World Wetlands Day 2019

Blog post by David North on 31 Jan, 2019

A day to celebrate Norfolk's precious wetlands

Ponds, pingos, marshes, meres, ditches, dykes, saltings, saline lagoons, fens, broads, rivers, chalk streams, winding muddy creeks, silver-headed reedbeds that sigh in the winter winds: Norfolk has them all and what they share in common is water and wonderful wildlife.

This is a watery planet and only a land animal such as ourselves could have named it Earth rather than Water or Ocean. Simply add water to a place and surprisingly quickly that place will begin to teem with life.

Norfolk, one of the driest counties of England, seems at first sight an unlikely area to be nationally and internationally important for its wetland wildlife. But if you know Norfolk, and you watch wildlife, then it’s very likely the wet bits of our county you will come to know and love.

NWT Hickling Broad, by Richard Osbourne

NWT Hickling Broad, by Richard Osbourne

Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and indeed the Wildlife Trust movement, began when a small group of people were so inspired by a wet bit of Norfolk, and its wetland wildlife, that they decided to buy it. That bit of land of course was Cley Marshes, and the rest, as they say, is history. Ever since then Norfolk Wildlife Trust has been working hard to keep the watery bits of Norfolk both watery and full or wetland wildlife. Successes have been hard and long fought, but NWT now not only owns and manages the largest of the Norfolk Broads, Hickling Broad, but lots of other wet places too. From swarms of pingo ponds on our Thompson Common reserve in the Brecks, to extensive areas of reedbed, fen and open water at Barton, Ranworth and Alderfen in the Broads. From shallow pools, home to rare natterjack toads, at Holme Dunes, to the mysterious mires of Roydon Common, whose gluggy, gloopy and glutinous wet bits are the haunt of strange, insect-eating plants and ‘dead cat’ sphagnum mosses. Our Norfolk wetlands are diverse, beautiful and rich in wildlife, both common and rare.

All of our Norfolk wet bits are precious but some are so precious we award them letters like SSSI, SPA, SAC, and Ramsar; designations indicating that the importance of these special places extends way beyond Norfolk. We define wetlands as of international or national importance for wildlife if they hold 1% or more of respectively international or national wildlife populations. Many of Norfolk’s wetlands judged by this criteria are not just nationally important but globally so. A list of the most important would have to include the Ouse Washes on the Fenland edge of Norfolk with its great winter gatherings of Bewick’s and Whooper Swans. The Wash, its tidal mud and sandflats teeming with waders. The patterned salt marshes of the North Norfolk coast with their muddy, winding tidal creeks and carpets of sea lavender, samphire and purslane, winter home to great skeins of pink-footed geese and brent geese. And inland from our coast, the Norfolk Broads, England’s largest lowland wetland, with its shallow man-made, reed and fen-edged lakes home to crane, bittern, harrier and the UK’s most spectacular butterfly, the swallowtail.

NWT Hickling Broad, by Richard Osbourne

Sea lavender, by David North

We expect a lot of our wetlands. As a species we too are a drawn to the water’s edge. Here we walk, fish, launch our boats, holiday, skim stones, paddle with our children, or sit and listen to the waves and watch the sun silvering wind blown ripples. Whether for drinking, or for growing our crops, we steal water from our rivers and wetlands while also using them to dispose of much of our waste. Globally wetlands are more threatened than forests, with many, including most of Norfolk’s once extensive peat fenlands, having been drained and reclaimed. Here in Norfolk our coastal and Broadland wetlands, still teem with migratory birds, reminding us of a shared global responsibility for life on an inter-connected planet. We can be proud of Norfolk’s watery places and wetlands; beautiful, ever-changing, endlessly fascinating. More than just wildlife-rich, they are part of a global life support system of inter-connected wetlands that migratory wildlife depends on.

World Wetlands Day, February 2, is the perfect time to get out and celebrate the value of our wetlands to both people and wildlife. So, no excuses, get your wellies on and go and discover a wetland near you. To celebrate World Wetlands Day NWT is opening its Cley and Salthouse Marshes nature reserve free of charge that day. Please do join us if you can.

David North is Head of People and Wildlife at NWT
Share this

Latest Blog Posts

Litter picking Litter picking
by Maya Riches (guest author, age 10) on 18 Jun, 2019
What lies beneath the placid lake What lies beneath the placi...
by Mark Webster on 11 Jun, 2019
A stark and urgent call to action A stark and urgent call to ...
by David North on 13 May, 2019
Spring gardening: Helping hedgehogs Spring gardening: Helping h...
by Helen Baczkowska on 07 May, 2019
What A Waste What A Waste
by Maya Riches (guest author, age 10) on 01 May, 2019
Wacton Common Wacton Common
by Helen Baczkowska on 30 Apr, 2019
Leaving the nest Leaving the nest
by Mark Webster on 16 Apr, 2019
On the verge On the verge
by David North on 14 Apr, 2019
Making connections: why we need to come together to solve conservation problems Making connections: why we ...
by David North on 29 Mar, 2019
More flapwort than nettles More flapwort than nettles
by Jenny Jones (guest author) on 28 Feb, 2019
The Hickling Broad Nature Reserve The Hickling Broad Nature R...
by Barry Madden on 26 Feb, 2019
Six months with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Six months with the Norfolk...
by Steve Cox on 12 Feb, 2019
Hedgehogs in the winter garden Hedgehogs in the winter garden
by Helen Baczkowska on 05 Feb, 2019
The 250 Club The 250 Club
by Dick Wingate on 31 Dec, 2018
Raptor Roost experience at Hickling Broad Raptor Roost experience at ...
by Rachel Frain & Jo Wright (guest author) on 28 Dec, 2018
How to help a hedgehog How to help a hedgehog
by Helen Baczkowska on 18 Dec, 2018
Beetlemania Beetlemania
by Chris Durdin on 13 Dec, 2018
The pride of Pigneys The pride of Pigneys
by Mark Webster on 04 Dec, 2018
Funding the day job Funding the day job
by Ginny Seppings on 20 Nov, 2018
In praise of ivy In praise of ivy
by Chris Durdin on 06 Nov, 2018
New wildlife information signs New wildlife information signs
by Steve Cox on 23 Oct, 2018
NWT's Visitor Centres NWT's Visitor Centres
by Steve Cox on 25 Sep, 2018
Seizing the moment Seizing the moment
by David North on 13 Sep, 2018
Red bartsia bee discovered at Thorpe Marshes Red bartsia bee discovered ...
by Chris Durdin on 06 Sep, 2018