Micklefleet Marsh - a New Wetland at Holkham

Posted: January 22nd 2020

by Andy Bloomfield, NNR Warden

Micklefleet Marsh
The shallow creeks of Micklefleet Marsh last summer, complete with grazing cows and The Lookout in the background

Many of you will have noticed how much wetter the fields adjacent to Lady Anne’s Drive are this winter. It has been part of a plan to create wildlife rich habitat close to The Lookout and bring wildlife to the people. The fields are steeped in history but have until recently been very dry meadows. Back in the middle ages the area was a network of tidal creeks and salt marshes until a sea wall was built in 1719. One of the channels that flowed close to the northern edge of the area was called Micklefleet, hence the new name. For us to create a wetland it has been relatively easy. Our feed of water was diverted from existing dykes, a sluice enabled us to back up water, which then flowed into lows connecting field to ditch. With the aid of tractor driven machinery – the rotary ditcher – we were able to link together the remnants of the former salt marsh creeks, widen them and deepen them thus taking water into a larger area.

The rotary ditcher at work creating new creeks within the fields last autumn
The rotary ditcher at work creating new creeks within the fields last autumn
The initial creeks created were shallow saucer shaped to allow a uddy edge for feeding waders to be retained as summer water levels drop
The initial creeks created were shallow and saucer shaped to allow muddy edge for feeding waders to be retained as summer water levels drop

Here the machine is creating a new circular creek in the otherwise dry field
Here the machine is creating a new circular creek in the otherwise dry field

Micklefleet Marsh, beside the main carpark at Lady Anne's Drive



The creeks soon started to fill up with fresh water we fed in from existing dykes

Micklefleet Marsh, the newest wetland feature of Holkham NNR

A winter view of Micklefleet Marsh from close to The Lookout

Brent Geese from Siberia have arrived for the winter
Brent Geese from Siberia have arrived for the winter

Fresh water attracts birds, be they wildfowl or waders and our aim was to create habitat for nesting Lapwings, Redshanks and Avocets alongside winter visitors such as Wigeon, Teal, Pink-footed and Brent geese. For the fields to be perfect, summer grazing by cows is essential. The grass is then nibbled by ducks and geese in the winter thus maintaining conditions for the following nesting season. When we commenced our first piece of work in 2018/19, we knew there had been few nesting birds. With more water, up to four pairs of Lapwings and Redshanks and Oystercatchers arrived. Currently the fields are alive with grazing Wigeon and Brent geese, while surprise visitors such as Bewick’s Swans have been seen. For us at Holkham this is only the start and exciting times lay ahead!

Other winter visitors have included several thousand very tame Wigeon grazing the short grass
Other winter visitors have included several thousand very tame Wigeon grazing the short grass

A pair of Bewick's Swans was a surprise visitation
A pair of Bewick’s Swans was a surprise visitation

Hopefully in the spring the marsh will be home to many nesting Lapwings !
Hopefully in the spring the marsh will be home to many nesting Lapwings !

Micklefleet Marsh as seen from the air ! Many thanks to Mark Berwick for this stunning picture
Micklefleet Marsh as seen from the air ! Many thanks to Mark Berwick for this stunning picture




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