Heritage Farm & Wildlife Centre

Earsham has been home to a collection of native wildlife and rare breed farm animals since 1976. Our wildlife reserve is home to a wide variety of wild animals that live on the scrapes and amongst the wildflowers that surround the paddocks. Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal and Shelduck can usually be found dabbling in the shallow lakes, being occasionally joined by Oystercatchers, Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing.

Throughout the summer months lambs from our North Ronaldsay, Hebridean and Castle Milk Morrit Sheep can be seen running around in our meadows of water mint and orchids, alongside tame European Cranes, White Storks, Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese.

Our willow carrs are grazed by a herd of Bagot Goats and flock of Slate Turkeys, whilst the Riverside Walk is home to our group of Suffolk Punch Horses and Red Poll Cattle.

We also keep all of the rare regional breeds such as Norwich Canaries, Norwich Cropper Pigeons, Norfolk Grey Chickens, Ixworth Chickens and Silver Appleyard Ducks.

Heritage Farm Animals

Bagot Goats

The Bagot is an ancient breed believed to have existed prior to 1387. The first recorded Bagot goat being given at this time to Sir John Bagot of Blithfield Hall in Staffordshire by King Richard II.

The breed is thought to have originated in Portugal and travelled by boat with John of Gaunt when his army returned from battle in the Castile Region.

This distinctive goat is used for conservation grazing and our animals are used to keep graze the brambles and willow seedlings.

North Ronaldsay Sheep

This small, friendly little sheep originates from the island of North Ronaldsay, the northernmost island of Orkney.

Famous for living on beaches and eating seaweed, this sheep was kept for its rough fleece. In 1974 a population of 178 North Ronaldsays were taken off the island and some brought to the mainland, whilst others were moved to the island of Lingaholm.

Today this sheep is used for conservation grazing as they like to eat a variety of plants including stinging nettles!

Norfolk Grey

Developed in Norwich by Fred Myhill and first exhibited in 1920, the Norfolk Grey is another rare breed. In the early 1970’s only a handful of birds remained, but thanks to careful managements the breed continues today. Unfortunately inbreeding might be the main limiting issue for this breed as fertility is very poor, but the hens lay plenty of eggs.

Castlemilk Moorit Sheep

This sheep breed was developed by Sir Jock Buchanan-Jardine at his Castlemilk Estate in Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

Using Manx Loaghtan, Shetland and the wild Mouflon Sheep he developed a breed specifically to his parkland and provide fine, moorit coloured wool to clothe his workers.

Following his death in 1970 the flock was mostly culled, but two rams and a few ewes were saved and are the founders for all Castlemilk Moorits in existence today.

Hebridean Sheep

This small Scottish island sheep has a long ancestry, but by the early 1970’s the St Kilda Sheep was absent from the west coast of Scotland. In 1973 the Rare Breed Survival Trust gathered together the remaining 300 feral black sheep that we being kept in parks across the UK and renamed them the Hebridean Sheep. In 1994 a breed society was formed and now this sheep is one of the most popular small sheep breeds.

This breed can have either two or four horns!

Ixworth Chicken

This is the chicken of Suffolk, being developed by Reginald Appleyard in the village of Ixworth in 1939. The breed was developed for its meat and eggs rather than its appearance. Unfortunately the breed is pure white, with a pea comb and pinky-white legs making it look like many of the commercial meat breeds and its therefore rare as its seen as being drab.

Boreray Sheep

The Boreray comes from Boreray Island in the St. Kilda group on the West Coast of Scotland. When the inhabitants of St. Kilda were evacuated in 1930 the sheep were left on the island of Boreray and have existed as a feral flock ever since. In the 1970’s a small group of six animals was brought over to the UK mainland but the population is still very small.

Llanwenog Sheep

The Llanwenog derived from the cross of the Shropshire Sheep with various local black faced hill breeds in the Teifi valley in West Wales in the late 19th century. The Llanwenog Breed Society was formed in 1957, the breed is still centred in West Wales but has spread throughout the UK.

Teeswater Sheep

The Teeswater breed is native to the Teesdale area of County Durham. The wool of the Teeswater is in demand with hand spinners.

Norfolk Horn Sheep

The Norfolk Horn was originally developed to graze the heathland of Norfolk and is similar to many of the British hill breeds. The breed started to decline in popularity during the 18th and 19th centuries when it was replaced by more productive breeds such as the Southdown Sheep. By the 20th century the breed was on the verge of extinction with only one flock in existence after the First World War. Although still a rare breed the Norfolk Horn is a long way from extinction with several large flocks throughout the country and a growing number of breed enthusiasts.

Norfolk Horns were used in the creation of a Suffolk Sheep breed, one of the most frequently used breeds in modern sheep farming.

The Otter Trust has a larger flock of Norfolk Horn Sheep at our Dickleburgh Moor Nature Reserve. Our sheep come from a variety of breeders, including the Cotswold Farm Park and Ellingham Hall.

