Flood fears for Norfolk Broads ecology; wildlife rangers prepare nature reserves against severe weather

Cley marshes. Norfolk Wildlife Trust are preparing the beauty spot for flooding. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Cley marshes. Norfolk Wildlife Trust are preparing the beauty spot for flooding. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Thursday, December 5, 2013
2:04 PM

Wildlife rangers and nature volunteers are “hoping for the best but preparing for the worst”, but there are fears salt water could kill fish and damage the Norfolk Broads.

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Broads Authority chief executive John Packman said: “We are very concerned about what this might mean for the Broads – salt water will kill fish and affect the delicate ecology of the fens and grazing marshes.

“Much work has been done in recent years by the Environment Agency to make the river banks around the Broads a lot stronger than they used to be with some areas designed to flood in extreme circumstances like this in order to protect more fragile habitats. Our staff will be out at first light to assess the situation and do what we can.”

Staff from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust said their sites at Cley, Salthouse, Holme Dunes, Martham and Hickling Broads are all at risk from the high tides, which are expected to hit the east coast tonight.

They are now taking steps to safeguard the beauty spots from any damage before the worst of the wild weather arrives.

Brendan Joyce, chief executive of the trust, admitted he “lost sleep” last night thinking about the potential floods.

He said: “We have put plans in place already on the basis of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. We have been making sure that there’s no livestock on any of these reserves and moved them to higher ground.

“Any equipment or machinery that’s on sites in the risk area, that’s all removed. And smaller things, like at Cley we have a camera on the reserve, which is supplied by the mains, so we’ve isolated that and removed the camera and any other portable infrastructure.

“The worst is yet to come so we’re bracing ourselves for about 8 o’clock tonight and again in the morning when the next high tide hits.”

At Holme Dunes, stock in the visitor centre has been moved to higher ground and the warden and his family, who live on site, are considering moving out until the wild weather passes.

The visitor centre at Cley has suffered power problems today but remains open as it is located on higher ground. However, it may close early and shut tomorrow as the trust does not want to encourage visitors to the area if it is dangerous.

Alongside this, Mr Joyce said around open areas where possible, staff and volunteers were urging visitors to keep away “for their own safety”.

“The top of the list is making sure that our staff and volunteers are not putting their own lives at risk with anything they’re doing,” he added.

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