales back to the Common by coppicing the areas of blackthorn (some of the stands dated back to the 1950’s and 1960’s).

Today, the blackthorn is coppiced on a rotation basis of every 2-3 years, which has given it an age structure along with the mature trees found onsite. Because of this management approach, the nightingales have returned.

The wet meadow area of the Common was previously species poor and nitrate rich. However, by initially topping the meadow by tractor, followed by annual cutting and raking by hand, it now supports a wide variety of wet meadow wildflowers which includes 5 different orchids, marsh thistle, ragged robin and lady’s bedstraw to name a few. The species poor dry grassland area is managed by an annual hay cropping.