As a Broadland photographer I love to visit the Barton Broad Clear Water 2000 project. Barton Broad is one of many Broads within Norfolk and Suffolk. The Broads that covers 117 square miles, is an enchanted area that contains 125 miles of lock free navigable waterways.
It is a beautiful man made landscape made up of mysterious misty fens and slow winding rivers with Broads (small pools / lakes) created from flooded peat diggings. The three main rivers are the Bure, the Yare and Waveney. Their tributaries the Ant, the Thurne, the Chet and the Wensum. The rivers all meander down to the sea at Great Yarmouth. It is administered by the Broads Authority.
To the right is a sunset of Turf Fen Mill at How Hill, Ludham. It is typical of the Broads scenery.
Over time the shallow lakes of the Broads have gradually infilled with dead vegetation and sediment. In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s a significant change occurred when the run off of nitrates from farmland and phosphates deposited into the waterways via detergents passing through sewage treatment works. This resulted in an enormous increase in nutrient levels. The crystal clear water of the Broads were turned murky as a luxuriant growth of algae cut the light killing the underwater plant life.
There was no place for the water fleas and invertebrates that eat algae to escape from the fish thereby exacerbating the problem. This process in known to scientists as eutrophication. The Broads Authority trialled several methods to reverse the process of eutrophication. Suction dredging the rivers and broads is the best method. This removes the nutrients and phosphates before the water is returns to the rivers via the sewage treatment works .
Large brushes are temporarily deposited into the water to act as reefs and provide a hiding place for invertebrates. The treated area is cleared of fish by electromagnetic fishing. Plastic barriers are then temporarily put in place to stop most of the fish returning to the treated area. When the plant life has recovered and the water has cleared the temporary reefs and brushes are removed. This allows the fish to return thus restoring the habitat. This process of restoring a broad is called biomanipulation.
About The Barton Broad Clear Water 2000 Project
Barton Broad, owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust is the second largest broad in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. The Clear Water 2000 Project funded substantially by the Millennium Commission included:-
- The restoration of Barton Broad;
- The construction of a car park, toilets and footpath,
- The restoration of Pleasure Island,
- The construction of a boardwalk and platform.
Barton Broad was restored by using the biomanipulation process by suction dredging and depositing the nutrient rich mud into bunds i.e. large settlement lagoons constructed on adjacent farmland after the topsoil was removed. The lagoons were linked together by a series of drainage pipes and the water was pumped into the highest level lagoons. The water then passed through six and sometimes seven lower level lagoons depositing sediment before the water was returned back into the broad. When the lagoons were full of mud and it had dried, the topsoil was replaced, returning the land to agricultural use. The process took six years between the years 1996-2001.
The photographs below show:-
- The Barton Broad car park with the toilet block that is off the road between Neatishead and Irstead and almost opposite the entrance to Gay’s Staithe;
- The footpath from the car park leading to the boardwalk;
- The boardwalk;
- The viewing platform from where you can view Barton Broad.
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