Man who restored neglected Norfolk broad dies aged 71

David Pooley, right, is facing legal action for restoring Sotshole Broad without planning permission

David Pooley at Sotshole Broad with Peter Crook, the then chairman of South Walsham PC  - Credit: Archant

A businessman who turned an abandoned Norfolk Broad into a haven for wildlife has died aged 71.

David Pooley bought 60 acres of woodland containing Sotshole Broad, near Ranworth, in 2005. The broad had been neglected for generations and had shrunk in size as vegetation had grown up around it.

Headshot of David Pooley

David Pooley - Credit: SUPPLIED

He spent three years and hundreds of thousands of pounds of his own money dredging the site and putting in wooden piling and a boardwalk. The Broad was returned to the size it had been on a map from 1886.

Today Sotshole is home to kingfishers and otters, and is opened to the public for two weeks each spring.

Mr Pooley was born in Great Yarmouth, the son of a meat inspector.

After Yarmouth Grammar School he worked first at Barclays bank, then as a lorry driver to increase his income. He later moved to the accounts department at Amoco before securing the post of accountant at Nordive, a diving firm.

In the late 1970s he helped to set up European Diving Services with four professional divers. He continued to work with them and subsequently became managing director of Seaweld Engineering, a Norfolk firm which maintained oil and gas platforms. Seaweld specialised in riskier regions such as West Africa and the Middle East, where margins were higher. At its peak it employed hundreds of people.

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Mr Pooley was the driving force behind the company's expansion, and secured numerous contracts competing against much larger companies. He also implemented the concept of using one ship for both topside and subsea maintenance.

Mr Pooley relished the challenge of working in risky places and often had an armed guard during visits to countries such as Nigeria.

The company closed in 2005 when it proved untenable to continue working in Africa but not before Mr Pooley managed to strike a lucrative deal to sell the company's assets.

In retirement in South Walsham, Mr Pooley threw himself into the restoration of Sotshole and helped to look after the village's community woodland planted in 2006.

He was a black belt in the martial art of aikido and had recently finished writing a book on aikido techniques.

He leaves a widow, Julie, and five children.

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