There is no doubt large sites are better for wildlife and few of our nature reserves have grown more than Arger Fen & Spouse’s Vale.
We owe this fascinating site to the vision of sisters Frances and Edith Vale. In 1991, they bought a small bluebell wood and gifted it to Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Frances added the wet meadows in 1997 and later remembered the Trust in her Will.
In 2005 with the help of Trust members, her legacy enabled us to buy a large arable field alongside the reserve. Now, just two decades after the last wheat crop, nature has reclaimed the field as woodland, linking the ancient woods of Spouse’s Grove and Arger Fen.
With its swathes of bluebells and wild garlic Arger Fen is a beautiful piece of Suffolk, which we were able to add to the reserve in 2008, helped by a legacy from Douglas Maule.
Then in 2012, we were unexpectedly given opportunities to buy two adjoining fields to almost double the size of the reserve. We save legacies for landmark projects like this and Anthony Wheeler, whose gift enabled us to seize this exciting opportunity, knew this area well.
Two years later when the rolling fields to the north were put up for sale, the generosity of Gerald Ford made it possible for us to buy them. He was a life-long naturalist and would have been delighted to see his legacy used to create a space for wildlife. This lovely patch of wildlife-filled countryside is his gift to Suffolk.
When Rowley Grove, a pocket of ancient woodland adjoining Arger Fen & Spouse’s Vale nature reserve came up for sale this spring we needed to act quickly to secure its future as part of the nature reserve. Thanks to Anne Walton and others who remembered Suffolk Wildlife Trust in their Will, we were able to do just that.
Anne was a distinguished chemist, university teacher and researcher. As a student she had taken zoology alongside her chemistry and this remained a lifelong interest. On moving to Suffolk, she walked miles with her Labrador dogs, enjoying the plants and wildlife. It was then that she did her best thinking, she said. Anne had a deep-seated feather phobia, which she carried into adulthood. It took time, but thanks to the sparrows in her hedge, the call of the geese over her roof, the sight of an owl hunting, sitting in a bird hide with friends, she gradually overcame her phobia. Rowley Grove is a beautiful tribute to her, and to our many members and supporters who have also generously contributed to securing its future.
In gifting Spouse’s Grove to the Trust over 20 years ago, Frances and Edith Vale could not have envisaged the fabulous wild landscape it would grow into.