Wheatfen Study centre vision becomes a reality

Once described as the grandfather of naturalism in Norfolk Ted Ellis is said to have had the ability to communicate his enthusiasm for natural world to everyone

The writer and broadcaster lived in a secluded cottage at Wheatfen Broad near Surlingham east of Norwich; a place he called the breathing space for the cure of souls.

Now new generations will be able to share in his work and the broad, which has been designated a site of special scientific interest, as a new study centre has opened just a stone's throw from where he lived.

When Ted died in 1986, his widow, Phyllis, set up The Ted Ellis Trust to remember his work.

One of her visions was to create the study centre. It never happened in her lifetime, but after the hard work of family members, trustees and volunteers the new timber building has finally opened its doors.

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It will host workshops for schools and educational talks about the history and ecology of the Broad. Volunteers, who give up their time to preserve the area will also be able to use the shower and kitchen facilities. Records which have been put together about the area could also be kept in the building.

Ted and Phyllis's son, John, who is now chairman of the trustees, said his mother would have been delighted to see the project complete.

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But he was not so sure about his father.

'He liked to observe and record. He was more interested in watching, not to reclaim. He would come and see this and say it was all too tidy.'

He said that the study centre would allow people to get together.

'This will make sure the trust is going to continue when we are out of the way and gone.'

John left Wheatfen Broad when he was 15 to join the navy but said that he always kept photographs with him.

Money for the project has come from a number of sources, but much of the cash came from Norfolk County Cottages which was founded by Ted's nephew, Richard Ellis.

He asks each guest to donate to the trust when they visit the region.

Through customer donations they have given �15,000 to the trust are set to donate a further �5,000.

Richard Ellis said: 'From our customers' perspective it's an attractive prospect.

'They can help with conservation of the environment through a small amount of money.

'This place is a wonderful, peaceful environment. It is a wonderful place and really good for customers to make that connection. They love to come here and see what we do.'

John said it was the biggest project since the launch of the trust.

He said it was difficult for the charity to raise money so they really appreciated legacies and partnerships like that with Norfolk Country Cottages.

The centre was used by the Friends of the Ted Ellis Trust at the weekend for the first time and is set to be used next weekend.

Richard said the family had many happy memories from the fen.

'I used to be left here for long periods of time. It was a great place to come.

'I used to go swimming in the broad. It is really good that so many people are able to come and enjoy it now.'

In recent years, money collected by Norfolk Country Cottages has been used to build a new boardwalk so that visitors can explore and watch the wildlife safely, and to clear the Thatch Pond which has now doubled in size and attracted lots of new species.

For more information go to www.wheatfen.org or the Norfolk Country Cottages website http://www.norfolkcottages.co.uk/about-us/our-nominated-charity/. If you would like to use the study centre contact warden David Nobbs on 01508 538036.

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