A quick history of the Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads is a loosely applied geographical title given to a large area of navigable and non navigable waterways in Norfolk and Suffolk. Totalling a significant 303 square kilometres, there are 7 rivers and over 60 broads (shallow lakes) most of which lie in Norfolk. The area currently benefits from a level of protection similarly applied to UK National parks, but yet remains different. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act of 1988 recognises that although the Broads have the same level of protection as afforded to national parks, the Broads Authority controlling the park also has a key role in acting as an inland waterways navigational authority. This quick history of the Norfolk Broads illustrates how this large and stunning area of waterways became a perennial favourite destination for holidaymakers.

For many years, it was presumed that the Broads were a natural feature of the landscape, however, in the 1960’s; Dr Joyce Lambert proved that the lakes were in fact excavated peat bogs. They were first excavated by the Romans and then extensively exploited by the monasteries as a turbary business, selling the peat to Norwich and Great Yarmouth. The cathedral in particular took 320,000 tonnes of peat a year. The good times however, failed to last; and as the sea levels rose, the bogs began to flood again. Despite the construction of wind pumps and dykes, the flooding continued and gave rise to the wetland ecosystem we see today.

The Broads are now the largest area of wetland habitat in the UK and are home to a wealth of wildlife, especially birdlife. The area is home to the largest population of UK bitterns, but with only 44 breeding males in the country, they are considered at risk of becoming extinct in the UK. Alongside the bittern, the area is home to the quintessentially British species: Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Heron, Swan, Canada Geese and Egyptian Geese.

Even the birdwatchers are kept entertained in autumn as whilst some birds are departing for warmer climes others are returning to the Broads for the winter. White-fronted geese and bean geese arrive from Russia, and thousands of pink-footed geese travel down from Iceland. It’s still a great time to be out on the water – with all the trees turning. And look out for lots of autumn activities – it’s the season for events with bats, moths and other creatures of the night, fungi, pumpkins and Halloween.

Unlike most national parks though, the Broads are very active through the winter and autumnal months, with lots of events to keep people interested. The autumn half term and Christmas breaks are especially packed with activities, perfectly suited for entertaining your children. There are however plenty of events for adults to sink their teeth into during the Norfolk Broads holidays and if you visit http://www.enjoythebroads.com/events-search you can find a comprehensive list of activities.

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