West Acre Parish Council
Welcome to our website.
Here you will find information about the village, news about local events and links to local attractions. We hope that you find what you want. If not, please contact one of the Parish Councillors listed in the contact page.
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West Acre News - December 2019 issue
The latest edition of the Parish newsletter is available to view. Clicking on one of the pages below will open a larger version in a new window.
If you would like to contribute please contact Ralph via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Adoration of the Magi, Gerard David c1515
Services at All Saints Church, West Acre
Please contact Henry on (01760) 755254 for further details.
West Acre Parish Council
The next Meeting of the Parish Council will be held on Monday 23 September in the Village Hall, starting at 6.30pm.
Below you will find Minutes of Parish Council meetings from the last twelve months, plus other documents which the Council has to publicise to comply with the Transparency Code.
Click on a heading to see the full document.
West Acre Parish Council Meeting
Monday 27 January
The Meeting will be held in the Village Hall, commencing at 6.30pm. Everyone welcome.
West Acre Parish Council
Chair's Annual Report for 2018-19
Click on the image, right, to view the full version.
West Acre Annual Parish Reports for 2018-19
To read a report from one of the following groups working in the village. Please click on the name of the group to see the full report.
West Acre Village Hall maintenance
The Village Hall Committee has embarked on a series of repairs and improvements to maintain the large hall as an attractive and warm building with suitable kitchen facilities. The rotten and draughty south wall has been re-timbered with a new wind-proof membrane, and all exposed structural timbers repaired to prevent collapse. (See photographs). Plans are also underway to improve the heating and the kitchen, and quotes for these works are now being assessed. For the future, due to the very fragile state of the walls and structural timbers, and other problems with the old and unsound building, the Committee remains committed to replacing our hall so as to provide a good community space for all residents of West Acre and neighbouring areas. However, it is recognised that such a project will take several years to complete and in the mean time we need to maintain what we have. Despite the external appearance, the interior is large, bright and friendly, and last spring it was completely re-painted by committee members and other volunteers.
Details on hiring the Village Hall can be found on the page 'Village Hall' at the top of this page.
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West Acre Rewilding Project
The village hall was packed on the 11th December for a presentation by Westacre Estate & Natural England outlining their vision for the rewilding project getting underway within the estate. Alec Birbeck is leading the project, exploring the environmental issues in relation to estate management and seeking out and engaging with a variety of other rewilding projects and experts. John Ebbage of Natural England has been a strong advocate in support, promoting grant aid for such schemes in order to get them off the ground. Fraser Bradbury is leading the implementation of the early work, getting the rewilding process underway for the estate. The following Parish Council notes describe some of the vision as presented during the meeting.
Current open fields looking north from the Nar Valley Way
In years to come the open fields might look more like this
Vision & Need
The meeting started with an invitation to imagine what our local landscapes might have looked like before humans started to clear the land and manage it for farming animals and crops. There have been a number of rewilding project in recent years in the UK and Europe as a response to the catastrophic loss of biodiversity especially since the introduction of pesticides and post-war industrialisation and intensification of farming. Most of these projects reimagine the withdrawal of humans from intensive intervention in landscape management in preference for mimicking the grazing impacts of long lost species such as Auroch & wild Boar. These rewilding projects now talk in terms of recreating the lost “grazing woodlands & savannas” which these animals would have helped create and manage in ancient times.
But of course we do not have Auroch’s or wild boar anymore - we do however have cattle and pigs to take their place as close relatives. We were told that we will begin to notice over the coming years that some fields around the village will be dropping out of agricultural production and left uncultivated to regenerate naturally, gradually developing a character more akin to that which currently exists at west acre common. Once regeneration has reached sufficient “maturity” grazing cattle and pigs can be introduced to the do the rest. As the rewilding project unfolds (over the next 5 to 10 years) we are invited to rejoice in an element of untidiness in the landscape as this will herald a return to the days when our air will again be filled with a soup of insect life as it used to be – a sure sign that we are living in a healthier biodiverse & balanced world.
To have an impact in ecological terms and in order for there to be enough space for cattle and pigs to roam the project will eventually need to have sufficient available space. The plan (opposite) is an approximation of the extent currently envisage by West Acre estate as described at the meeting. Stretching along the river Nar and then northwards towards East Walton, the core of the project will be to the south and west of the Castle Acre, East Walton/Gayton Road. It includes many existing woodland, wetland and common areas along with open agricultural fields. Westacre parish is therefore only a small part of a much larger project which will, if it takes off, have a significant and positive ecological impact within the wider estate stretching to the west of the village.
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In the meeting both the estate and Natural England described the ultimate goal of potentially creating a series of connected wild life corridors. For example there is another rewilding project near Heacham (Wild Ken Hill) – could it be that in the future wildlife will be able to move more freely along planned and connected corridors throughout west
We were reminded that we cannot of course return to a completely natural landscape. Since the war fertilizers, pesticides, and intensive cultivation have changed our soils to such an extent that we cannot, in advance, be completely sure as to what nature will to create when left alone. So the project is being monitored from an ecological perspective recording the species which currently exist as a base line to which it is hoped to add a dramatic increase in biodiversity – as the project matures.
