Hickling Broad restoration project begins

October marks the beginning of the Broads Authority’s ‘Hickling Project’ to restore reedswamp at Hickling with the help of its European partnership project CANAPE (Creating A New Approach to Peatland Ecosystems).

The aim of the restoration project is to restore this area back to its original banks based on aerial photographs taken in 1946. Over the next three winters Broads Authority teams will work to construct a 1ha area of reedswamp on the edge of the broad, in an area which has been named “Chara Bay” after the plant species which it is hoped will develop around the new area. The work is taking place with the help of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust who own the nature reserve where the reedswamp will be restored.

The reedswamp restoration is expected to have a positive effect on the following four main areas:

  • To improve the water quality, helping to reduce the number of unwanted nutrients which can cause harm to native species.
  • To increase the distance between boats and the bottom of the lake, by dredging the marked channel, (a reduction of propellers churning up loose sediment at the bottom of the lake should reduce the amount of sediment which is disturbed and thus increase the water clarity).
  • The new reedswamp area will shelter the bay behind it from wind and wave; providing a refuge area for water plants, fish and birds.
  • To reduce the effects of global warming. A study published earlier this year suggested that shallow peatland lakes with high concentrations of nutrients will become major methane sources as the planet warms. As methane is a greenhouse gas, this poses a risk that lakes such as Hickling could accelerate global warming in response to carbon already in the atmosphere. Fen acts as a natural carbon store, the creation of new Fen will act to help combat global warming.
  • Hickling chara bay artists impression

An artist’s impression has shown how the area will look at the end of the restoration project, with reeds growing out of a peninsula which once existed in the 1940s. To re-create this habitat, an engineering project will begin using 50 meter long geotextile tubes filled with dredged mud from the marked channel. These will be held in place with alder poles driven into the bed of the broad. The geotextile tubes will act as a solid barrier to prevent the new reed bed being swept away by the wind and waves in the Broad. This will allow the new banks to form a permanent part of the environment. The tubes will be permeable, allowing water to pass through them creating a naturally wet area of swamp. Reed will be planted on top of the tubes, forming a bank similar to the natural banks of the broad.

CANAPE Project manager, Harry Mach said of the work,

“The Hickling project is hoped to have a deeply positive impact on the environment in several ways. It should have substantial benefits for reed-dwelling wildlife such as the bittern and swallowtail butterfly. It will help to improve the water-quality of the area and to reduce the greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere thanks to fen being a natural carbon store. We’re really excited to get the reed bed restoration underway and to see the benefits which we’re sure it will bring. ”

Wednesday 31 October 2018