Information panels shed new light on Burgh Castle

It is one of Norfolk's special places mixing a fascinating blend of history with the best nature the Broads has to offer.

However, as recently as 17 years ago the best preserved Roman fort in East Anglia was marooned unflatteringly amid ploughed fields offering little wildlife interest.

A fitting transformation of the site at Burgh Castle, near Great Yarmouth, has been led by Norfolk Archaeological Trust and the final element of its �700,000 scheme has been completed this month with the unveiling of bright, informative information panels and a splendid viewing platform overlooking the River Waveney and wind pump-dotted marshes beyond.

Two of the panels, thoughtfully positioned under shelters, tell the story of Burgh Castle from the days of the Roman fort, through its era as a Saxon monastery founded by Saint Fursey to its time as a Norman castle.

The changing sea levels - Burgh Castle was once on a big estuary - are also explained and there is speculation about what climate change might deliver in the future.

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A panel on the viewing platform identifies the varied wildlife that can be seen from water voles and otters to marsh harriers, two pairs of which are breeding in the reedbeds.

And on a warm March morning the site was yesterday alive with wildlife, the stream of birdwatchers and dog walkers serenaded by sky larks and bees as they watched a graceful marsh harrier over the Waveney.

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Trust director Peter Wade-Martins recalled that was far from the case when they bought 90 acres around the ruins in 1995.

The ploughed fields were not conducive to wildlife so their first task was to return it to grass and frame the site with hedgerows.

He said: 'We take the hay off the field to reduce nutrient levels as a way of increasing the diversity of wildlife. There is now a wide range of wildflowers, including quite a number of orchids, and in the summer the whole area is teaming with dragonflies.'

The landscape lends itself to the rich variety, ranging from higher ground offering unparalleled views of the Broads to reedbeds.

To enhance what Dr Wade-Martins describes as a 'quiet, beautiful place with archaeology there for those who want it', the trust has, over the years, added a car park and a maze of paths through the fields and a planted wood.

The pleasing design of the new features was the inspiration of landscape architect Su Chisnell.

Dr Wade-Martins said: 'Now we have installed the information panels our next aim is to develop the educational side and look to attract more school parties.'

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