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17 September 2014
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Wetlands | Hickling

Wetland wonderland

Hickling Broad hide

Hickling is a wetland wonderland in winter. It's a brilliant environment for birds, and also boasts rare wild horses. The largest of the Norfolk Broads, it forms part of a bigger complex of 116 square miles of freshwater lakes.


In broad daylight - get a bird's eye view over the broad

One thousand two hundred years ago, much of the area around Hickling was woodland.

This man made wetland was created by Danes when they settled in this part of Norfolk - they used the area's trees for fuel and also started digging for peat.

After 400 years of peat digging, the water levels rose, and flooded the pits which filled with water resulting in the Broads.

Crane country

Hickling Broad is the best place to find a remarkable bird - the Common Crane.

The entire UK breeding population of this graceful bird can be seen in this wetland area.

The exact location is being kept secret to protect the birds but visitors can watch the birds a short distance away, assisted by binoculars or a telescope.

The Cranes roost out on the marshes, so the best way of seeing them is from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust elevated watchpoint at Stubb Mill.

The numbers of Cranes have grown over the last two decades as a result of conservation work.

There was just one pair of the birds in 1982 when the first chicks were raised since the 16th Century.

Today there are now about 30 Cranes, and it is hoped that their numbers will continue to grow.

Hickling wildlife

Barn OwlHickling National Nature Reserve has a great circular walk with hides, and an observation hut with wonderful views of a wide variety of wildlife from Barn Owls to Marsh Harriers.

The ideal combination of reed beds and relative solitude means that this is one of the best places in the country to see the Marsh Harriers.

These birds were persecuted to near extinction - in 1971 there was only one pair was breeding in UK.

Today they are flourishing again and the best time to see them is hovering over the reed beds in the early morning or dusk looking for small birds and mammals to feed on.

Another way of seeing the reserve's wildlife is to get out on the water where you can get really close to the wildlife, especially bird life such as Coots and Moorhens.

Wild ponies

Wild poniesElsewhere on the reserve in Carr Woodland look out for the famous wild ponies or Koniks.

The Konik is one of the closest relatives to the primal ponies that once roamed across Europe.

These tough ponies have been introduced from Poland.

They are wetland specialists with a hardy, robust and placid character.

They are self-reliant, with a quiet temperament, and are characterised by a large head, broad body and strong legs.

The ponies are proving to be a great boost for the ecology of the area.

Koniks love to graze on weeds, reeds and grass, so helping to stimulate wildlife diversity in their fenland habitat.

Remember that these ponies are wild and can be curious and unpredictable, and they are best seen from a distance with binoculars.



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