Cattle and pig stocking levels will, as we understand, be at relatively low levels in order to avoid any overgrazing but exact numbers will require some experimentation depending on how the new natural landscape develops. Other rewilding projects cull animals as necessary to control populations with the added benefit of being able to sell the resulting highly valued beef and pork
A number of roads crisscross the rewilding area as it is currently defined. The estate along with Natural England indicated that they are currently in early discussions with Norfolk County Council in the hope of eventually being able the remove some of the existing roadside fencing allowing the introduced crazing cattle and pigs to roam relatively freely. Options to control animals without fencing might include the introduction of cattle grids of the sort use in the New Forest or upland areas where herds of sheep and horses are otherwise allowed to roam free. We understand these discussions are at an early stage and the project is likely to get underway in contained “blocks” or “compartments” defined by these existing roads avoiding the need for crossing points, at least in the short term. cont.,
are at an early stage and the project is likely to get underway in contained “blocks” or “compartments” defined by these existing roads avoiding the need for crossing points, at least in the short term.
Of course there will be an impact on local residents and how we use the footpath network. We were reassured that all footpaths will remain open, however , if all proceeds to plan, we may need to get used to occasionally sharing the new landscape with its new managers in the form of semi feral cattle and pigs.
The meeting also discussed the positive and negative impacts of a potential increase in nature loving visitors along with pressures for further farm diversification. Whilst these are not issues around which there is any certainty at this stage the PC is keen to maintain a dialogue with the Estate for the benefit of residents.
A parish council perspective
We are, as you all know, very lucky to live in the valley of the River Nar with its river SSSI, woodlands, wetlands and meadows all relatively secluded from the wider world. But we cannot ignore what’s happening around us in the wider agricultural landscapes and the decline in natural ecosystems. The potential vision therefore of an enhanced larger and wilder core valley corridor connecting into the wider agricultural landscape adding colour, texture, richness and enhanced biodiversity is surely to be warmly welcomed and embraced. Listening to all the news recently with regard to climate change and biodiversity collapse it’s great to think we will be living in a landscape doing its bit to change things for the better. In the spirit of continuing engagement with local residents the meeting concluded with the idea, that a spring walk might be a great next event for residents to join in order to learn more about this exciting initiative.
We look forward to hearing more about that in the coming months and Westacre Parish Council offers the project its full support and wishes Alec, John, Fraser and all others involved well for the hard work ahead.
Chair, West Acre Parish Council
Minutes of the West Acre Parish Council Meeting held on
Monday 9 December
To view the Minutes - click here
West Acre Priory and the River Nar
Two recent documents may be of interest to anyone curious to know more about the history of the Augustinian priory and
how the health of the River Nar is being monitored.
Click here to read the report on the River Nar
Click here to read the Historic England report on the Priory
There is no foot too small that it cannot
leave an imprint on this world
Living next door to Charlotte Howarth has given me a privileged access to her work. I knew she was working on something special when a massive piece of freshly quarried stone appeared outside her workshop earlier this year. Its purpose gradually emerged.
In February 2018 Charlotte had submitted her competition entry for the commission of a memorial commemorating the unmarked burial plot in Belfast City Cemetery of over 7,000 babies who died stillborn or shortly after birth between 1945 and 1996. The city council’s original proposal, a rock topped with a Bonsai tree, had been rejected by families of some of the children as being “totally unsuitable”. One mother suggested that the memorial had to be “self-explanatory”. She added “"I would like people know this is the resting place of so many babies, so there has to be a baby in it.”
Charlotte’s submission was successful and she began a lengthy series of consultations with everyone involved, leading to a final design which was approved by the community. Charlotte believes that her experience of working with communities was instrumental in her winning the commission, and she was particularly pleased that she was able to turn round the negativity she found at the start of the project into a very positive outcome.
Charlotte chose a beautiful piece of Kilkenny limestone for her design. It’s a very hard material and its tight-grain makes it resistant to spray-can graffiti, an important consideration in an area which is subject to anti-social behaviour. Charlotte’s sensitive and overtly sentimental design (it was part of the brief), a baby sleeping on a bed of leaves, gradually emerged over this summer.
In September the beautiful baby was delivered and unveiled to the public. Created with love and received with joy.
More recently Charlotte worked closely with Westminster Abbey studios to help create the lettering on the cathedral’s donor windows.
Anyone looking to employ a stone carver whose work is carefully considered and beautifully executed can contact Charlotte through her website, www.making-marks.com.
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Charlotte's clay maquette model
Details, above and below, of the finished memorial
Charlotte, above extreme right, at the unveiling of the memorial