Foxearth reserve born out of one man’s mission

Maureen and Keith Morris at the Foxearth site in 2002
Maureen and Keith Morris at the Foxearth site in 2002
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The former owner of Foxearth’s new nature reserve is hoping as many people as possible can enjoy the wildlife on display.

The site was formerly opened last week by new owners A Rocha UK, with hundreds of visitors, young and old in attendance, joined by local dignitaries.

The site is the country’s first nature reserve maintained primarily for dragonflies and damselflies.

Despite much work being carried out by the current owners, the first steps to creating a wetland paradise were taken by Keith Morris in 1997.

Mr Morris was always interested in conservation. He gave up his job in insurance at 52 and bought a plot of land at the back of his and his wife’s home in Monks Eleigh in 1976.

This was used to create areas for wildlife which, thanks to more purchases over the years, helped to swell the site to five acres.

In 1997, the couple bought the site bordering the River Stour in Foxearth, a former gravel pit used for fishing that he intended to turn back into a wet meadow.

“He bought it for himself and for wildlife,” said his wife Maureen. “He became very passionate about damselflies and dragonflies.

“We used to go once a year and do management. We’d take the caravan, a trailer and tools and do work alongside going for walks and enjoying the nature.

Mr Morris, who died in 2009 from bowel cancer, had helped start A Rocha Czech and a centre in the country is named after him.

Although the site in Monks Eleigh was retained, Mrs Morris did not feel she could keep the Foxearth plot, so began looking for an owner, keen to see it saved for nature.

“I couldn’t cope with it. I tried to sell it but I wanted there to be the lake for wildlife.”

Having seen two potential sales fall through, she enlisted the help of A Rocha UK, asking whether she could advertise the site in its newsletter.

The charity carries out environmental projects in mainly urban areas in the UK and, instead of agreeing to advertise it, offered to buy it and create a nature reserve.

“They fell in love with it,” added the 73-year-old former charity founder. “They put together a fundraising campaign to buy it. I sold it far below market value as I wanted them to have it.”

With current site manager Mark Prina hired in February 2015, the site finally opened to the public last weekend.

“It’s wonderful,” said Mrs Morris. “We want it to be something the community can enjoy.

“It has always been open to the public as a public footpath goes through it, but now it is a proper place for the public.

“We want people to come to learn about the wonders of wildlife.

“I think a lot of people are very busy and are tied to computers, so it’s nice to get out in the countryside.”

q To access the reserve from Long Melford, turn left off the A1092 after the Phillips Avent factory. Carry on over the River Stour past Foxearth Fisheries, follow the bend and turn left towards Liston. The reserve is on the left.