Abbey Farm, Flitcham
Reserve name: Abbey Farm
Address: Abbey Farm, Abbey Road, Flitcham, King’s Lynn, Norfolk . PE31 6BT
Opening hours: The hide is open at all times. A notice in the hide suggests that Wednesday visits be avoided, as that is when maintenance work is most often scheduled.
Location: The farm is located on Abbey Road, Flitcham, about 750 metres east of the junction with the B1153 (Anmer Road). The bird hide is signposted on the walls on either side of the short track leading to the car park.
Map reference: TF736266
Google map: Abbey Farm Bird Hide, Flitcham
Public Transport links: West Norfolk Community Transport operates a scheduled service (daily except Sundays) between King’s Lynn and Sedgeford, using minibuses with low steps and tailgate lifts for wheelchairs. It is route 2, and you would need to ask for the stop on Anmer Road, near the junction with Abbey Road. You have to be a member, but membership is free. For details and a timetable see their website: www.wnct.co.uk/
The nearest public scheduled bus route is along the A148 through Hillington, about 2 kms away. This is run by Stagecoach Norfolk, whose disability helpline can be contacted on 01553 776980.
It may also be possible to arrange wheelchair-accessible taxi transfers. One company offering such services is Steve’s Taxiservice – 01485 540019, or www.stevestaxiservice.co.uk
(All information correct as at July 2017)
Parking: A small car park is provided near the bird hide. There are no charges. There is room for about 5 cars in the car park – two on concrete, the others on consolidated stone/gravel. The latter can be muddy after rain. One of the spaces on concrete (which are both quite wide) is intended for disabled users, but the signage has largely worn off. The car park is rarely full.
Passengers can easily be dropped off at the car park, or on the road by the entrance to the short track leading to the car park. A minibus could be accommodated, but the hide is quite small. Groups wishing to visit the hide should contact Abbey Farm well in advance.
Toilets: There are no toilets on site.
Staffing: There are no wardens on site. The farmer can be contacted using the email or postal address given above.
Visitor Centre: There is no visitor centre.
Dogs: Assistance dogs on a lead are permitted. Please remember this is a working farm.
Telephone: there is no payphone on site.
The reserve was visited and assessed over a number of days during July 2017 by Peter Bangs
Abbey Farm covers about 375 hectares, and for the last 30 years has attempted to conserve wildlife while functioning as a commercial farm. The result is an area of mixed habitats that is rich in wildlife, and birds in particular. Please note that apart from an area of wet meadow (accessed on a concessionary basis via the village playing field), the only part of the farm accessible to the public is the bird hide. There are one or two field gateways along Abbey Road where views may be had over the fields. These can at times provide very worthwhile birdwatching. Please do not attempt to enter the fields, and take care on Abbey Road. Abbey Farm asks all birdwatchers to exercise a voluntary speed limit of 20 mph on Abbey Road, but some traffic travels much faster than that!
Access: The only path on the farm with public access is the one leading from the car park to the hide. This is less than 40 metres in length, and almost flat. It consists of concrete sections, cast in situ, and is about 140cms wide. Some concrete sections have subsided, leaving gaps of up to 4cms and drops in level of up to 5cms. Nevertheless this path is still negotiable with a wheelchair. Wheelchairs could easily pass at the right-angled turn in the path – 12 metres from the car park, 24 metres from the hide. On the day of survey there was a need for a little cutting back of overhanging vegetation, but this was carried out before the next visit. There are no seats along this short path.
Abbey Farm Bird Hide: This hide is well known to many birders as a good place to see little owls – though many other species can also be seen here. The owls are often seen on the branches or roots of the fallen (but still living) oak tree in the field across the stream from the hide. A telescope makes them easier to see!
Access to hide: The path described above runs right up to the hide door (85cms wide, outward opening with no threshold). Lever handles are at 115 cms high, and there is a ‘D’ handle inside the door to make closing it easier.
Internally there is clear access to a wheelchair viewing bay, straight on from the door. There are usually two chairs with backs for those that need them at this bay, but they are lightweight and easily moved aside. The wheelchair bay is well proportioned, with a knee space 70 cms deep x 70 cms high. It angles down to 45 cms high. There are two viewing flaps, 85 cms wide, 32 cms high and independently operated. Like all the flaps in the hide they are fitted with glass, but are not unreasonably heavy. A shelf is provided – 79cms high, 16 cms deep and 19 cms below the window base. The window base itself is at 95 cms high. This may pose difficulties for some wheelchair users in looking at birds close to the hide, but most birds are at some distance. A greater issue during the survey was that the view out from the wheelchair-accessible slots was partially obscured by the growth of vegetation close to the hide – gorse and mainly nettles. This had been addressed by the next visit.
Flap fastening: There are ‘shoot bolts’ at the side of the flaps in the wheelchair-accessible bay, but the handles on these are very small. They are located 145 and 150 cms off the ground. This means they are accessible from a wheelchair – but there is a problem. It looks as if these bolts are a later addition, and the original fasteners are still in place above the flaps at 165 cms high. These fasteners have to be held up to allow the flaps to go back far enough for the shoot bolts to hold them. This means that a solo wheelchair user would find opening (and closing) these flaps extremely difficult.
Other seating: There is fixed bench seating, with open ends for access, in front of the other hide windows, and two chairs with backs as described above.