For a landscape that’s almost entirely man-made the Broads are surprisingly wild. There’s a wealth of wildlife, some of it not found anywhere else in the UK. Whether it’s the bittern skulking in the reed beds whose booming call echoes for kilometres, an otter dashing along a riverbank or the delicate beauty of a darting dragonfly.
The landscape that is so brilliant for wildlife is a direct result of man’s activities. The Broads themselves were created after pits dug for peat were flooded. The ditches and dykes that helped drain the land for agriculture are rich with animal and plant species. The grazing marshes provide a rest stop and food for visiting wading birds.
The wildlife of the Broads faces many threats including changes to water levels, pollution, and loss of habitat as land is developed. On the bright side, the Broads was the first place in the UK where farmers were rewarded financially for managing their land in traditional ways, so protecting both the landscape and its wildlife.
Everything in this landscape is connected: keeping water levels high is not only important for preserving the peat and its hidden archaeology but also helps wetland birds.
Looking after wildlife helps people too. Giving a water vole the perfect flood bank to make their home helps bring in visitors who want to wildlife watch. With millions of visitors a year, tourism provides over 6000 jobs in this landscape.
Water, Mills and Marshes will provide training at nature reserves across the Broads. This will include surveying and recording the wildlife and indicators such as water quality. Recording the wildlife at sites will help to provide a fuller picture of the biodiversity of these sites. Knowing what wildlife is at a site helps it to be protected. Newly trained volunteers will monitor these areas to ensure that the improvements really have worked.
Hands-on skills also help our wildlife. Clearing scrub plants allows native species to thrive. Building a fence that keeps cattle enclosed on grazing marshes, also provides a home for wetland birds.
Community open events will encourage you to explore somewhere you haven’t ventured before. And you can learn how to look after your own local wildlife patch.
Water, Mills and Marshes will help keep the balance in the Broads’ landscape that works so well both for its people and its wildlife.
Here’s a taste of what it is like waking up on the marshes.