Students invited to discover future peatland farming

Young people and students are being offered a rare opportunity to try their hand at wetland farming (paludiculture) and learn about how farming can protect nature in the Broads.

Aerial image of Horsey Wetland site

Norfolk farms will open their gates this autumn for a series of workshops and open days where students and young people can get hands on practical experience of what future farming on Broads’ peatlands might look like.

The peatlands of the Broads National Park are home to some of our most endangered wildlife, however, much peatland is degraded and emits carbon dioxide. Drainage of land for agriculture is one of the main reasons for degraded peat in this region.

To protect and restore these precious ecosystems new methods of farming to ‘rewet’ degraded peat are helping to store carbon, create new habitats for species such as Swallowtail butterflies and allow farmers to produce agricultural products that have less of an environmental impact. Paludiculture involves growing crops which thrive in wet and waterlogged soils.

Young people play an important role in shaping these future landscapes and so the Broads Authority is running a series of workshops and open days where students can visit a farm at Horsey. They will investigate and measure the peat in soils using peat-coring devices, to understand how paludiculture works in practice and learn about the challenges and benefits of this novel way of farming.

They can also get hands-on experience of traditional reed harvesting and meet a reedcutter to discuss their work in the Broads, the machinery used, issues faced by UK reedcutters and future ways of working. There will also be a thatching practical, where students can try out using reed bundles and traditional tools to thatch a roof.

The Authority is also hosting an event to explore ‘How our peatland can shape the future of sustainable farming’ at How Hill on November 15-16, around the themes of Agriculture, Architecture, or Fashion and Craft. Young people involved in these industries are invited to spend a day with industry experts to learn more about how we can farm to create lower carbon emissions from peatland soils .

The Authority is asking tutors and lecturers to share details of the conference and workshops with their students.

Peat coring at Barton Marshes

Students will discover the many possible uses for paludiculture products, such as: reed for thatching and more novel crops such as Cat tail, which can be used as fibreboard and insulation board; in clothing as plant-based alternatives to down, or synthetic quilting materials and even as a sustainable source of protein.

Wetland farming can also produce high-value crops for botanicals used in the food and drinks industry, as well as Sphagnum moss, which is used as an alternative source of compost to digging peat out of the ground.

Paludiculture also protects and can help new peat develop in the soil to store carbon. It offers potential source of carbon credits to offset other carbon emitting activities, both within farming and from other carbon intensive industries.

The Broads Authority’s Youth Engagement Officer for Peatlands, Chris Ford said of the workshops and How Hill Gathering:

“At these events we hope to inspire young people aged 16-25 such as Agricultural and Architecture Students, to discover the many exciting ways paludiculture can be used in the Broads.

“Young people already know that we have some big decisions to make about land use and carbon emissions. Peatlands are a key element of how the UK will meet its commitments on Carbon emissions, water quality, and biodiversity.

Environment Policy Advisor, Andrea Kelly, said:

“Paludiculture and higher water tables in peat grasslands are options that we are helping Defra define for their new farm environmental payment scheme as part of the future farming choices for farming and biodiversity within the Broads.”

Both the paludiculture and reedcutting sessions can be offered to groups this autumn and winter, free of charge. To find out more, or to arrange a suitable date, please contact, Chris Ford:

The Free ‘Paludiculture: Sustainable peatland farming for sustainable architecture and fashion’ event, can be booked on Eventbrite at:

Wednesday 28 September 2022