The Common is actively managed for wildlife, with a particular emphasis on maintaining and restoring the areas of open heathland, a rare and important habitat once widespread in Norfolk.
What’s new in 2018?
Following the installation of the cattle grids in 2012 we have overall been very pleased with the way in which the conservation grazing scheme has been working. However, 2016 began on a sad note after one of our ponies was hit by a car and subsequently had to be put down by the vet. We have two new ponies lined up to bring the “herd” back up to an optimum size. These are Dartmoor ponies which have the right qualities of hardiness and an appetite for the rough grazing found on the common, and the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust has found them for us. We are therefore hoping to welcome “Nigel” and “Joshua’s Lad” to the common this spring.
Last year we had some Hereford cattle grazing the common over the summer months and this proved very successful; the animals thrived and proved very placid and good natured, with no problems reported. The ponies and cattle complement each other with their different grazing techniques and this helps maintain a diversity of vegetation. The cattle were owned by a local farmer who has some more he would like to put on the common this year. The likelihood is that we will have cattle on the common from April or May through to September. The cattle will only be used on a seasonal basis in order to ensure that there is enough vegetation remaining to feed the ponies over the winter months.
Over the past few years a significant number of trees have been felled in accordance with our management statement drawn up by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and as part of our Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement with Natural England. A comparatively small number of trees still need to be felled and there is also some ‘tidying up’ work to be done, such as cutting stumps down to ground level. We would like to thank those involved in the tree felling, several of whom are from Litcham. We are fortunate to have had the work carried out by skilled individuals who are sympathetic to the site and our nature conservation aims. A copy of the 2017 management statement can be found via a link at the top of the Litcham Common Management page of this website.
There has been a lot of change on the common as we seek to reset the balance between heathland and woodland. In 2013 Norfolk Wildlife Services carried out a survey of plant species found on the common and this exercise was repeated in 2016. The changes between 2013 and 2016 were notable with the number of species increasing across all areas and communities surveyed, which is very encouraging. Looking ahead, management work will always be required to complement the grazing, but a lot has been achieved in recent years and we are confident that the common is in a good position to flourish in the future, both for the benefit of wildlife and local people.
In addition to the HLS money received from Natural England, the project has been grant funded by SITA Trust, which distributes money from the Landfill Communities Fund – this is money that has been set aside for environmental projects within ten miles of a landfill site (in Litcham’s case, Beetley). Other one-off grants have been received from Norfolk County Council and the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership, together with donations from private individuals for which the Management Committee is very grateful.
In the early eighties the late William Foster of Lexham Hall became so concerned about the state of the common that he contacted Norfolk County Council for help. This led to Litcham Common being declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1984 in recognition of its important wildlife and landscape value.
A committee, made up of local residents and representatives from Lexham Hall Estate, Litcham Parish Council and Norfolk County Council, was set up to oversee the management of the common. Norfolk County Council funded management work on the common for many years, but this stopped in 2011 as a result of budget cutbacks. Fortunately, Natural Englandhas agreed to fund the management work on the common for the ten year period from 1 March 2012, under a Higher Level Stewardship Agreement.
The main management objective is to increase the area of open heathland and reduce the areas of trees and scrub (particularly birch). However, significant areas of woodland and many of the established trees will be kept so that as wide a variety of wildlife habitats as possible is retained. Four Dartmoor ponies have grazed the western half of the common since June 2008. In September 2012 a project to install cattle grids on the Dunham road was completed, and the ponies are now able to graze the entire site. The ponies’ job is to keep the existing open areas clear of scrub, and maintain a diverse range of plants.
In October 2012 a 5 year management plan was completed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. This identifies the main areas of trees and scrub to be cleared, as well as other management work to be undertaken. The plan can be viewed here.
(The previous management plan produced by Norfolk County Council in September 2001 can be viewed here.)
The importance of the common to local people is also recognised, with the provision of a car park, benches and the regular maintenance of the footpaths. Visitors to the common can enjoy many wild flowers such as heather, devils bit and harebells. Their continued presence bears testimony to the work carried out since 1984.
The Management Committee is very grateful to all those who help look after Litcham Common, in particular the volunteers who regularly check the ponies, and the members of Litcham Common Conservation Group who turn out once a month to help with tasks such as scrub clearance and picking up litter.
See How the Common Has Changed
In 1946 the Common was largely open, with only a few tall trees round the perimeter.
◈ The River Nar still ran along the northern border.
◈ There were a number of well defined tracks and paths.
◈ The circular outline of a Bronze Age burial disc can still be seen (on the 2Mb image).
◈ Far more extensive tree cover due to a decline in use of the Common for grazing.
◈ The River Nar now runs through the centre of the field to the north.
The Management Committee
Set up to oversee and implement a management plan when Litcham Common was declared a Local Nature Reserve, under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The committee meets twice a year, and presents a report to the Annual Parish Meeting (see below for links).
- Neil Foster – Landowner
- Roger Watts – Volunteer
- Norfolk County Council (no named representative at present)
- Tim Angell – Conservation Group Representative (01328 700045)
- Mike Oldfield – Parish Council Representative
- John Jones – Honorary Warden
The Management Committee is grateful for the support and advice received from a number of organisations, including:
- The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust
- Grazing Animals Project (GAP)
- Larking Gowen (Chartered accountants)
- Natural England
- Norfolk County Council
- Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership
- SITA Trust
- Norfolk Wildlife Trust
Management & Conservation Group Reports to Annual Parish Meeting:
Other 3rd Party Documents & Reports regarding Litcham Common
- Norfolk Wildlife Trust – Site Management Statement 2017
- Extensive article about Litcham Common and it’s Management from Conservation Land Management Magazine
- Secretary of State: Litcham Common Fencing Scheme Consent (PDF 249k)
- Norfolk Wildlife Trust 5 Year management Plan 2012 (PDF856k)
- Norfolk County Council Ten Year Plan for Litcham Common, by Raz Woolacott 2001-11 (PDF 80k)
- Bye-laws (PDF 42k)
- Graceful Grazing, advantages of grazing with Dartmoor Ponies from NWT magazine ‘Tern’ – Spring 2012 (PDF 6.5Mb)
Litcham Common in the Press
- Conservation Land Management – Spring 2013
- Lynn News – 25th November 2010
- Dereham & Fakenham Time – 12th February 2005
If you would like further information, or have any questions or comments please contact Tim Angell (Litcham Common Management Committee): 01328 700045