Monday, 23 July 2012

From the beauteous Broads

I'm tired, marshtitters, worn out, whacked. This is a bonkers-busy time of year for me and I spend my days racing from one event to the next, from one reserve to another. I've had a splendid day at three glorious Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves in the Broads with Beth from Discovery Quest; but I'm too shattered to write about it all. A summary will have to do.


Place: NWT Ranworth Broad (My old NWT education team stomping ground; lovely to be back today.)

Plants: Tissue-paper spires of purple loosestrife and egg-yolk flowers of yellow loosestrife, same name but unrelated; canoe-like leaves of great water dock amid the fine froth of fen bedstraw; hop vines, bristly, weaving through bushes of guelder rose; redcurrant (rounded leaves, no smell) and blackcurrant (jagged leaves, pungent) in the carr; and a noble oak, three-hundred years old and loved by thousands of school-visitors to Ranworth.

Birds: Shrill common terns bringing fish to their chicks on the platforms; great crested grebes waving their crazy crests in the shallows; a kingfisher blasting past; a hobby snipping the sky over the visitor centre; and an Egyptian goose looking lost among a gaggle of greylags.

Creeping things that creep upon the earth: Strangalia maculata beetles, long-horned and dotted black on tawny-yellow; brown hawker dragonflies all over the place; tiny swallowtail caterpillars on milk parsley, still at the don't-spot-me-I'm-a-speck-of-bird-poo-stage.


Place: NWT Cockshoot Broad (One of the Bure Valley's least-known beauties; hugely worth a visit.)

Plants: Greater bird's-foot trefoil, bright and beautiful in the marsh; wild angelica filling the carr-woodland understorey; an out-of-place stand of enchanter's nightshade (did no one tell you you're an ancient woodland indicator?) in lacy flower along the boardwalk; parsley water-dropwort (enough said; what's not to love about parsley water-dropwort?).

Birds: The Bure Valley osprey (yes, another Norfolk osprey) twice flying from his dead-alder perch to catch a fish, twice pursued by a juvenile marsh harrier (looking puny by comparison).

Creeping things that creep upon the earth: Small red-eyed damselflies, so newly part of our Norfolk odonatofauna (I'm not sure that's a word), resting on the pads of yellow water-lilies; in the car-park by the Bure, feeding from pom-poms of spear thistle, a late swallowtail. Broadland magic.


Place: NWT Upton Broad and Marshes (The capital of dragonfly-watching in Norfolk and home to countless charismatic weeds; simply superb.)

Plants: Where to begin? Southern marsh orchids, loud and bright, and marsh helleborines, duskily beautiful; bog myrtle (love that smell!); grass of Parnassus so very nearly in flower (two more days of sunshine needed); marsh lousewort all through the squelchy fen; and dykes sharp with the spikes of water soldier.

Birds: Marsh tits sneezing in the ash-woods; a blackcap tootling cheerily in the car-park.

Creeping things that creep upon the earth: Dragonflies! Brown hawkers everywhere; a southern hawker; common blue, azure and variable damselflies; a last four-spotted chaser through the tops of the willows; common darters and many, many black-tailed skimmers; loveliest of all, perhaps, droop-winged common emerald damselflies.

I wish I went to the Broads more often these days. But I'm glad NWT is still there to look after them.


  1. "Creeping things that creep upon the earth" is nasty *shudders*

  2. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.
    Genesis 8:17