Weed growth raises questions over safety of Hickling Broad users

Sailor Peter Stowe with the weed that wound itself around the rudder and propeller. Picture: Angela

Sailor Peter Stowe with the weed that wound itself around the rudder and propeller. Picture: Angela Lawrence - Credit: Archant

Safety fears are today being raised over the growth of weeds in one of Norfolk's largest broads.

Sailor Peter Stowe with the weed that wound itself around the rudder and propeller. Picture: Angela

Sailor Peter Stowe with the weed that wound itself around the rudder and propeller. Picture: Angela Lawrence - Credit: Archant

Local businesses and sailors fear the current levels of plant growth at Hickling Broad could slow down or stop rescue boats that are responding to emergencies.

The fear is that the vessels could become entangled in the weeds and be slower in reaching people in distress.

Glenn Wilson of The Pleasure Boat Inn said: 'The rescue boats for both Hickling Sailing Club and Hickling Windsurfing Club must be able to traverse the whole Broad in two minutes if there is an accident.

'Both clubs have speed boats with v-shaped hulls, which means they must use long shaft outboards. These too are being entangled and the fear is, of course, that a breakdown of the boats could result in a loss of life.'

A state of art hydroacoustic surveying and mapping system was used to discern the density and distri

A state of art hydroacoustic surveying and mapping system was used to discern the density and distribution of submerged water plants on Hickling Broad. Image: Broads Authority - Credit: Archant


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Sailor Angela Lawrence said Hickling Broad had become a 'disaster area' for sailors this summer.

She said: 'Even small yachts, like our 20ft Pippin 20, which has a lifting keel, has fallen foul of the entangling weed which now grows right up to the channel markers.

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'Imagine the public horror if a youngster capsized a small boat, but the Hickling Broad Sailing Club rescue boat couldn't reach them because weed snarled up the engine's propeller.'

Andy Hamilton of Eastwood Whelpton Sailing Holidays said: 'The Broads Authority has told me that there is no weed in the channel on Hickling, however having had seven separate yacht hirers get stuck in the weed in a two-week period suggests that cannot be the case.'

Weed pulled from Hickling Broad during the recent Hickling Village Regatta which had become attached

Weed pulled from Hickling Broad during the recent Hickling Village Regatta which had become attached to a boat. Picture: Sue Hines - Credit: Archant

The weed impacted on the recent Hickling Village Regatta when yachts that ventured out of the marked channel were hampered by thick weed accumulating on keels and rudders.

Broads Authority chief executive John Packman said there was a large area of the broad where the plants did not inhibit sailing.

He said: 'In particular the marked channel is free of plants, though growth in some small patches can push in from the edges, and this is where cutting and removal of this growth has been targeted.

'Advice to general boaters is to remain within the marked channel to prevent entangling propellers or blocking water intakes.'

Weed pulled from Hickling Broad during the recent Hickling Village Regatta which had become attached

Weed pulled from Hickling Broad during the recent Hickling Village Regatta which had become attached to a boat. Picture: Sue Hines - Credit: Archant

He said improved water quality and early summer sun meant that water plants had been growing more vigorously this year.

Caring for Hickling Broad

Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman at the launch of the Broads Plan 2017. Picture: Andrew

Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman at the launch of the Broads Plan 2017. Picture: Andrew Stone - Credit: Archant

The Broads Authority said Hickling Broad was the largest and most complex of the approximately 60 broads and other areas of open water.

Chief executive John Packman said: 'Hickling has a number of rare plant species which are protected.

'The Broads Authority has agreed a detailed specification for the cutting of plants in Hickling with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and with the permission of Natural England, to allow boat access for local businesses and leisure users.

'This does not involve the wholesale removal of water plants but rather their selective cutting because of the rare species that are present and the fragility of the whole ecosystem.

The Broads Authority said plant cutting typically takes place from May to September. Picture: Broads

The Broads Authority said plant cutting typically takes place from May to September. Picture: Broads Authority. - Credit: Archant

'Hickling Broad forms a small but important part of the full 200 kilometres of navigable waterways within the Broads National Park. The two aquatic plant cutters typically operate from May to September, maintaining access to all the businesses, moorings and centres of population in the Broads.'

Action from the Hickling Broad Regatta. Picture: Sue Hines

Action from the Hickling Broad Regatta. Picture: Sue Hines - Credit: Archant

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