Barton Broad was purchased by NWT in 1945, and is the second largest of the Norfolk Broads.
The Broad was dug out in the Middle Ages for peat extraction. Later, the River Ant was diverted through its centre, allowing navigation. Prior to the Second World War the Broad was famed for its clear waters and rich diversity of aquatic plant life. In the second half of the 20th century pollution led to increasing nitrate and phosphate levels and an abundance of algae, to the detriment of other biodiversity.
Since the 1990s, the river quality has steadily improved. Nutrient enriched mud was pumped out of the broad in 1995 and with improving water quality, fish and aquatic plants have made
an impressive comeback, along with other species such as common terns (which nest on artificial platforms), otters, kingfishers and herons. The surrounding fen areas are home to a number of nationally rare plants and invertebrates.
Milk parsley is a scarce, vulnerable and declining plant found mainly in East Anglian marshland. It is also the only plant (a relative of roadside cow parsley) that the green and black striped caterpillars of Britain’s largest butterfly, the swallowtail, will feed upon.
Desmoulin’s whorl snail
This is another nationally rare species. It can be found in a range of wetland habitats and at Barton Broad prefers areas of sedge. This tiny snail is rather plain, with a brown shell that grows to around 3mm in length.
Barton Broad is best accessed off the A1151, 5.3km (3.3 miles) northeast of Hoveton. There is a signed car park between the villages of Neatishead and Irstead, next to the Old Rectory. From here it is an easy 1km (0.6- mile) stroll to the start of the wooden boardwalk trail (suitable for wheelchairs).
There is a dedicated disabled car park with 3 - 4 spaces (grid ref TG 359 205). From the car park, the reserve is accessible via boardwalk, through alder car woodland to a viewing platform overlooking Barton Broad.
The northern part of the Broad can be accessed from Barton Turf staithe by boat only.
NWT does not permit wild swimming on its nature reserves. For more information and advice on wild swimming in the Norfolk Broads visit Outdoor swimming