Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
Saturday 17th March 2007
In this week’s Open Country Richard Uridge ventures deep into the Norfolk Broads to meet the apprentices training to safeguard its heritage and landscape.
It was the drainage windmills which created the unique landscape of the Broads, but having been superseded by pump and then electric power most have now fallen into disrepair. A scheme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund is aiming to change that. A group of apprentices are now learning the skills of millwrighting. They’ll focus their efforts on restoring the mills. Richard meets the trainees along with the Heritage and Landscape Manager for Norfolk County Council, Michael Knights. And he learns why it didn't pay to be a frog in the Broads a century and a half ago.
The windmills created the Broads but the landscape still needs to be maintained. Central to that are the reedcutters. Reeds grow naturally in the Broads but unless they’re harvested the area would soon turn into a wilderness. Richard meets Grandfather and Grandson Bob and Paul Mace, two parts of six generations of reedcutters. Their harvest is much in demand for the thatched buildings of Norfolk. A few years ago there were just a handful of reedcutters left and the skill was in danger of dying out. But as with the millwrights, there’s now a group of apprentice reedcutters. Bob and Paul are confident it will secure the future of the trade and thus the future of the Broads landscape.
Richard also meets David Holmes from nearby How Hill Nature Reserve. The Broads is teaming with wildlife. Among some of the rare and unusual species it’s a sanctuary for are bearded reedlings, bitterns, marsh harriers, swallowtail butterflies and even red deer. David says the Broads is a rare example of man and nature in harmony.
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