The visitor giving scheme which boosts community projects preserving the Broads

 Autumn sunset over the Norfolk Broads

Autumn sunset over the Norfolk Broads - Credit: citizenside.com

Set up a decade ago by three men keen to enhance the region's Broads, it is a project which has since, with the backing of dozens of local businesses, boosted community-run schemes all over the wetlands. LAUREN COPE reports.

Love the Broads scheme where visitors have been donating to charity for broads projects.Carlton Mars

Love the Broads scheme where visitors have been donating to charity for broads projects.Carlton Marshes Nature Reserve which will have improvements to footpaths around the reserve.Lynne Finnigan - Love the Broads Development Officer with Gemma Smith - Education Officer at Carlton MarshesPicture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

Across the intricate network of waterways, there are countless clusters of volunteers working to preserve, and promote, the future of the Broads.

But, as community groups up and down the country so often do, many eventually come up against the same hurdle - money.

Ten years ago, friends Peter Howe, Bryan Read and Nick Barne, members of the Broads Society, put their minds to finding a way of enabling more projects to see their ideas come to fruition.

Mr Howe said: 'The Broads Authority's Sustainable Development Fund had been doing an excellent job in funding many small projects since the turn of the century but the writing was on the wall with austerity cuts on the horizon. It seemed there might be a real gap in funding in the not too distant future.

Peter Howe of Broadland Cycle Hire centre in the grounds of Bewilderwood adventure park just outside

Peter Howe of Broadland Cycle Hire centre in the grounds of Bewilderwood adventure park just outside Hoveton.Photo by Mark Bullimore


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'Of course, the many individual charities in the Broads – covering, wildlife, historic wherries, windmills and so on – all went about the business of raising their own funds but we felt there was an opportunity to establish a more general funding charity to encourage and support a wide range of projects.'

It wasn't long before the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Charitable Trust - better known as the Broads Trust - was born.

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In its early days, the trust joined forces with Broads-based charities to help with fundraising and funding bids, work which saw equipment for audio guides at the Museum of the Broads and educational information at Geldeston lock secured.

But while Mr Howe, who runs Broadland Cycle Hire between Hoveton and Horning, said while the projects were 'very successful', they felt more could be done.

'It was clear that to really make a difference the charity needed to establish its own income stream without conflicting with the fundraising which was done by the other local charities,' he said.

Inspired by models in use at the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, they decided on a visitor donation scheme, on the basis that 'a little from a lot of people makes a big total'.

With help from the Broads Society, Broads Authority and European funding, in 2011 Love the Broads was launched by the Broads Trust.

Working alongside business partners - of which there are now 80 - tourists and locals are encouraged to chip into the pot, through means including a voluntary surcharge on a boat hire booking, a few added pence to a meal out or branded merchandise.

Each year, the funds are divvied up between worthy, but humble, causes aiming to conserve the Broads and enhance the experience for visitors.

'The scheme has grown well over the last four years and the trust has so far funded 14 projects,' Mr Howe said. 'But there is much potential for further growth and the trust is always looking for more business partners to become connected with the scheme.'

So far, the schemes funded include installing barn owl boxes to increase their numbers, signs for cyclists, marsh habitat improvements and boat moorings.

This year, fewer groups than expected have submitted bids, with the team encouraging Broads-based projects to put forward their ideas.

Lynne Finnigan, development officer for Love the Broads, said: 'This money is for projects that make a difference to the Broads and protect their future. We have helped some brilliant schemes in the past and we are welcoming applications for this year.'

• Do you have a Broads story we should be writing? Email Lauren Cope on lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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