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Broadland flood alleviation project

PUBLISHED: 09:56 24 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:46 03 July 2010

A £120m flood alleviation project being carried out across Broadland conjures up images of heavy machinery and major earthworks.

But long before the invasion of the diggers come Helen Markwell and her team of fellow environmental scientists - equipped with nothing more sophisticated than strong boots and gloves and a primitive-looking snake-catching stick

(aka the handle of a B&Q paint roller).

A £120m flood alleviation project being carried out across Broadland conjures up images of heavy machinery and major earthworks.

But long before the invasion of the diggers come Helen Markwell and her team of fellow environmental scientists - equipped with nothing more sophisticated than strong boots and gloves and a primitive-looking snake-catching stick

(aka the handle of a B&Q paint roller).

The only concession to the scientific age in their painstaking survey work is the GPS system that enables them to accurately pinpoint the location of any wildlife discoveries.

In bright spring sunshine yesterday morning, the team were walking the floodbank dividing the River Waveney from Fritton Woods, near Yarmouth, heads characteristically bowed looking for signs of movement in the grass fringe and reedbed.

Broadland Environmental Services - the consortium responsible for the 20-year programme - will not begin flood defence work on this stretch for about three years, but Ms Markwell explained that ahead of a planning application to be submitted later in the year a comprehensive wildlife survey had to be carried out.

They were now into their fourth week of surveying 15-20km of floodbanks in an exercise costing about £30,000.

She said: “This site near Fritton Woods is one of regional importance for adders, and other protected species we have come across are common lizards, grass snakes and slow worms. One section of the bank is home to a very rare mollusc.”

She said adders hibernated in cracks on the banks, a dry, frost-free environment, but this was the time of the year they began to move off, breed and forage for food.

Adders could live for more than

30 years, but they tended to return to the same place each winter to hibernate.

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