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Water, Mills and Marshes

  • Partnership led by the Broads Authority
  • Funded by the players of the National Lottery through the National Lottery Heritage Fund
  • We have received a grant of £2.4million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund ( Development phase funding  awarded in November 2015, Delivery phase in September 2017)
  • With partner contributions it takes the total value of the Scheme to over  £4million
  • The Scheme is actually 38 projects delivered by 55 partners over the next 5 years (2018 to 2022)  at sites throughout the Broads National Park
  • Projects that help identify, preserve and improve the incredible heritage, environmental and archaeological assets within the Broads landscape.
  • Gives people opportunities to learn about and contribute to the Broads landscape
  • Provides opportunities for thousands of people to connect with the landscape
  • Gain new skills – from heritage restoration to wildlife surveying and archaeology



  • Carry out restoration work to a dozen iconic drainage mills
  • Train over 400 students in heritage construction skills
  • Take the Broads into schools through roadshows and classroom activities, then take those classes out into the Broads landscape
  • Help people get out to explore their local landscape, creating trails, improving signage and mapping
  • Work to restore some key wildlife sites and create new homes for rare species

The Water, Mills and Marshes scheme area covers 205Km². Within this area there are

  • 2 Ramsar sites,
  • 16 extensive Sites of Special Scientific Interest and
  • 17 regionally and locally important Wildlife Sites.

It is home to the greatest concentration of standing drainage mills in Europe,

  • 13 scheduled monuments,
  • two heritage Conservation Areas (one ‘at risk’) and
  • 158 listed buildings.
    The winding waterways, once important trade routes sailed by the iconic sailing wherries, are a nationally important recreational resource for boating visitors, with over 12,000 registered vessels and 7 million visitors to the Broads annually.

Great Yarmouth

Began as a Roman fort at the mouth of the River Yare

  • Seaside resort since 1760 with 2 piers
  • Major herring fishery and smokery
  • Port where majority of trans-shipping from coastal boats onto Wherries happened
  • 1960’s oil and gas industry servicing oil rigs
  • 30 wind turbines offshore at Scroby sands
  • Location for Dickens’ David Copperfield – described Gt Yarmouth as “the finest place in the Universe”
  • 2 lifting bridges cross the River Yare
      • Haven Bridge
      • Breydon Bridge



Birthplace of

Anna Sewell – Black Beauty
Jason Statham
Ed Graham – drummer of The Darkness

Black Shuck – the ghostly black dog roaming the East Anglian coast “ large black dog with malevolent flaming eyes”

Shuck – old English for Hairy / Shaggy

Breydon Water

Aerial photograph of Breydon water and surrounding grazing marshes. View out towards Great Yarmouth and the North Sea. Parts of the grazing marsh are flooded.

Aerial photo of Breydon Water, a huge expanse of open water. Looking towards Great Yarmouth and the North Sea

  • 4 miles long, 1 mile wide
  • Tidal Estuary, southern confluence of the Rivers Yare and Waveney
  • UK’s largest protected wetland
  • Overlooked to Burgh Castle
  • Most important estuary in the East Coast for Birds
  • Common tern breeding platforms on mud flats
  • In Winter – site for overwintering birds
    • 12000 Golden Plover
    • 12000 Widgeon
    • 32000 Lapwings
    • 10000+ Bewicks Swans
    • Also Dunlin, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Avocets and the odd escaped Flamingo ( once )
  • In Spring / Summer – site for breeding birds
    • Widgeon
    • Shelduck
    • Shoveler
    • Oystercatcher
    • Yellow Wagtail
    • Redshank
    • Lapwing


  • Long distance paths either side
    • Weavers Way – 56 mile Cromer to Gt Yarmouth , linking to the Angles Way – Gt Yarmouth to Thetford
    • Wherrymans Way 35 mile Gt Yarmouth to Norwich
  • Breydon Water is site for events in Arthur Ransome “Coot Club”


