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Worst flooding in 19 years forces nature reserve to close

PUBLISHED: 10:22 18 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:27 20 January 2020

The Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl Trust

The Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl Trust

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A north Norfolk nature reserve has been forced to close after suffering from the worst flooding it has experienced in 19 years.

The Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl TrustThe Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl Trust

Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve, near Fakenham, closed to the public following two days of heavy rain which began on January 16.

The ground was already saturated after months of wet weather and will now remain shut until Monday, January 20.

The Environment Agency, which claim the flooding is due to recent rain flowing into the River Wensum's reserve, has recorded the water levels there as the highest since 1993.

It said the reserve is on "low-lying land within the natural floodplain", the flooding was not due to its river restoration scheme, and that it was working with the Hawk and Owl Trust, who own the land, to design and fund improvements.

The Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl TrustThe Hawk and Owl Trust has been forced to close Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve to the public following its worst flooding in 19 years. Picture: A Blumfield - Hawk and Owl Trust

A spokesman said: "We believe [the scheme] is performing as it was designed to do, reducing the flood risk to downstream communities."

But warden for the trust, Nigel Middleton, said the River Wensum had burst two or three times a year since work began by the Environment Agency four years ago.

Mr Middleton has worked at the Hawk and Owl Trust since it opened in 2001 and said the flooding was the worst he had ever seen there.

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Currently they are unable to graze sheep and cattle because the meadows are covered in water.

He said: "It has dire effect on the wildlife we are trying to preserve here."

He believes a narrowing of the River Wensum has forced water into the reserve and said its drainage is unable to cope.

Chief operations director, Adrian Blumfield, said the public had been "very understanding and supportive" in the decision to close due to safety concerns.

"The water level has gone down by about a foot now," he added.

"People have been supportive in what we are trying to do here and understanding to the problem."

Flood warnings had been in place this week for the Wensum Valley between Fakenham and Swanton Morley, with 30mm (1.2in) of rain recorded in Fakenham in just 24 hours.

Sculthorpe Moor is known nationally for its wildlife, sympathetic and effective management techniques and accessibility to all.

Last year, the Hawk and Owl Trust, which manages the site, bought the two parcels of land adjoining the existing nature reserve, extending it from 45 acres to over 200 acres. It was bought using funds raised by the public and from major donors, as part of a £1.7m project.

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