Friday, 4 November 2016

The Ovington Ramblers: Hickling Broad

For NWT's 90th Anniversary, the Ovington Ramblers set themselves a challenge to visit our reserves.  With immaculate timing, they have just visited NWT Hickling Broad, the wildlife gem at the heart of the Broads where we have just launched a £1million land purchase appeal.
The Ovington Ramblers, by boat not foot!

What a wonderful morning on Hickling Broad!  The sun was shining in a clear blue sky and – quite unusual for this time of year – there was not a breath of wind.  The whole scene was one of peace and tranquility with just the sound of the rippling water along the side of the boat.

The Broads were hand-dug by local people in the Middle Ages as they excavated peat for use as fuel. 

Also, and not so well known, local potters in Heigham extracted clay to use as their material for making earthenware – hence Potter Heigham.

Richard was steering the boat at the same time giving lots of interesting information, whilst Dave with his binoculars pointed out the wildlife we could otherwise have missed.  One of the first points of interest was the tiny island where Emma Turner lived on her houseboat during the early 1900s.  This pioneering wildlife photographer could spend the whole day lying camouflaged on the ground in order to get a perfect photo, often with the birds walking all over her in her stillness.  She took the first ever photo of a bittern which was thought to be extinct in the UK.

Another important pioneer at that time was Jim Vincent, the son of a local gamekeeper.  From the age of 16 he was employed to manage the shoot for a group of influential MPs and ornithologists.  He was also tasked with attracting and protecting other birds and wildlife in the area, particular the marsh harrier which were also nationally extinct as breeding pairs.

The love and dedication of these two people in protecting the rare birds helped to pave the way for the enormous variety of birds and wildlife we see here today.
Young swans at Hickling Broad

During the trip we passed a large group of young swans who stay together until around 5/6 years old, when they reach maturity and leave to find a mate. This year there were about 50-60 youngsters in the group. We saw lots of marsh harriers flying low over the reed beds, plus great crested grebes, cormorants, reed buntings, tits, and herons.

A glimpse of a chinese water deer

We stopped off at various hides and watched large flocks of teal with a few shellducks and shovelers.  We also saw a chinese water deer grazing at the water's edge.

We moored, crossed an unusual ligger bridge and walked to the 60' Tree Tower.  The magnificent view from the top took in nearly all the 600 hectares of Hickling Broad and you could see the sand dunes of the coast along the horizon.   A pair of cranes were spotted in the distance.  Apparently, on one summer's day per year all the purple hairstreak butterflies emerge and cover the oak treetops all around the tower, providing an awe inspiring sight.

All too soon, we were on our way back but were still lucky enough to see six bearded tits flitting through the reeds. This was an excellent way to see Hickling Broad but there are also good walks taking in all the hides and observation points.

Thoroughly recommended!


Help us protect Hickling Broad – the heart of the Norfolk Broads

Please donate today:

  •  Call: 01603 625540
  • Text LAND26 TO 70070 with the amount of your donation


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