Broads are an area of world importance that need to be conserved
- Credit: Archant
Some of the region's most historic mills, marshes and waterways which make up Norfolk Broads' rich landscape could be lost without action to protect them for future generations.
That was the message conveyed at the launch of £4m scheme that will help protect the region's many natural and heritage assets through a series of individual projects that will run over a five-year period.
Water, Mills and Marshes: the Broads Landscape Partnership Scheme was officially unveiled in Norwich yesterday and will focus on education initiatives, the restoration of 12 iconic Norfolk water mills and protecting the region from issues such as climate change.
Project chairman David Gurney said the Broads was under threat.
He said: 'The landscape is at risk from climate change and sea level rises. Iconic buildings, particularly the drainage mills, are deteriorating and will be lost if we don't act now.'
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Professor Tom Williamson from the University of East Anglia said there was still much that was unknown about the Broads and the scheme would help shed more light on the history of the area.
'This is a landscape of European, if not world importance,' he said. 'There is no point in even starting to conserve a landscape unless you understand its complexity and its historic depth.'
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The 38 projects that make up the scheme will provide opportunities for people to learn about Broads, contribute in practical ways to the upkeep and provide opportunities to connect with the unique landscape.
The area covered by the scheme encompasses 205 sq km of drained marshland following the course of the River Yare, Bure and Waveney to their confluence with the tidal estuary of Breydon Water and links Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Acle, Beccles and Loddon.
Trails, guided walks, events and exhibitions will be created and there will also be a small grants scheme introduced so local people can apply for funding for Broads heritage projects of their own.
It is hoped that together these projects will help conserve the landscape of the Broads for people to enjoy in the future.
John Packman, chief executive of the Broads Authority, said: 'The issues we face on the Broads are long term ones and we need to take a long term view in order to preserve it.'
Some of the 38 projects include:
Broads mill trails
Norfolk's iconic mills have been a part of the landscape for hundreds of years.
There are currently 74 redundant drainage mills that are in various states of disrepair across the Broads Authority executive area.
The authority has provisionally identified 12 structures in the project area that are being considered for renovation.
Those considered include mills on footpaths, or ones that were key landscape features with significant heritage value.
In addition to this restoration work, the Water, Mills and Marshes project will see a series of mill trails being set up that will create a network of routes through the land they once drained.
The aim is to improve access to many of these sites of historical importance and give visitors an understanding of how man has helped shape the landscape.
Pathways will include signage, header boards and directional markers.
Many of the 38 Water, Mills and Marshes projects are aimed at increasing awareness and understanding of the Broads landscape and the fascinating history of the area.
They are also intended to make the area more accessible to all people.
One of the most unique projects will see the construction of a floating classroom, which will get people to remoter parts of the Broads. The classroom, which will be able to carry up to 40 people, will be built and operated in the project area.
It will have a flat floor throughout, lifting platform and ramps for easy access and retractable roof and windows on all sides to provide views of the landscape.
The internal space will include storage for equipment, IT facilities including a projector and screen, galley and toilet facilities.
The space will be modular to allow for the movement of partition walls as needed.
The Chet Boat
The Chet Boat project will look to create a replica of an early medieval boat found on the River Chet for education and exhibition purposes.
Once built, the replica will be used to bring the history of the area to life as it is used to sail across Broads waterways for use at various events.
The replica will be built using construction methods as close as possible to those used by medieval boat builders.
A programme of sailing activities and events will be set up with the replica boat showing people what medieval river transport would
have been like.
The Chet boat was discovered in 2013 by diggers working on a stretch of floodbank along the River Chet.
Archaeologists investigated and after examining the timber found it to be a boat between 400 and 600-years-old.
It could have been used to carry light produce to market such as butter, eggs and vegetables.