Friday, 20 May 2016

The Ovington Ramblers: Ranworth Broad

Maureen Simmons

We parked our car in the NWT car park and then had a short walk along the boardwalk to the floating visitor centre to start our boat trip.  This short walk took us through carr woodland which was so interesting that we literally almost missed the boat!  Luckily Carolyn, our NWT guide, was waiting for us and we were quickly fitted with life jackets and off we went.  The weather was perfect – warm with no wind – and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip.

The terns usual nesting sites had been taken over by noisy black headed gulls this year – beautiful birds but not as graceful as the elegant terns diving and dipping into the water around us.  We also saw mallards, shellducks, tufted ducks, coots, geese, herons, swallows and lots of great crested grebes. Ranworth Broad holds the highest concentration of great crested grebes on The Broads. These beautiful water fowl were almost extinct a hundred years ago when they were killed for their feathers to decorate the hats of Victorian ladies.  Because of this the Fur and Feather League was founded to change peoples' attitude towards the persecution of birds and animals for human adornments.  The Fur and Feather League later became the RSPB which we know today.

We saw an excellent example of “succession” which our guide explained to us as we passed by.  This is an area of reed beds that have been left to grow naturally, without management. Here water-loving saplings of alder, willow and silver birch had grown amongst the reeds.  Over a period of 20 or 30 years they had grown bigger and heavier and eventually had started to sink deeper in the water, thus becoming water-logged and dying.  The remaining stark leafless branches of these trees provide the perfect roosting perches for a huge number of cormorants.  It is quite usual to see 400 cormorants coming to roost in the evening, making it the largest roost site in the UK.

Another interesting sight was the “pond within a pond” which has been constructed by NWT to develop ways to encourage the growth of aquatic plants. There is very little plant life in the Broads waterways, due to the run-off of fertilizers into the rivers and lakes which started shortly after WWII. The fertilizer encouraged the growth of algae which became so dense it cut off the sunlight to the beds of rivers and lakes which stopped the growth of aquatic plants.  All these years later it still has an effect.

After the boat trip we took our time walking back through the carr woodland looking for the orchids and guelder rose in flower which our guide had pointed out. We finally had to stop and stare at the wonderful old oak trees;  so huge it would take six people to link hands around the base of the trunks.

Upton Broad and Marshes

We  only had a short walk here along the river Bure. A heron watched us as we walked past and cattle grazed in the fields. A very peaceful place to visit. 

The Ovington Ramblers are a small group of friends who have decided in their 20th year of walking together that we will try to visit all the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves in their 90th Anniversary year.  

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