Norfolk Black Turkeys

The Black turkey originated in Europe, with birds being brought to England from Spain. Wild turkeys were first imported from North America in the 1500’s. East Anglian farmers traditionally bred turkeys and walked them to London for the Christmas Market. Each turkey hen lays approximately 70 eggs each year, male turkeys are called stags

Our Norfolk Black Turkeys were bred at the Rural Life Museum at Gressenhall in Norfolk.

The Otter Trust has a larger flock of Norfolk Horn Sheep at our Dickleburgh Moor Nature Reserve. Our sheep come from a variety of breeders, including the Cotswold Farm Park and Ellingham Hall.

Slate Turkey

The Slate Turkey is named after its colouration of a solid or ashy blue over the entire body with a few black flecks occurring on some feathers. The Slate is the rarest of the turkey breeds and has two different genetic mutations, one dominant and one recessive. Both produce the slate colouring but slightly different shades.

Scots Dumpy Chickens

The Scots Dumpy is an ancient breed of chicken that can be traced back to the 11th century. Through history they have been known under a host of names such as: Bakies, Stumpies, Dadlies, Hoodies, or Creepies.

The Scots Dumpy has a “Creeper” gene that shortens its legs and can be found in other European breeds such as the German Krüper, the French Courtes-Pattes, and the Danish Luttehøns.

Originally the Scots Dumpy would have been Crofters fowl, and its trait of having extremely short legs would have had benefit in naturally restricting the birds free-ranging around the homestead.

They are now considered one of the UK’s rarest native breeds of chicken.

Light Sussex Chickens

The Sussex was developed from the backyard fowl that roamed around the farms of Surrey, Kent and Sussex. The original birds were probably speckled, red or brown and were shown in the first ever general poultry show in 1845 under the names ‘Surrey Fowl’ and ‘Old Sussex or Kent Fowl’. The exhibition standard was established in 1902 with Red, Speckled and Light varieties recognised and in 1903, the Sussex Poultry Club was formed.

The ‘Light’ Sussex is the commonest colour and can lay up to 250 eggs each year.

Faverolle Chickens

Originating from the Eure & Loire region of France, they were originally a cross between the large imported Asiatic fowl and the local breed. They are thought to have been imported to Britain in about 1892 and in 1900 the British Faverolles Club was formed and a breed standard published shortly afterward. In France, they were known as the fowl with the ‘tete de hibou’ or the head of an owl.

Our birds are bantams and the colour form is called salmon

Silver Appleyard Duck

The Silver Appleyard was produced by Reginald Appleyard from selective cross breeding of other domestic duck breeds. First standardised in 1982, it was intended as a dual purpose bird, a prolific egg-layer and a good-sized table bird with a deep and wide meaty breast.

Saxony Duck

The Saxony was bred in the 1930s by Albert Franz of Chemnitz, Germany. This duck was recognised as an official breed in East Germany in 1957. The Saxony arrived in the UK during the 1970’s and was accepted as a new breed in 1982.

The Saxony is a muscular and close-feathered breed that can weigh 3.5kg and lay up to 100 eggs each year.

Red Poll Cattle

The Red Poll Cow was produced by crossing the milky Suffolk Dun with the meaty Norfolk Red in the early part of the 19th century. The Red Poll Breed Society was established in 1888 and the breed was a popular milking cow and beef animal. Small in size, calm by nature and attractive in appearance, the Red Poll is ideal for grazing public sites, whilst also being easy to handle and maintain.

The Otter Trust owns a pedigree herd of Red Poll Cattle that graze our Dickleburgh Moor Nature Reserve. At Earsham we keep some of our young heifers that are then returned to the main herd when they are 3 years old.

Island Canary Serinus canaria

The ‘wild’ canary is a type of finch and is found throughout the Canary Islands, Azores, and Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Island Canary was thought to have been domesticated in Germany from 1610, but an Italian painting from Marcus zum Lamm, from around 1580 show partially yellow canaries and a crested canary. Italian paintings from the 1490’s also show yellow birds that are thought to be canaries that had been artificially selected to be yellow rather than the ‘wild’ green birds.

Norwich Canary

The Norwich Canary was brought to Norwich by Flemish refugees over 300 years ago where the canary became very popular and eventually took on the name of the city. In 1890 a group of 400 breeders and enthusiasts got together in Norwich and decided on a new standard of type and quality regarding this canary.

Norwich’s ‘King of the Canaries’ Jacob Mackley (1850-1923) was the owner of Mackley Brothers, of Philadelphia Lane, who sent Norfolk bred canaries all over the world. Jacob sent 10,000 birds to North America every year in the early years of the last century. Sent out in batches of 2,000 to New York, the birds were housed in a specially-constructed room near the boilers of the ships to keep the birds warm during the voyage across the Atlantic.

The adoption of the nickname ‘the Canaries’ for the Norwich football club is often cited as having taken place around 1906 or 1907, but the first inkling was actually on April 1 1905, when the People’s Weekly Journal described a Newmarket Road game between the Linnets (of King’s Lynn) and the “canaries” of Norwich.

