Golf course wins 'eco' honour
A SUFFOLK golf course where "birdies" are a common sight has been described as one of the most ecologically attractive in the UK.Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club borders the coast to the north of the seaside resort and was established more than 120 years ago.
By David Green
A SUFFOLK golf course where "birdies" are a common sight has been described as one of the most ecologically attractive in the UK.
Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club borders the coast to the north of the seaside resort and was established more than 120 years ago.
However, in the past two decades its wildlife importance has been increasingly recognised and efforts have been made to enhance the habitat it provides.
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The course is described as "one of the most ecologically sound courses in the UK" in a report from the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI), a commercial research organisation which advises clubs on the care and maintenance of courses.
Work highlighted by the report includes habitat improvements to help skylarks, efforts to extend the presence of a nationally scarce plant called sea holly and the wildlife friendly management of rough grassland.
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Tree planting, wildlife surveying and ongoing work with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust were also mentioned.
The 175-acre site supports two golf courses, the nine-hole Kingsfleet and the 18-hole Martello, and fertilizer use is kept to a minimum on tees, greens and fairways.
The man-made Tomline Wall, a sea defence bank comprising rough grassland, crosses the site and is important both for its plants and animals such as lizards, slow worms and grass snakes.
An adjacent area of ditches, ponds and reedbed supports otters and a large population of the endangered water vole.
A recent survey of the Tomline Bank and an area of rough grassland to the north by the local branch of the wildlife trust found 147 species of bird, including the reed warbler and bearded tit.
Lee Penrose, the ecologist who wrote the report for the STRI, said other gold courses in Suffolk, including Purdis Heath, Thorpeness and Aldeburgh were of similar importance for wildlife.
"What is particularly important about Felixstowe Ferry is that it is an old-style links course, created on sand dunes - a very special habitat," he said.
Mr Penrose said the English Golf Union and English Nature, the Government's wildlife agency, were encouraging clubs to undertake surveys and wildlife initiatives.
Susan Stone, conservation adviser with the wildlife trust, said the Felixstowe club was being "incredibly co-operative" in implementing environmental advice.
"The club is making the best of wildlife opportunities within the boundaries of running a successful golf course," she added.
Ms Stone said consideration was currently being given to declaring part of the golf course a County Wildlife Site.
Club manager, Richard Tibbs, said: "The needs of golf are easily compatible with those of wildlife."