Focus on the national treasure in our home county
FROM THE AIR the Norfolk Broads is a complex lacework, with strands of rivers and tributaries creating meandering patterns intercepted by the occasional blots of wild expanses of water.
But the Broads not only shapes our landscape, it is symbolic of the county’s industrial and agricultural heritage, is an internationally important haven for wildlife and is key to tourism and the local economy, in the past, present and future.
It is Britain’s largest protected wetland and the third largest inland waterway. It is also home to more than a quarter of the rarest plants and animals in the UK.
So as the weather warms, it is the perfect time to explore the rivers and broads, the nature reserves and towns and villages which make up this National Park.
The annual Broads Outdoor Festival which runs for three weeks, starting on April 30 with the fantastic Tour De Broads cycling event, is a great way to try something different and discover new places and activities.
From the bustling hubs and popular hotspots, such as Wroxham, Stalham and Horning, which are bursting with amenities, boats chugging along the rivers and throngs of visitors, to secluded, unspoilt corners home to rare species of insects and birds, accessible only on foot or by canoe, it is a huge area which offers something for everyone.
AWAY FROM the bustling, well-sailed waterways of its better known neighbours, the Trinity Broads are a tranquil, idyllic part of Norfolk’s landscape with crystal clear waters and a robustly protected ecosystem.
Covering 14% of the total Broads open water system, this vast area is isolated from the main river creating a very unique environment and there are strict limits on which vessels can take to the water. But it is this careful management and community engagement which makes it such a magical, special place to explore.
“It is a very peaceful, quiet site and there are very important limits on who can take out boats onto the water and what type of boats they are,” says Norfolk Wildlife Trust warden Eilish Rothney. “We have fishing and viewing platforms and the temptation can be to drop in a canoe or paddleboard but even these pose a risk. If people bring their own vessels to put in, there is a huge chance of cross contamination and the introduction of invasive species, which, thanks to our rather unique ecosystem, we are free from. For example we are clear of the killer shrimp which can plague the Broads and causes serious ecological problems.”
Trinity comprises of Ormesby, Rollesby, Filby, Lily and Ormesby Little Broads and despite the careful management there are plenty of ways to enjoy this beautiful spot, with boat trips and dinghy hire available, boardwalks, fishing and picnic spots, sailing clubs and plentiful nature.
But, says Eilish, it is essential to ensure everyone understands why certain rules are in place and to show them the benefits of protecting the environment.
The Trinity Broads Partnership, which includes the Broads Authority, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Essex and Suffolk Water, Natural England and the Environment Agency, works to safeguard and enhance the Trinity Broads, carefully managing biodiversity, water quality, recreation and the needs of the community. As well as being a key conservation site, it also provides a water supply to thousands of homes in Yarmouth.
“We try very hard to involve everyone who has an interest in Trinity Broads – and we have regular consultations with everyone from landowners and parish councilors, to fisherman, conservationists and those living in the villages around the Broads. I think people are more invested in the area and interested in protecting it than they were 20 years ago. I hope by involving the wider community and ensuring their voices are heard, it means they are more likely to support and understand what we are doing, and of course they can see
the benefits,” she says.
“We have a lot of people fishing here and they are very good. They have to either thoroughly wash all of their gear or have some they use specifically for Trinity. They also want to keep the eco-system healthy as it is essential to retain the species which live there. If we don’t all look after it and something happens to even one part of the food chain, it has a huge knock on effect.”
She says that because the Trinity Broads are isolated from the main river system, it helps protect the biodiversity of the area and it is one of the reasons the water remains so clear.
“There is no movement between the Trinity broads, the river and the other main broads system. Because of the way it is designed, water is exiting the system but water can’t come back up into it. This gives us protection from excessive water nutrients and fertilisers, which means that for at least nine months of the year we have the most magical, crystal clear waters.”
There is bountiful wildlife in and around the Trinity Broads, including rare insects, stands of bulrushes and the elusive bittern and, thanks to careful habitat management, there are healthy fish, invertebrates and aquatic plant populations.
“All aquatic plants need sunlight to thrive and if the water is too full of nutrients it makes the water murky and the sunlight can’t reach them. That was exactly what state the Trinity Broads were in 22 years ago.”
A scheme to remove fish from Ormesby Broad in 1995 transformed the waterways from algae-filled murky waters with very little wildlife into clear water teeming with plants, fish and invertebrates.
“There were so many fish in the system they were eating all the water fleas, which are necessary to eat the algae. So as soon as the number of small fish began to reduce, the water fleas began to grow in numbers. It was amazing; within four months it was starting to clear the water and it led to the healthy and balanced environment for plants, fish and invertebrates which we have today.”
Above: An aerial photograph of theTrinity Broads. Photography from the Trinity Broads Project
Lilies on the Lily Broad
A sailing boat on the River Bure near Horning