PUBLISHED: 12:16 31 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:16 31 March 2020
Wildlife has found new space to breathe in Norfolk’s countryside as the coronavirus lockdown gives nature a “once-in-a-lifetime” chance to thrive without human disturbance.
While people are confined to their homes, weasels have been spotted venturing onto once-crowded pathways, oystercatchers are nesting on deserted beaches, and sparrowhawks are circling for prey above areas which were attracting thousands of visitors just a few weeks ago.
The Holkham Estate in north Norfolk usually welcomes more than a million people every year to its famous beach and its 9,600-acre national nature reserve, the biggest in England.
Conservation manager Jake Fiennes said it was now a “very surreal” scene as the footfall vanished overnight after the estate closed its hall, shops, visitor centre and car parks – part of the national effort to contain the spread of the virus.
But he said he was excited to see what the result would be as the breeding season begins on the dunes, salt marsh and grassland – but particularly on the beach, where he believes the biggest impact will be felt.