The twelve acres of what is known as 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
also part of this old common.
[Reproduced by courtesy of Andrew Mcnair.]
The map of William Helwys's estate in Hoe, dated 1772,
shows the pre-enclosure Common beginning opposite the
end of Ayers Lane (top right).
[Courtesy of Norfolk Record Office CHC 11901]
Detail of the map of the Enclosure Act of 1811. The
Poor's Allotment is marked Trustees for the Poor.
The little bite out of the south west corner was a
tiny plot containing a cottage, probably an
encroachment on the old common. Its owner, Richard
Mitchell, had commoner's rights and was awarded land
elsewhere in the village in exchange for giving up
these rights. Sir John Lombe of Bylaugh Hall, Lord of
the Manor, acquired Mitchell's land.
[Courtesy of Norfolk Record Office
area on the tithe map of 1847. Plot 16 is the
The Tithe assessment describes it as a Fuel
[Courtesy of Norfolk Record Office
These pollarded oaks line the bank on the southern
edge of the Common, a traditional way of marking a
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 WWII stands out
clearly. In the years following, because bracken and
gorse were no longer cut for animal bedding and
fuel, a large part of the Common became overgrown
and woodland has developed all round the perimeter.
[Copyright Norfolk County Council; photo by
RAF 31 January 1946]
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 McGibbon.
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
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.
Richard Dalton, Farm Manager at the
Norfolk Rural Life
Gressenhall, hauling logs
Common with one of the
Suffolk Punches, 1996.
Robin Goolden scything in the forest of
bracken to keep a path
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 local
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 2014.
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
In Autumn 2015 work began fencing the
central area to allow periodic grazing.
Students from the agricultural college at
Easton installed the gates and fencing as
part of their practical training sessions.
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.
Conservation 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
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
Small Copper butterfly.
Adders, slow worms and lizards are
among the animals which
live on the
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
Small bracket fungus on a birch log in
Jelly-like fungus on an oak branch.
There have been a couple of sightings this
winter of the extremely rare Silver Birch
Mouse (Mus flackii). It pays to keep your
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
In 1989, 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 Daily Press.
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 about
eighteen feet round which
may mean it
is 300-350 years old.
The ancient anthills are a striking feature of