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Moorhens get the five star treatment with new floating bird hotel

PUBLISHED: 12:31 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:05 27 March 2019

From left: Beeston Common Management Group member Cherry Farrow, Sheringham deputy mayor Liz Withington, mayor Madeleine Ashcroft, commons honorary warden Francis Farrow and town councillor Neil Espin with the floating moorhen hotel.
Photo: KAREN BETHELL

From left: Beeston Common Management Group member Cherry Farrow, Sheringham deputy mayor Liz Withington, mayor Madeleine Ashcroft, commons honorary warden Francis Farrow and town councillor Neil Espin with the floating moorhen hotel. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

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Moorhen chicks at risk of being eaten by predators have a new, five star safe haven, in the shape of a floating bird 'hotel' installed on a pond in the centre of a north Norfolk conservation area.

The floating moorhen hotel on Beeston common.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLThe floating moorhen hotel on Beeston common. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

When Sheringham town councillor Neil Espin heard that three of the four-strong brood of moorhen chicks hatched last spring on the banks of the pond on Beeston Common had either been eaten by crows or drowned, he decided to take action.

After asking honorary warden Francis Farrow for advice, Mr Espin got together a group of fellow councillors and launched a project aimed at giving this year’s hatchlings a better chance of survival.

From left: Beeston common honorary warden Francis Farrow, management group member Cherry Farrow, Sheringham town councillor Neil Espin, deputy mayor Liz Withington and mayor Madeleine Ashcroft, who took part in a project to build a floating hotel for beleaguered moorhens.
Photo: KAREN BETHELLFrom left: Beeston common honorary warden Francis Farrow, management group member Cherry Farrow, Sheringham town councillor Neil Espin, deputy mayor Liz Withington and mayor Madeleine Ashcroft, who took part in a project to build a floating hotel for beleaguered moorhens. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Using materials donated by councillors and local businesses, Mr Farrow, 68. built a moorhen ‘hotel’ featuring a wooden floor and frame, a drawbridge and an oil drum base.

“The idea is to protect the chicks from herons, stoats, rats, crows and foxes,” he explained.

From left: Beeston common honorary warden Francis Farrow looks out over the pond. Photo: KAREN BETHELLFrom left: Beeston common honorary warden Francis Farrow looks out over the pond. Photo: KAREN BETHELL

“The problem was that the moorhens had nowhere else to go except around the reeds at the sides of the pond, so this should hopefully give them a refuge in the middle.”

Mr Farrow, who has been involved in conservation work on the commons since 1969, is a founder member of Beeston Common Management Group, which looks after the 61 acres of grassland, heath, marsh, fen and woodland making up the commons of Sheringham and Beeston Regis.

Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) by Natural England, the commons boast flora and fauna ranging from adders, bats and deer, to 26 species of butterfly and more than 400 varieties of flowering plant.

Mr Farrow said the pond, which has been a permanent fixture on the commons since 1984, was visited by 19 species of dragonfly, as well as kingfishers, herons, frogs and toads.

He is hoping birds will eventually build their nests in the hotel, which was based on a design dreamed up by Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden volunteer Trevor Tabernam.

“We have planted vegetation which will grow and screen the sides, so we could potentially even get mallards using it,” he said.

Sheringham mayor Madeleine Ashcroft, who has also been involved in the project, said: “It has been lovely for the town council to be able to do something like this for the community and support what is an important and unique environment.”

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