Is this Norfolk's best-kept nature secret?

PUBLISHED: 14:27 18 November 2017

Taking flight as the light fades, four greylag geese heading across the River Bure.

Taking flight as the light fades, four greylag geese heading across the River Bure.


Wild in Anglia: For the second in his new series, Nigel Pickover visits a nature haven in the Broads.

I didn’t see a soul on this day of dampness.

Unexpected rain, driven by a chilly nor-wester, had chased visitors away - so I had this magical place all to myself.

I might have allowed myself to imagine that the river, marshland, and water mills were all mine for a few hours.

But thousands of others - and their autumn voices - squawked a gentle reminder whose place this really is.

At the end of my ramble through a part of Norfolk’s watery heartland and heritage, I stood in awe and mouthed a silent thank you to my hosts.

As the gloaming took hold and as the rain and its mistress wind fled east I had been reminded that my role was purely that of guest.

And that the birds, insects and beautiful beasts of land and water are forever joint owners of this watery wonderland.

The geese, a few plump pink-foots, many greylags, a couple of intruding Egyptians, were restless, some taking flight for muddy overnight accommodation on the west and north Norfolk coasts.

They were the noisy ones, who move around field, county, country and continent depending on time of year.

Smaller congregations took a quieter and more domestic view of evening time.

Lapwings, ducks, darting kingfishers, cormorants drying wings after the day’s fishy forage, barn owls and a distant, still-hunting, marsh harrier spend their lives here.

Neighbours include cattle with hooves that can withstand the marsh, Chinese water deer and other cervidae cousins and otters.

Dragonflies aplenty draw in sharp-eyed hobbies who silently swoop for their meals from above and otters have found the waterways rich in fish.

So where is this lonely place?

Amazingly, Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Upton Broad and Marshes site is just 10 miles as the crow or jackdaw flies from Norwich and well worth a visit.

Oft I’ve found wild doesn’t have to be a faraway place. And so it is at Upton, one of Norfolk’s best-kept secrets.

So close to two large port towns and a beautiful city, this tranquil place is an antidote to the fast-paced life many now either enjoy or endure.

Some of Norfolk’s rarest wildlife lives here.

You won’t see swallowtail butterflies and Norfolk hawker dragonflies until next summer, but with patience you might be lucky to see those rare birds, otters and water voles, and you can spy an array of wetland plants.

On round walks of roughly two or almost five miles you can see a variety of habitat which NWT is pledged to protect – wetland woodland, fen, reedbed, and grazing marsh. Ten rare plant species, amongst them fen orchid, marsh fern, marsh pea, cowbane and fen pondweed, are found here.

NWT’s success has been has to purchase various parcels of land to increase the footprint available for wildlife.

Allowing water to flow back on to drained farming land has been part of the process and how wildlife has ... flooded back.

Upton is part of NWT’s Bure Valley Living Landscape project and should be celebrated as a national triumph.

It’s not just me - the birds, beasts and bees squawk, grunt and buzz their own big ‘thank you.’

How to get there: Upton Broad and Marshes and the Bure Valley - from the A47, follow signs to Upton and once in this charming village, with community shop and White Horse pub, follow Boat Dyke Lane to the free car park, start point for both short and extended round walks.

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