Restoration project aims to bring Hickling Broad’s reedbed back to its former glory
PUBLISHED: 06:50 25 April 2018 | UPDATED: 06:50 25 April 2018
As the largest of the Broads National Park family, Hickling Broad is one of Norfolk’s crown jewels.
Its reedbed is the largest in England, but over the decades has been the victim of substantial erosion, which has torn through sections of it.
Over the next three years though, a project aims to restore it to its former glory, re-establishing a part of its shoreline which has been eroded away.
Funded in part by £630,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, the scheme will build up a new area of reedswamp on around a hectare of the Broad which in 1946 was part of the shore.
The area will be built from giant fabric bags called ‘geotextile tubes’ which are filled with sediment from the Broad to create a solid barrier, allowing reeds and other plants to grow through.
Harry Mach, project manager, said: “The aim is to restore this area of Hickling to the 1946 shoreline, which has seen substantial erosion through wind and waves.
“This will result in an additional area of reedbed habitat and will also create a sheltered area of water to the west of the reedbed, providing refuge for birds and water plants.”
The project is being carried out by the Broads Authority with international partners including Canape (Creating A New Approach to Peatland Ecosystems).
Mr Mach added: “The removal of sediment and creation of the new reed area will contribute towards the long term aim of improving the water quality at Hickling Broad.
“The project enables multiple benefits in terms of habitat creation, wildlife and navigation. Reedbed is a priority habitat and supports rare species such as marsh harrier, bitterns and the swallowtail butterfly.
“The sheltered lagoon to the west of the reedbed will also provide colonisation opportunities for water plants.”
John Tusting, director of Hickling Broad boatyard Whispering Reeds said: “As a boatyard, this is very beneficial to us as the project is dredging where our boats need to go.
“It seems a very sensible way of dealing with the sediment in the Broad.”
A public exhibition of the plans will be held at Hickling Barn on Thursday, April 26, from 2pm until 7pm.
The project in numbers
The project will focus on a section of the Broad which is approximately one hectare in size.
The area will see a series of ‘geotextile tubes’ used, each of which are approximately 50m long and 5m wide.
These will create a structure with a perimeter of 425m, which will then be filled with sediment taken from the Broad over the next two winters.
It is estimated that 10,000 cubic metres of sediment will be accumulated by the next two winters of dredging, which will be used in the project.
Project manager Harry Mach said the aim was for the project to be completed by the spring of 2021.
Hickling Broad fact file
With its 238 hectares, Hickling Broad is the largest of all of our Broads.
The water body itself makes up 153.8 hectares of the site, with its average depth being around 1.3m.
It boasts a vast array of wildlife, including some of the country’s rarest species, including a substantial proportion of the UK’s common cranes, breeding pairs of marsh harriers and bitterns.
Other birds that can be spotted in the area include kingfishers, curlew and avocets while three separate breeds of deer may also be seen; red, Chinese water and muntjac. Mammals such as otters,
hares and water voles have also been known to inhabit the site.
Hickling Broad is also one of the only places that can lay claim to the Norfolk Hawker dragonfly, the emperor butterfly and the swallowtail butterfly.
The broad first become a wildlife reserve in 1945 and its reed bed is the largest in England.