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Ormesby Broad now a wildlife haven

PUBLISHED: 09:22 22 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:09 30 June 2010

Back in 1995 the outlook for Ormesby Broad looked - quite literally - gloomy.

The murky water was totally unappealing to wildlife, there were few fish for anglers to catch and little to attract the attention of birdwatchers.

Back in 1995 the outlook for Ormesby Broad looked - quite literally - gloomy.

The murky water was totally unappealing to wildlife, there were few fish for anglers to catch and little to attract the attention of birdwatchers.

But in just 15 years, a combination of hard toil and pioneering conservation methods has transformed the broad into a wildlife paradise, its now clear waters teaming with fish and attracting such rare wildlife as water voles, otters and bitterns.

The astonishing improvements have even spread to the rest of the so-called Trinity Broads, Ormesby Little Broad, Rollesby Broad, Lily Broad and Filby Broad, near Great Yarmouth.

The success of the work carried out by the Broads Authority, Essex and Suffolk Water, Natural England and the Environment Agency has now been rewarded with a prestigious waterways renaissance award from the Waterways Trust and British Urban Regeneration Association.

Alan Mallett, vice-chairman of the Broads Authority, who collected the award from the Lowry Gallery in Manchester, described it as “encapsulating all the Broads Authority stood for”.

“It is not only an environmental achievement with clear water and an improved habitat but it is also encouraging tourism, boating and angling,” he said.

Eilish Rothney, the Broads Authority conservation officer for Trinity Broads, said the water had become increasingly murky over decades as a result of phosphates from farm fertilizers and sewage leeching into the broads and stimulating the growth of algae.

To tackle the problem, they had removed a lot of small roach and rudd from Ormesby Broad as part of a process of “biomanipulation”.

“The small fish were eating the water fleas that feed on the algae. By removing them, the water fleas could flourish again and within four months we had clear water in the broad,” she said.

And because the clear water flowed into the neighbouring Trinity Broads, the habitat gradually improved there as well, she added.

Ms Rothney said a wealth of other conservation work had been carried out - helped by the Authority's 40-strong team of volunteers - from clearing scrub to encourage a healthy reed fringe to removing silt to increase water depth.

She said: “There has also been a lot of support from the local community, including parish councils, and this award is a tribute to everyone involved.”

In the last few years rare plants such as the holly-leaved naiad and stoneworts , as well as molluscs such as the Desmoulin's whorl snail, have reappeared. Bats are now a common sight, while bittern sightings are a weekly occurrence and otters make an appearance on average once a month.

Fishing was formerly limited to roach and bream but now pike, perch, tench and rudd are common, with one angler catching 70 pike in one day last June.

Andy Hindes, a senior environmental monitoring officer with the Environment Agency, said: “We are looking at how the system can continue to improve. Using innovative techniques to track fish movements within Ormesby Broad we will increase our understanding of fish distribution and how the complex Trinity system links together.”

Blob. In the awards, Whitlingham Country Park, near Norwich, was a commended project for its education activities on and off the water.

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