A walk of discovery down on the boardwalk at Barton Broad

Barton Broad wildflower walk with author Simon Harrap.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Barton Broad wildflower walk with author Simon Harrap.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

There were no extraordinary rarities to be found but our walk host and wildflower expert Simon Harrap found plenty to interest us even in relatively mundane species.

Barton Broad wildflower walk with author Simon Harrap.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Barton Broad wildflower walk with author Simon Harrap.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Did you know for example that if you rub the leaves of blackcurrant leaves and sniff, there is an unmistakeable smell of cat's pee. So don't blame next door's moggy.

Hop plants were also identified amid the tangle of wet woodland - 'They were not used to flavour beer in Britain until the 16th century but the French were using them 300 years earlier so tell that to UKIP,' said Simon.

We learned how stinging nettles flourish in areas high in nutrients, including, rather macabrely, graveyards because of all those dead bodies, and that alder makes good charcoal - and apparently is used in gunpowder.

Simon, who has written acclaimed books on wildflowers, including one entitled Flowers of the Norfolk Broads, has the gift of bringing the most humble plant to life, his enthusiasm starting from his earliest childhood days.

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'When I was at primary school I used to love the nature table, the look and feel of things like conkers, feathers and skulls - I don't think they have them now because children are not allowed to touch things,' he said.

Simon, who lives at Edgfield, near Holt, declared the Broads 'an extremely good place' to look for wildflowers and other plants.

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'The freshwater habitats are very good for aquatic plants and the plants that live in the surrounding fens,' he said.

However, the first hurdle for our party, which included a woman on holiday from Canada, was actually getting Simon out of the boardwalk car park. 'It's legendary, you can get wrapped up in the first plants you see,' he said.

Thank goodness for the boardwalk as Simon said - 'Carr woodland is second only to mangrove swamp as a horrible place to move around, wet, sinking and full of nettles and mosquitoes.'

It was slow progress as he found interest in everything from buttercups to lady fen - 'it's is called that because it is very delicate' - and gipsy wort.

Plants with wort in the name had often been used for something in the past, for example in medicine, we learned.

We saw yellow iris, as opposed to stinking iris - 'it's supposed to smell like roast beef but I have never understood that' - and woody nightshade, apparently not as poisonous as deadly nightshade.

Marsh fen might not be a glamorous plant, and it is common on the Broads, but nationally it is scarce, we learned.

NWT living landscapes community officer Gemma Walker, who accompanied us, explained how the trust had received support from a number of sources, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, to enable it to run a programme of events helping the public to understand its work and actually take part.

Instead of the traditional idea of protecting wildlife on reserves the trust's focus was now on developing living landscapes - 'environmental networks enabling wildlife to move from one reserve to another'.

'Barton Broad is part of the Bure Valley Living Landscape stretching from Wroxham to the Trinity Broads near Caister,' she said.

As well as staging further walks, NWT is inviting the public to join in its take action conservation volunteering scheme.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust events in June

Introduction to Wildflowers of the Bure Valley

Wednesday June, 11 1-5pm

Upton Village Hall

This free workshop will show you the basics to identifying the species associated with the Bure Valley. We will also look at why this area is so important for wildflowers and how you can help by submitting your wildlife records.

Booking essential: 01603 598333

A River Runs Below It

Wednesday June, 11 12.50-4pm

Caen Meadow, Wroxham

Help NWT with some practical conservation. Any age and ability welcome. Meet at Wroxham Church Hall car park, A1151 main Norwich Road by junction with Church Lane and The Avenue, Wroxham, NR12 8RY.

Managing Village Greens, Grass Verges and Community Spaces for Wildlife

Tuesday June, 17 10am-1pm

Barton Turf Adventure Centre

In this free workshop you will look at how you can turn the humble village green, grass verge or recreation ground into a people and wildlife-friendly area.

Booking essential: 01603 598333

In Search of Broadland

Butterflies (and other wildlife)

Thursday June, 19


Meet outside Toad Hole Cottage, How Hill, Ludham,

Norfolk, NR29 5PG

This beautiful, free walk takes in a range of habitats from river bank to green lanes, woodland to grazing marsh.

How to create a Living Landscape

Friday June, 20 7.30-9pm

Upton Village Hall, Cargate Lane, Upton, NR13 6AU

Do you own or manage land (even just a garden)? Do you want to

know how you can be part of creating a healthy Living Landscape for people and wildlife? This free talk will help.

Walking with Wildlife in Mind

Saturday June, 28 9am-1pm


For all those who enjoy walking and watching wildlife. This free workshop will introduce the basics of recording wildlife on your walks in Norfolk, show you how the new Wildlife Trusts' WildWalk website works and go on our very own wild walk around Upton.

Booking essential: 01603 598333

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