Thursday 5 August 2010

Great news for the Swallowtail


I’VE only seen one once, fluttering across a boardwalk at Ranworth. It was several years ago, before I knew how special it was, before I appreciated that the Broads was just about the only place in this country where you could see the Swallowtail butterfly. They used to be much more common of course. But that was in the days when reed and sedge cutting was a genuine industry; fuelled by the demand for thatch and marsh hay for the horses which pulled London cabs. As Britain started its long love affair with the internal combustion engine, the marshes become overgrown. One of the many consequences was that milk parsley – the main food for the Swallowtail caterpillar - found itself shaded out. But since the 1990s there’s been a “fen management strategy” to replace Edwardian industry. And today the Broads Authority is able to trumpet the first increase in Swallowtail numbers for a century – a remarkable milestone.

* The Broads Authority says the best places to see the swallowtail are at How Hill, near Ludham, Hickling Broad and the Strumpshaw Fen near Brundall. Do any cross the Yare from Strumpshaw into Wherryman’s Way country? Let me know if you spot them. Full press release here. Photo taken from Broads Authority press release.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Inner city kingfishers: Norwich by canoe


INSTRUCTIONS: Park as close as you can to the Halfords roundabout in Norwich. Yomp your canoe across the inner ring road and along the riverside path towards the New Mills pumping station – the head of navigation on the Wensum. Just downstream there are some steps down to the water’s edge. Float your boat and set off on a journey through Norwich like no other.  The first thing that strikes you is the absence of noise. Traffic is hurtling past Toys R Us just a few yards to your right, but here on the Wensum you might as well be in another world. Next, as you paddle down under St Miles bridge you realise how low you are. Three-storey town houses (and boy, do you realise how many there are in Norwich) tower over you. Further on you start to unintentionally eavesdrop on other people’s lives as riverside dwellers leave their windows open. There was quite a row going on in one of the ground floor rooms at the art college as I drifted silently by. And everything seems closer. Duke Street becomes St George’s, becomes Fye Bridge very quickly. Before you know it you’re sweeping past the courts and on to Cow Tower to join the hire boats south of Bishop’s Bridge. There is plenty of plant life in this river. To my amateur eye, it feels a lot healthier than those stretches of the Yare I’ve paddled along. Damsel and dragon flies mobbed me wherever I went and I also spotted two kingfishers in full flight. It was inner city alright, just a Broads kind of inner city.

* Picture shows the canoe on the return journey just south of the medieval Bishop’s Bridge.