Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Bad news from Rockland Broad

MARK Cocker's latest Country Diary for The Guardian makes grim reading.Rockland Broad, it appears, is heavily polluted. Anecdotal evidence from local naturalists has been confirmed by diseased clams found on the Broad's bed. Tests showed they have been infected by heavy metals perhaps stirred up by recent dredging. "It seems we now have some of the answer to what has befallen Rockland," he writes, "but can these effects now be reversed? * Read the column in full here

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Search for Surlingham Inner - Part II

Searching for Surlingham Inner


YOU set off from Coldham Hall. You paddle up river and then turn left down to Bargate. You paddle under the chain that stops the hire boats running aground on the wherry wrecks and keep left. A tiny channel emerges, wide enough for a canoe, hardly enough for its oars.

And then keep going. Within seconds a tiny flash of silvery blue heralded my first kingfisher of the year. Welcome to the secret-ish passage to Surlingham Inner, a mysterious broad only accessible by canoe. From here you can make it down to the Outmeadows. According to the late Jack Points this area was all grazing meadow until the disastrous floods of 1912. "Six inches of rain fell during these few hours," he wrote in his book chronicling the history of Surlingham. "Sluices were broken, dykes silted up and pumping mills carried away. All the grazing marshes were inundated for the whole year and many of them never had cattle on them again. The Outmeadows near Surlingham Broad are now under water at every tide and the road that led to them has disappeared beneath undergrowth." These were huge changes to the landscape wreaked in the course of just one day ...and less than a century ago. Now? It's a great place to explore. Give it a go.

* Read part one of the search for Surlingham Inner here

Prime-time Broads ...but which Broads?

I'VE thoroughly enjoyed Griff Rhys Jones's River Journeys on BBC1 over the last few weeks. Swooping aerial shots, travellers' tales and gnarled locals enjoying their prime-time time moment, you know the score. Tonight GRJ is on the Broads ...but on which bit of the Broads I wonder? Mark Wells, the creator of the Wherryman's Way, speaks very eloquently about how the guide books always focus on the Northern Broads: a bit of Bure, a bit of Thurne plus - say - St Benet's Abbey and Horsey Mill. No sign of the Yare, no sign of Rockland Broad, Berney Arms or the other wonders of the Wherryman's Way. So does Griff escape the cliches? We'll have to wait till 9pm tonight.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Welcome to Lady Julian

YOU wait 86 years for a new bridge across the River Wensum and then two turn up within a decade.
This picture shows the new superstructure for the Lady Julian Bridge in Norwich. It should open by the end of the month, connecting the Riverside with an increasingly gentrified King Street.
And those other bridges in chronological order? The Novi Sad bridge dates back to 2001 while the present Carrow Bridge was opened in 1923. The previous Carrow Bridge had crossed the river directly opposite Carrow Hill - the other side of what was to become Norwich City's ground. * More details on the new bridge's name here.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Hardley Mill: Setting sail again

BY MY reckoning it's 62 years since Hardley Mill last looked this good.
The new sails are on and this entire stretch of the Yare Valley looks the better for it.
As I walked back along the river towards Hardley Dyke this evening it made me think about how else this landscape had changed over those six decades. The answer, I suspect, is not a lot.
Farmers were still out harvesting - though with more machines and fewer people than they would have had in 1947. Geese still gather in the dusky stubble and warblers still hide in the reeds. I guess the Chinese water deer which bounded away from me, might not have run wild in those days, and there are certainly plenty more boats moored along the dyke. The major difference is how we use this environment. A major trade route has become a watery playground. Windpumps were once essential, now they are picturesque. But there's no denying that a Broads scene always looks better with one in the background A huge well done to everyone involved in the Hardley Mill project for reaching this major milestone.

* Earlier posts chart the moment the cap went on, and later the stocks.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Langley Church on norfolkchurches

I GREW up in a part of the country where churches were the central point of the villages they served. Norfolk, I soon discovered, does things rather differently.
In the Yare Valley at least, they seem to compete as to which can be the furthest away. Both Surlingham churches lie off the beaten track; Reedham is distant, Claxton sits on up on the hill, Carleton St Peter lies in a field all on its own. But while this presumably makes things awkward for both priest and parishioners, it does make for great walks. I discovered Langley's church entirely by accident while on the Wherryman's Way circular walk number 6. You can't see St Michael's from the road at all; you have to take a footpath off The Avenues and get beyond a protective ring of trees. Half of Langley's residents have probably never been there. I mention it here because it has become the latest church to be written up by Simon Knott of norfolkchurches. Take a look at his excellent website - surely the best in the county.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Heckingham: haven for butterflies

A GLORIOUSLY warm summer's day; the kind of day beloved by the England cricket team at Edgbaston and butterflies in the Yare Valley.
After two weeks on holiday I was back on the Wherryman's Way, paying homage to my favourite WW church; St Gregory's at Heckingham. Inside it was as lonely and as peaceful as ever. Outside an amazing array of butterflies soaked up the sun's rays. As well as this Meadow Brown, I also spotted a Peacock, a Tortoiseshell, a Small White, a Speckled Brown, a Wall and a Chalk Hill Blue. (See more pictures here.) Is it me, or is this becoming a boom year for butterflies?