The Norwich Canary is a domesticated form of the ‘wild’ Island or Atlantic Canary that is found on the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

Indian Runner Duck

The origins of the Indian Runner Duck are thought to be the Indonesian islands of Lombok, Java and Bali where ducks were ‘walked’ to market and sold as egg-layers or for meat. In keeping with other domesticated ducks they are selected forms of the Mallard Duck Anas platyrhynchos.

Birds are thought to have arrived in the Europe on the boats of the East Indian Company and they are depicted in Dutch paintings from the 1700’s. The 13th Earl of Derby is said to have imported birds in the 1830’s and Charles Darwin described them in 1868.

The Indian Runner duck comes in a variety of colours, with white being the most popular. They can lay up to 200 eggs each year and are one of the commonest domestic duck breeds in the world.

British Wildlife

European Crane Grus grus

The European Crane is one of the commonest crane species in the world, with a growing global population estimated at 491,000-503,000 individuals. The European population is estimated at 113,000-185,000 pairs, with birds breeding in northern and central Europe and migrating south for the winter. The small UK population of approximately 50 birds is non migratory and originates from a pair of birds of dubious origins that appeared in the Norfolk Broads in the 1980’s and have been joined by genuinely wild birds. Other cranes have been introduced to the south-west of the UK, but as no attempt has been made to teach these birds to migrate, they have also formed a resident population.

The European Cranes at Earsham were captive bred at a centre in Germany. We hope our birds will act a decoys, attracting ‘wild’ birds to the meadows of the Waveney Valley.

Sandhill Crane Antigone Canadensis

The Sandhill Crane is a common North American species that has only been recorded in the UK on four occasions. In October 2011 a Sandhill Crane arrived in Suffolk for the first time, having been blown of course by Hurricane Katia. This bird was seen at Kessingland, North Warren, Sudbourne and Boyton Marshes.

We are exhibiting a pair of Sandhill Crane at Earsham as this species appears on both the UK and Suffolk bird list as a vagrant. Our Sandhill Cranes were captive bred in a centre in Germany.

European Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

The European Spoonbill is one of the most distinctive water birds and is found in small numbers across central and southern Europe, Africa and Asia. The global population is estimated to number c.63,000-65,000 individuals, with the European population being estimated at 10,200-15,200 pairs.

Numbers of European Spoonbill have been increasing in the UK, with a breeding colony being established at Holkham in 2010. This Norfolk colony was the first for 300 years, but as numbers of Spoonbill increase in Norfolk, it seems likely that another colony might become established in the east of the county in the coming years.

The European Spoonbills at Earsham were captive bred at a zoo in the Czech Republic. We hope our birds will act a decoys, attracting ‘wild’ birds to the meadows of the Waveney Valley.

Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus

The Whooper Swan is one of our three native swan species and undertakes the longest sea crossing of any swan species, migrating 800-1,400 km between Iceland and the UK.

The UK Whooper Swan population is steadily increasing, with bird’s migrating to the UK each Autumn and Winter, returning to Iceland to breed.

The Whooper Swans at Earsham were captive bred at Shorelands Wildlife Gardens.

Bewick’s Swan Cygnus columbianus

The Bewick’s is the UK’s smallest are rarest swan. Bewick’s arrive in the UK from mid-October, wintering here until the following March before migrating once again to their breeding grounds in northern Russian. The Bewick’s Swan has declined by 50% since 1995, due to loss of habitat and hunting. East Anglia is the best place in the UK to see this swan species, with flocks being found along the coast and river valleys.

The Bewick’s Swans at Earsham were captive bred at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust centre at Slimbridge.

Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis

The Red-breasted Goose is one of the most distinctive goose species in the world. The declining global population is estimated at approximately 50,000 birds, all of which breed in northern Russia. A small number of Red-breasted Geese arrive on the Norfolk and Suffolk coast each winter, mixed in with flocks of other geese. Most of the wintering population can be found in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine.

The Red-breasted Geese at Earsham were captive bred at Shorelands Wildlife Gardens.

Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus

An estimated 350,000 Pink-footed Geese arrive in the UK during October from breeding grounds in Iceland and migrate north in March and April. Norfolk holds the largest wintering flocks, with tens of thousands feeding in the Sugar Beet fields of north Norfolk and along the east coast.

In winter, the Waveney Valley is home to large flocks of Pink-footed Geese that forage along the river valley during the day, returning to roost on Breydon Water (Gt Yarmouth) at night.

Pacific Brent Goose Branta bernicla nigricans

The Pacific Brent Goose (called the Black Brant in the US) breeds in Alaska and winters in Baja California and has an estimated global population of over 100,000 birds. This species occurs as an annual migrant to the UK, with most records coming from the west of the UK and Ireland. Small numbers of Pacific Brent Geese can occasionally be found amongst the flocks of Dark-bellied Brent Geese (Branta bernicla bernicla) that spend the winter along the Norfolk & Suffolk coast.

Brent Geese are difficult to breed in captivity and our birds were bred by a private breeder in the Netherlands.