Water, Mills and Marshes

Will Burchnall, Project Manager, Broads Authority, April 2018 

Well, of course, we already know all about The Broads, don’t we? But then 56 people turned up, including 15 visitors. We asked, “Why have you come?” “It’s the topic, the subject matter”. Clearly this was not expected to be an ordinary sort of talk.

Will (here he is, picture right) had come to tell us about the Broads Landscape Partnership Scheme – a group of six projects backed by a grant of over £2.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a 5 year scheme which concentrates on the southern Broads, and will be followed by another for the north. Martham is well within reach of both.

One of the projects involves work in the schools. It turns out that very few youngsters from the towns know much about The Broads - the actual broads, the marshes and the wind pumps. Most have never even been there. Very few have even been on a boat trip. Well, now they will! Activities in school, getting about on boats, penetrating the marshes – pond-dipping on a major scale, we were told!

Improving the View will involve constructing numbers of low level observation platforms (there are already some near us) and undergrounding cables. When it is our turn, we will be asked to nominate where this should happen. There is also a project to record the view: photography, painting and what you will.

There will be strong historical elements. The Life on the Marsh project will be an oral history – Martham Stories style, but including old written documents being brought to life (remember 'Voices form the Workhouse'?). There will even be two touring plays coming out next year. There will be much underwater investigation, adding detail to the broad theories that already exist. Already substantial remains of a wooden boat have been discovered in the mud – leading to people learning the skills to build such a boat, using medieval iron axes and tools that they have learned to make themselves.

An experiment is underway to simulate and benefit from medieval drainage practices. When drainage was less efficient, drained summer pastures became flooded in the winter. Now this is deliberately allowed to happen. Great summer grazing followed by an influx of migratory water fowl in the winter.

And then there are wind pumps! 63 being restored, aided by incredible laser technology. With this, surveys are done in minutes rather than weeks. You can see things in places that are too dangerous to enter. This is where the colleges come in. Students will learn the skills of restoring heritage architecture, skills in demand to restore the mills and whenever work is needed on properties with any reasonable age. The object is not always to turn mills into visitor centres. This is Stones Mill [picture, right]. Well derelict, beginning to lean, but about to be developed as a bird and bat roost, with water life protected round this base.      

This Water, Mills and Marshes Project has everything!              

Noel Mitchell


(Above: Will Burchnall)
(Below: Stones Mill)

Stones Mill
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