The twelve acres of Hoe Common were enclosed as a Poor's
Charity in 1811, by Act of Parliament, out of a much
larger area of uncultivated land, shown on Faden's 1797
map of the county extending as far as the House of
Industry in Gressenhall. The County Wildlife Site on Hoe
Rough is part of this old common.
[Reproduced by courtesy of Andrew Mcnair.]
The map of William Helwys's estate in Hoe, dated 1772,
shows the Common beginning opposite the end of Ayers
Lane (top right).
[Courtesy of Norfolk
These pollarded oaks line the bank on the southern edge
of the Common, a traditional way of marking a boundary.
An aerial photograph taken by the RAF in 1946 shows that
there were hardly any trees at all on the Common then.
The network of practice trenches thought to have been
dug during WWI stands out clearly. In the years
following, because bracken and gorse were no longer cut
for animal bedding and firing, a large part of the
Common became overgrown and woodland has developed all
round the perimeter.
Norfolk County Council; photo by RAF 31 January
Heather in bloom on the Common on 1982. A fire a
year or two earlier had cleared the area of gorse.
A few years later the area was overgrown again.
Clearing gorse in the 1990s. Robin Goolden (Wensum
Valley Project), Dick Malt, Julia Masson (Project
Officer for the Wensum Valley Project) and Eilean
In 1990 a successful evening of fund raising for
the Common was held at the Angel, with a showing
of Leaving Lily, a WWI story filmed partly
in Hoe by Graham Baker who was living at the Angel
when the film was made in 1978. Hoe Hall is one of
the locations used in the story.
An area of bracken was cleared and the soil
scraped off. Heather seed from Roydon Common in
Norfolk was sown and grew strongly. Here,
volunteers from the British Trust for Conservation
Volunteers are removing young brambles, gorse and
birch from the area.
Farm Manager at the
Norfolk Rural Life Museum,
Gressenhall, hauling logs off
Common with one of the Museum's
Suffolk Punches, 1996.
scything in the forest of
bracken to keep a path open.
In February 2013 work began preparing a new area
from which bracken will be removed to allow
heather to regrow. Neil Chadwick of the Hawk &
Owl Trust, Sculthorpe, wielding the chainsaw, with
Scraping the bracken litter off down to the soil
below allows heather to regrow from dormant seed.
Anton Crisp cleared two large areas in February
Stumps of birch trees have been ground out to make
maintenance easier in future. Stephan Ludkin's
machine makes short work of it. March 2014.
Two interpretation panels with leaflet holders were
put up in 2015 to explain the Common's history,
ecological value and the current conservation work
to visitors. The panels were funded with Heritage
Lottery money through the Hawk & Owl Trust, and
Breckland District Council gave a grant for the
In Autumn 2015 work began fencing the central area
to allow periodic grazing with ponies. Students from
the agricultural college at Easton installed the
gates and fencing as part of their practical
Jeff Shea and his Suffolk Punch Alex
rolling bracken, Summer 2016. Breaking the stems
of bracken repeatedly helps to weaken it and keep
it under control.
work on the Common continues to encourage the
regrowth of heather by the removal of bracken and
invading trees. If you are interested in the
programme, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
This aerial photo, taken using a drone in July
2017, shows the areas of flattened bracken and the heather coming into
flower (purplish-brown patches). In the centre are
the trenches where the roller can't be used.
Green hairstreak butterfly, 17 May 2015: this scarce
butterfly feeds on gorse and broom. It is important
not to think that heather is the only plant that
should be encouraged.
Small Copper butterfly.
Adders, slow worms and lizards are
among the animals which live on
Buff-tailed Bumble Bee.
Labyrinth spider in its funnel-shaped web in
In autumn there are fungi in plenty on the common.
This is a fly agaric, easy to spot with its brightly
coloured cap. Red for danger!
There have been a couple of sightings this winter of
the extremely rare Silver Birch Mouse (Mus
). It pays to keep your eyes open!
Hoe Bird Walk
The first Hoe Bird Walk took
place in February 1984. It was the brainchild
of Peter Cawley, a Committee member of the Mid
Norfolk Group of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
Peter led the Walk for the next two years.
Now, in 2017, some thirty-three years and six
walk leaders later, it is still going strong,
meeting on the third Sunday of every month
come rain, sun and even snow. The impressive
bird species list is currently 135 with three
new birds 2015. And what new birds! A
Velvet Scoter, Red Kite and Gannet.
Unbelievable on a small parcel of land in mid
Norfolk. There have been many changes in those
thirty-two years. Land-ownerships, gravel
workings and the railway have all had an
effect on the wildlife. The one stable element
is the loyalty of the supporters who turn out
each month, year on year, bringing their
knowledge and birdwatching skills, amassing
the species total we have today.
Willow warbler, 17 April 2016
Hoe Rough was acquired by the Norfolk Naturalists
Trust (now NWT) from Philip Sayer, who lived at
the villa known as The Rough, on the corner of
Gorgate Road and Fakenham Road. Rex Hancy has for many years
written the nature column in the Eastern
The nature reserve was opened in May 1989 by Dr
David Bellamy. His audience was mainly made up of
children from the local young naturalists' group Watch.
The photograph is a still from a 16mm film made of
the event by Dereham photographer Michael Burton
and is reproduced with permission.
This oak on the Rough could well be
Hoe's oldest tree. The trunk is
eighteen feet round which may
is 300-350 years old.
The ancient anthills are a striking feature of the