Stow Bedon Fuel Allotment is part of Stow Bedon Common, a landscape containing numerous natural ponds formed in the late Ice Age by freezing and thawing of upwelling ground water.

Such ponds are referred to as pingos or palsa-scars and are a characteristic feature of the Breckland Commons of West Norfolk. Where protected from pollution, Brekland’s pingo ponds are some of Britain’s very finest freshwater habitats, remarkable survivals in a modern landscape – precious and delicate, their richness is hard to believe. Stow Bedon Common, though less famous than its near neighbour Thompson Common, is an area with the potential to be of equal richness and diversity to the very best of the pingo sites.

Stow Bedon Common was predominantly open grazing in the mid-19th century with only scattered trees and bushes. At this time permanent open water seems to have been no more extensive than now, with most pingos mapped as marshy hollows. A recent survey confirmed that while some species tolerate shaded conditions, the ponds support no distinct fen-carr flora or fauna. Management of scrub around these pools is therefore a priority.

Through the Flagship Ponds project we have helped the local community and Flagship group to better understand the significance of the pingos by commissioning professional baseline surveys for plants and invertebrates. These surveys revealed that Stow Bedon Fuel Allotment supports large and important populations of the near Threatened Pond Mud Snail Omphiscola glabra. It is a distinctively elongate pond snail, closely associated with pools and pond margins in agriculturally-unimproved habitats. This species has seriously declined; there are post-1999 records from only 47 hectads in Great Britain, and only one hectad record in East Anglia. This grid square includes Stow Bedon and Thompson Commons. In contrast to Thompson Common, where it was only found in one pond (41 ponds surveyed), it was found in six ponds on Stow Bedon (16 ponds surveyed).

Pond Mud Snails show a preference for ponds with dappled shade which allows some marginal plant growth, but will decline in fully shaded or completely open conditions. A different management prescription is therefore required on ponds where Pond Mud Snail are found. Our advice will ensure that any work to the ponds is undertaken with due care and takes into account the habitat preferences of the snails. Explaining what these results mean in practical terms both site managers and Natural England has been a big part of Flagship work.

Location: Norfolk

Accessibility: Want to visit Stow Bedon Common?

Stow Bedon Common is a private site but is visible from the bridal way known as the Great Eastern Pingo Trail – park up at Thompson Common off the A1075 Thetford to Watton Road and walk along the bridal way for a glimpse of this magical place. Look out for our Stow Bedon Common Interpretation Board!

Stow Bedon Common Interpretation Board on the Pingo Trail.

Site owners/managers: Stow Bedon Fuel Allotment Charity