On the Trail of Pingos

This always makes me think of 101 Dalmatians; Pongo, if memory serves, was the father of said batch of painfully cute Disney Dalmatian puppies. Ya gotta love ‘em.

A pingo, on the other hand, is “a periglacial landform”. So there! To use another wonderful piece of gobbledegook, they are “intrapermafrost ice-cored hills”. Wow! No, I have little idea what that really means, either, tough, with a dictionary, I could probably work it out. In more simple English, a pingo is a depression in the soil, caused by some Ice Age action. Most are of modest size. Though it is a pond, pingo is apparently Eskimo-speak for hill. In short, and if I’ve understood this correctly: ice hill forms, gets covered in soil, warms up, ice melts and the soil collapses into a hollow which gets filled with water. Pingos can be found in many places including Siberia but those remaining in Norfolk – many fell victim to the plough – are important wildlife sanctuaries.

Thompson Common is a Norfolk Wildlife Trust site littered with pingos. The pingos, being excellent fresh water breeding habitat, are littered with dragonflies and damselflies. One of the damselflies is a bit of a rarity that likes the specific sort of habitat offered by some of these pingos and that I can’t see anywhere near home. Hence our British summer trip.

We are just a handful of miles from the village of Thompson where there is a waymarked 8-mile trek called the Pingo Trail.

In common with some other Wildlife trust sites, the NWT Thompson Common site is less than obvious – one might almost say hidden with no sign declaring its presence. First of all, it’s tucked behind a lay-by on the A1075. One has to drive through the lay-by onto a rough track whereupon it still isn’t obvious. Immediately right, surrounded by trees and bushes, is a secret car park for about 10 vehicles, if all the vehicles park considerately. From here, begins the waymarked Pingo Trail. The ardent dragonfly enthusiast, however, should ignore this and instead look for the almost concealed entrance, buried in vegetation, to the NWT Thompson Common reserve itself.

Scarce Emerald-212828After a hundred metres or so, you come across a few pingos in woodland. I have been here once before but I can’t remember for the life of me how I found it that first time. Access then seemed somewhat easier. Now I found myself searching for quarry whilst balancing on the rounded trunks of trees fallen beside a small pond, a pingo. I may have thought I had my balance sorted but when I put my eye to the viewfinder, all visual reference went and I wobbled alarmingly. Surprisingly for me, I managed to avoid taking a tumble into the pingo. Even more surprisingly, whilst wobbling, I did manage to get one or two keeper shots of my Scarce Emerald Damselfly/Robust Spreadwing (Lestes dryas) quarry. It must be said that I did better on my first visit.

Further along, the track opens out into heathland where there are more pingos. An end of term school outing was just having lunch after finishing an organized pond-dipping trip. They were no problem, happily. I searched a couple of these more open pingos but most of what I found were “regular” Emerald Damselflies/Common Spreadwings (Lestes sponsa), of which I have plenty at home. These two species are quite tricky to distinguish and having both in the one habitat makes life awkward.

We ended up chatting to two of the responsible adults who were clearing up after the kids exploits. Then we decided to go in search of an appealing pub for some refreshment. We found the refreshment but the pub, which was actually hidden from the road otherwise I’d have driven past, was less than appealing, offering nothing more than a gravel car park and brick wall as a view. Just the one drink, then.

Successful but not staggeringly so.

Posted in 2021-07 Norfolk

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