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In the Field How Hill designated a National Nature Reserve How Hill Nature Reserve, owned by the Broads Authority, was designated a National Nature Reserve by English Nature in May 2006. National Nature Reserves, of which there are only 200 in the country, are among the finest wildlife and earth heritage sites in England and are considered the jewels in the crown of the SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) series. How Hill, near Ludham, part of the Ant Broads and Marshes SSSI, is a unique microcosm of the Broads, buzzing with nationally and internationally important wildlife. It is a place where high quality land management and ecological research take place, while attracting 25,000 visitors a year to its nature trails, wildlife water trail, Toad Hole Cottage museum and information centre, moorings and riverside paths. Within How Hill’s 129 hectares are a mix of large areas of open fen, wet and dry woodland, rush pasture, fen meadow and two areas of open water. A further 12 hectares of grassland and water gardens are leased to the How Hill Trust, which uses the reserve as an educational resource for its environmental study centre. Most of the reserve forms part of the Broads Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Broadland Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Ramsar Site internationally important for its birdlife. How Hill becomes the eighth NNR in the Broads and has a five year management plan in operation. To mark the designation the Broads Authority commissioned a striking 7ft high stainless steel sculpture of its logo – a Norfolk Hawker dragonfly with filigree wings which flutter in the breeze – which was unveiled by wildlife presenter Chris Packham at a ceremony attended by How Hill trustees, Broads Authority members, landowners and dignitaries, on 15th May 2006. The sculpture, which was created by Norwich artist Sally Adams and assembled by F. W. Hall & Son Ltd, of Norwich, marks the beginning of the wildlife nature trail. English Nature Chief Executive Andy Brown handed the certificate of declaration to John Packman, Chief Executive of the Broads Authority. Chris Packham, legendary presenter of BBC’s "The Really Wild Show", joined pupils from Norwich High School, who were staying at How Hill house, for a spot of dyke dipping before lunch. Lottery lifeline to revive Broads skills An exciting and far-reaching apprenticeship scheme to help revive the dying millwrighting and reed and sedge cutting skills of the Broads has been made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Fund has awarded the Broads Authority and its partners £714,500 to run the Reed, Sedge, Fens and Mills Bursary Scheme, which could preserve the characteristic mills and fen landscape. There are 74 drainage mills in the Broads, many of them derelict, yet millwrighting skills are in danger of extinction. Meanwhile, the reed and sedge cutting industry is not attracting enough new entrants to manage the acres of reed, sedge and fen vegetation. The £1,038,600 scheme will provide ten reed and sedge cutting bursaries, in two tranches of five, for just over 11⁄2 years each and five mill wrighting bursaries for 31⁄2 years. They will provide individually tailored, on the job training by the Broads Authority to existing reedcutters, the remaining local millwright, Easton College, the RSPB, English Nature, and Norfolk Wildlife Trust at a variety of sites on the Broads. Successful candidates may have the opportunity to gain a National Vocational Qualification. Environmental Stewardship In 1985, the Broads Authority pioneered the Broads Grazing Marshes Conservation Scheme, which offered landowners financial support to retain grass marshes as an alternative to incentives under the Common Agricultural Policy to turn these areas over to arable production. This scheme provided a prototype for the Broads Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Scheme, which was one of a series of ESAs introduced at a national level three years later in 1987. The ESA scheme, combined with the production of water level management plans, largely reversed the trend of agricultural intensification which took place throughout much of the previous three or four decades. It prevented further damage to the drained marshes by providing incentives for grassland management, higher water levels and reduced fertiliser usage. The simple options and payment system that operated within the ESA encouraged a high uptake of this voluntary scheme within the Broads Grazing Marshes. Although the scheme ended in March 2005, it is still highly relevant to the management of the Broads Grazing Marshes. Some land will remain within the terms of the Broads ESA until the expiry date of all agreements, which may be as late as 2012. As well as providing an incentive for the reversion of arable to grass, there were three options for managing the existing grazing marshes. Those that delivered the greatest environmental gain, such as raising water levels within the dykes, attracted the highest payments. The Environmental Stewardship (ES) Scheme was introduced in March 2005, partly in response to the Curry Report, and replaced the Broads ESA scheme. Essentially ES is a two-tiered scheme, and comprises Entry Level Environmental Stewardship (ELS) and the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship (HLS). The ELS is wholly new, while HLS incorporates the most successful elements of the existing Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) and Countryside Stewardship. The ELS is widely available and not restricted to specific features, habitats or landscape types. HLS is a national scheme but, owing to limited funding, is available on a discretionary and strongly targeted basis. Previously, agri-environment schemes were agricultural in nature, with environment ‘added on’. By comparison the new ES scheme has five primary objectives: • Wildlife Conservation • Promotion of Public Access and Understanding • Protection of the Historic Environment • Maintenance and Enhancement of Landscape Quality and Character • Natural Resource Protection Flood Management and Genetic Conservation are secondary scheme objectives and can also be adopted where they contribute to one or more of the primary objectives. The Broads Authority is working closely with officers from the Rural Development Service and English Nature to support the delivery of the new Environmental Stewardship Scheme. Links for Environmental Stewardship & Curry report are: http://www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/schemes/es/default.htm http://archive.