Halvergate Marshes

  • 5Km² – largest area of traditionally managed grazing marshes in the Broads
  • Over 50% is either SSSI or Ramsar site
  • Forms part of the Broads Special Protection Area
  • Roman Estuary
  • Domesday book reference as a place for grazing sheep
  • 400 years ago, man made drainage started
  • Channels dug – foot drains – for movement and managment of water
  • Ditch and dyke network
    • Curvilinear dykes – oldest dyke network, follows natural contours
    • Straight dykes – more modern
  • Ploughing and reversion to Agriculture
    • 1960’s and 70’s ploughing damaged ditch and dyke network
    • Further land drainage in 1980’s led to loss of habitat
    • 1981, 3500 acres (14Km²) designated as SSSI
  • Battle for Halvergate
    • 1985, Broads Authority, Ministry for Agriculture, fisheries and food (MAFF) and countryside commission set up experimental Broads Grazing Marshes Conservation Scheme
      • Series of financial incentives to persuade landowners to adopt more environmentally friendly management methods
      • Led to first Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) on Halvergate in 1987
      • Became prototype for ESA nationally ( and then Farm payments throughout Europe)
    • Habitat:
      • Grazing marsh
      • Unimproved pasture
      • Wet fen meadows
      • Reed bed
      • Alder carr
      • Freshwater ditches ( dykes )


Broads Flood Alleviation Project


  • 20 year project
  • Re-profiled existing river banks to above mean high water spring level
  • New flood banks “set back” from river bank, creating area behind river where flood water could be stored in lagoons
  • The set back lagoons are planted with reed and form new habitats

Lockgate Mill

  • 2 miles from Great Yarmouth
  • Built between 1800 and 1825
  • 4 stories, 35 feet high, 24 feet diameter
  • Driven by 4 sails
  • Driving external scoop wheel
  • Drained water from Acle Marshes
  • Last worked for drainage in mid 1940’s
  • Fell into disrepair
  • 1953, sails blown off
  • 1988 Aluminium cap fitted
  • 2001 set on fire and internal equipment damaged

Berney Arms Mill

  • Built in 1865
  • Designed grind clinker (Chalk / Calcium silicate) which was brought by Wherry from Whitlingham, 20 miles up stream
  • 71 feet tall
  • Tallest mill in Norfolk
  • 7 stories high
  • Traditional cap (clinker built, like an upturned boat)
  • 4 patent sails and a fantail
  • Cement works supported a small settlement
    • 11 houses and a chapel
  • Cement works closed in 1880
  • Converted to drainage mill in 1883
  • Scoop wheel set away from the mill (which is unusual)
  • Closed in 1948 and replaced by electric pumps


Berney Arms Station

  • Most remote railway station in Norfolk – 3.5 miles to nearest road
  • Opened in 1844 as part of the Yarmouth and Norwich Railway
    • The landowner Thomas Berney sold the land on the condition that a station be built
    • Train stops 2x per day, once in each direction

The New Cut

  • 1814 shallows on Breydon make crossings difficult for trading vessels
  • Trans shipping at Great Yarmouth led to lots of cargo being stolen
  • Initial idea to dredge deep channel in Breydon Water opposed by Gt Yarmouth
  • New Cut links River Yare to Waveney and the Sea Lock at Oulton Broad / Lake Lothing
  • Began construction in 1833, completed in 1842


Great estuary Story

    200 years ago

  • Iron Age – Norfolk Coast 1 mile east of Gt Yarmouth
    2000 years ago

  • Sea broke through the shingle spit at what is to day Great Yarmouth bringing marine conditions forming Great Estuary
    Creating wide expanse of ponds and mud flats over which sea water ebbed and flowed with every tide
    1800 years ago – Roman Period

  • Ships sailed over Halvergate Marshes to Norwich and Bungay
    1700 years ago

  • Burgh Castle fort constructed to defend the Great Estuary
  • Great Estuary important route for trade traffic and communication into the heart of Norfolk and Suffolk
  • Number of villas and farmsteads surrounding the shores of the Great Estuary
  • Gradually the shingle bank built up at Great Yarmouth combined with sea level fall the estuary silted up
  • Sandbank grew at Great Yarmouth forming the site of the Town today.

All that remains of the Great Estuary is the tidal inlet of Breydon Water