Landscape walks: Bure Valley
Nestled in the flatlands between the North Sea and Norwich, the Norfolk Broads are one of the UK's most important wetland areas. The shallow lakes, marshes, fens, reedbeds and damp woodlands of the Broads contain more than 11,000 different types of plants, invertebrates, birds and mammals.
Of these, more than 1,500 are special priorities for conservation. For instance, 85% of the UK's most threatened (Red List) bird species have been recorded here, as well as more than 400 endangered species of beetle and 175 moths. In addition, more than 30 kinds of plant and animal are found nowhere (or virtually nowhere) else within the UK.
Norfolk Hawker by Stephen Robson
Yet, despite the wealth of wildlife in the Broads, this most natural-seeming setting hasn't always been like it is today. Shallow seas once ebbed and flowed around the ground where you are standing, depositing the soils that now lie deep beneath your feet. Sea levels, as well as the climate, fluctuated over millennia until, around 8,500 years ago – a mere moment in geological terms – Britain became the island it is today. Even then, the landscape of the Broads would have been unrecognisable – a vast estuary stretching inland from where present-day Great Yarmouth is sited.
From the early Stone Age, people too have come and gone with the changing conditions, to hunt and fish among the area's wetlands and estuaries, before Neolithic settlers began to graze their animals and make more-permanent homes here, around 2500 BC.
Later came the Romans – who built two great coastal forts at Caister-on-Sea and Burgh Castle – followed several hundred years later by more colonists from across the sea, the Saxons and the Vikings. This new period of human history was to have a lasting effect on the landscape of the Broads, as during medieval times the digging-out of peat for fuel led to the creation of the fifty or so shallow lakes, or ‘Broads’, which are so familiar today.
As you walk around the Bure Valley today enjoying the scenery and wildlife, try and imagine something of its long human history. On some of the walks detailed here you’ll notice obvious reminders of people’s earlier activity: as well as the excavated Broads themselves, you should also see a number of windmills dotted around the horizon at Upton and Ludham, not to mention impressive village churches and architecture.
There are countless quiet corners of the Bure Valley Living Landscape to explore, each of which offers a range of habitats, wild plants and animals to look for. To get you started on your journey through your local landscape, here are four easy walks through some of the valley’s most special places. We hope you enjoy them. Remember: stay safe and keep a look out for the area’s wonderful wildlife.
These walks were produced by Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Upton Walking Group. A great deal of care has gone into the production of these walk routes, but the people involved in the design of these walks cannot accept any responsibility for the misinterpretation of the walk description or route condition, nor for any accidents resulting from this walk.
St Benet's Abbey by Caroline Davison
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