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/farming Eight Lakes PSA The Broads Authority has allocated £300,000 for practical work to help achieve Government Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets of ‘95% of SSSI areas (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) in favourable condition by 2010’. A three year programme, including sediment and marginal scrub removal, has been applied to eight areas of open water (lakes) in the Broads. The project is delivered by a partnership including English Nature, Environment Agency and Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Amongst the main achievements is clearance of marginal scrub at Cromes Broad in the Ant Valley and Sprats Water complex in the Waveney. This work will help the recovery of reed margins, moving towards ‘favourable condition’. In addition, eroded sections of an island and marginal reedswamp at Martham South Broad will have protective fencing and faggoting installed. A local natural product, hazel coppice, will be used to construct the faggoting, combined with coir rolls impregnated with native seed supported by post and netting fencing. Dyke maintenance carried out at Alderfen Broad to clear vegetation and sediment, will enable it to be reconnected to the system as lower nutrient levels are reached within the catchment. Similar de-silting work will reconnect the wetland from Upton Great Broad through the fens to the grazing marshes. The repair of the Broads Authority’s mud pump engine will enable more projects to be carried out ‘in house’ during 2006/08. This programme involves sediment removal at Barnby Broad in the Waveney Valley and Little Broad off the Muckfleet. A new post of conservation officer has been appointed to the Waterways Directorate who will focus on data management and collection. Further work will include sampling to determine sediment quality before mud pumping, as well as investigating disposal sites. Finally a set of buoys to mark aquatic plant survey areas and wintering waterfowl refuges has been purchased for the Upper Thurne. Some of these will be used in the summer season for marking navigation hazards and aquatic plant areas. Broads Research Advisory Panel The Broads Research Advisory Panel (BRAP) holds themed seminars on subjects of significance to the Broads and the Broads Authority. Three such seminars were held during the year. The first, on 23 June 2005 was on the theme of ‘The Landscape of the Broads and its Cultural Routes’ with 65 participants including 12 speakers. The aims of this seminar were to review what is known and unknown about the cultural landscape and heritage of the Broads, including their links to Norwich and Great Yarmouth, and to inform the process and criteria for World Heritage nomination, its relevance to the Broads and its associated environs as a cultural landscape. On 24 November a seminar on the theme of ‘The Broads in 2050’ considered the future for Broadland and how the area could and should look in 50 years time. This seminar attracted 78 participants including 10 speakers. Reference was made to the vision in the Broads Plan and the underlying aim for the Broads to become a more naturally functioning ecosystem. Dr Frans Vera from the National Forest Service in the Netherlands gave an inspiring insight into their work on large-scale ecological restoration and this was followed up with the idea of reconnecting fragmented areas in the Broads in order to create more space for nature and opportunities for people. The seminar also considered the major factors which would shape Broadland in the future, including climate change, and how we might respond to these factors. Finally, on 16 February 2006, a seminar considered the ‘Latest Science About the Functioning of the Upper Thurne and its Monitoring’ with 62 participants including 10 speakers. The background to the Upper Thurne Research Programme was provided, the origin of which was largely due to the fluctuating environment at Hickling Broad. While much was known about Hickling, these changes and their underlying causes were poorly understood, calling for further research to inform future management. This seminar focused on the work of six PhD and post-doctorate research studies, along with two other studies, and their potential implications for the future management of the Upper Thurne system of waterways. Fen Research and Monitoring Workshop In 2004 the Authority commissioned a desk study to review research and monitoring initiatives that considered the impacts of fen management. The final report, which was received in July 2005, summarised the techniques that have been used, outlined the shortfalls and advantages of each method and identified those areas of management that were yet to be addressed. The report concluded with twenty-four recommendations outlining the areas of research and monitoring that were needed to address the main gaps in our knowledge and inform the debate on fen management. In order to disseminate and receive feedback on the report and its recommendations, the Authority held a workshop in December 2005. About thirty representatives from a wide range of organisations, from both inside and outside the Broads area, attended the day. The participants expressed general support for the report and through a series of brainstorming and group discussions identified the key questions regarding fen management that require research and monitoring. These were grouped into themes and discussed further in topic groups, resulting in a prioritised list of monitoring and research ideas. Ideas were shared across a wide range of organisations and individuals involved with managing fen habitat. The next step is to draw up individual research and monitoring projects and secure funding to take these forward. Water Space Management Plans Three Management Plans involving water space have been written this year and begin in 2006. They are for the Upper Thurne, Barton and Trinity Broads. The Broads Authority has hosted workshops and consultations over many years with local working and liaison groups who have brought together issues, concerns and information for discussion. Membership of the groups is wide- ranging, representing local communities, landowners, recreation (including boating, angling and walking), conservation, culture and heritage interests. The Authority finally compiled the plans on behalf of the groups. The overall aim of the plans is to provide a collaborative and sustainable approach to managing the water space. They consider the quality of natural and man-made features of the broads, highlighting opportunities that these provide for recreation and enjoyment, which in turn contribute to the local economy. The plans identify future challenges and opportunities for managing these special water spaces, including climate change, recovery of aquatic plants and recreational use. Finally, projects are listed in an action plan and progress will be monitored on an annual basis. The Barton Plan will be reviewed in five years and the Upper Thurne Plan, as an interim plan, will be reviewed annually until 2009. In the meantime five PhD research projects will conclude and the resultant information on the functioning of the Upper Thurne and its wetland catchment is to be integrated into management options within the plan. The five year Trinity Broads Management Plan is undergoing a final editing and production of an action plan before its publication in summer 2006.
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