Friday, 30 May 2014

Ranger update: a busy half term

By Adrian Vernon, Head of Ranger Services

The Broads waterways were bustling over the half-term week but thankfully there were relatively few incidents.

Our two new seasonal rangers Polly and Gavin continued their training on Breydon Water dealing with scenarios that were clearly convincing to one member of the public who called police with concerns over the Breydon crew.

Australian Polly said during training that Great Yarmouth's Vauxhall Bridge looked like a mini Sydney Harbour Bridge. It must be the first time the two have been mentioned in the same breath!

Back to real incidents and only two boats had to be rescued after getting stuck on the mud on Breydon this week.

Norwich Yacht Station was flooded out during the heavy rain early in the week but the Quay Assistants really worked hard to clean up the flooding and get it back open to the public again.

On a less positive note two men were interviewed and given public order fixed penalty notices for threatening a ranger and several illegal moorers have been moved on from 24 hour moorings.

Adjacent waters toll surveys by rangers continue throughout the system.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Check, clean, dry to stop the alien invaders

The killer shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus)
By Andrea Kelly, Senior Ecologist

Check, clean, dry is the message as the Broads Authority continues to raise awareness of alien invaders.

The Authority is involved in mapping the distribution of the killer shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus) and the zebra mussel as well as other non-native species.

The highest densities of killer shrimp and zebra mussels are on the eastern shore of Barton Broad and zebra mussels can also be found throughout the Bure, Ant, Thurne and Yare.

It is likely that the water intake from Belaugh to the Trinity Broads will also spread the shrimp.

It is critical to avoid the spread to other waterways by taking the simple steps of check, clean, dry – checking your boat and equipment for invaders before leaving a waterway, cleaning everything and making sure it is all dry. A leaflet is available with further information.

For more details on how we have raised awareness of non-native species please see the Broads Authority website.

Any sightings of non-native species can be emailed to alert_nonnative@ceh.ac.uk

Sunday, 25 May 2014

'Martin Broom' launch leads Authority's eco-friendly fleet

Cleaning the 'Martin Broom'
By Dan Hoare, Environment and Design Supervisor

Two Broads Authority Ranger launches now have super clean hulls, thanks to an innovative coating that protects the boat, and the environment.

Traditional and commonly used antifoulant paints applied to boat hulls contain copper, zinc and other pesticidal chemicals. These chemicals prevent growth of algae on submerged boat surfaces, but in the Broads, the likely level of this natural growth is relatively low compared to marine situations.

To help protect against contamination of the sensitive Broads freshwater ecosystem, several different types of hull coating have been developed that don’t rely on toxic chemicals.

Our newest launch the 'Martin Broom' has a silicon based hull coating, that feels slippery to the touch, and prevents any mussels, or dense growths of algae attaching underwater. It also helps the vessel glide through the water and keep fuel consumption down.

All that is needed for annual maintenance is a quick spray with a pressure washer, or wipe with a wet rag. Removing the thin layer of silt and slime is a lot less work and expense than reapplying another coat of normal antifoul paint that can leave a legacy of chemicals in the waterways.

Our other launch with a silicon-coated hull has been in the water for four seasons near Breydon Water, with only minor touch ups where impacts have damaged the silicon surface.

The initial outlay is certainly worth four years of minimal maintenance costs.  The remainder of the Authority’s vessels are coated with an annually applied non-toxic antifoul paint, which relies on the action of hydrogen peroxide to deter plant and animal growth on the hull. When the peroxide breaks down underwater, all that remains is water and oxygen!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Machine management for the Broads

The new Softrak MkII
By Rob Rogers, Head of Construction, Maintenance and Environment

A new machine to help manage the Broads is being put through its paces before starting work in the summer.

The Broads Authority received its brand new Softrak MkII wetland harvester this week.

Operatives will be trained to use it while it undergoes a period of testing before cutting various fenland sites in August.

In addition the weed cutter Megan was lifted into the river on Tuesday following her winter refit.

Megan will start work at Somerton and cut more than 50 miles of weed from the channel during the cutting season.
Megan after her winter refit

Friday, 16 May 2014

Broads Authority hosts VIP planner

Kath Ranson (second from left) with Cally Smith (left),
Andrea Long and Peter Warner
The Broads Authority hosted a visit from the National President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and talked to her about the challenges of managing planning in the Broads.

Authority officers hosted the visit from Kath Ranson during the RTPI’s centenary year. It was arranged by Peter Warner, a Broads Authority member and immediate past Chair of the East of England branch of the RTPI.

Director of Planning and Resources Andrea Long said: “Kath works for Pembrokeshire County Council but also spent several years at the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and therefore was well versed in the challenges members of the National Parks family all face when it comes to planning matters.”

Ms Ranson visited the Authority’s Yare House office on Thursday (15 May) morning for a presentation about the Greater Norwich Development Partnership from Broadland District Council Head of Planning Phil Courtier and a presentation about the challenges of planning in the Broads by Ms Long and Broads Authority Head of Planning Cally Smith.

She then visited Norwich Yacht Station and was taken from there through the city by boat to Whitlingham Country Park.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Broads Authority officers call for urgent research over Catfield Fen

A report to tomorrow’s Broads Authority meeting is calling for urgent research to better understand the challenges of the Broadland fens following concerns regarding water abstraction licences at Catfield.

The Authority prides itself in taking decisions based on evidence and officers do not have enough evidence for a conclusive link between water abstraction for crops and the present condition of Catfield Fen, or if there is a link, whether it is significant.

The Environment Agency is the body responsible for making decisions on abstraction licences and officers have worked hard, and commissioned independent research, to assist the agency in making an informed decision. This research has led the Authority to question the modelling system for evaluating the hydrology of the Broads given its unique and complex challenges.

But more work needs to be carried out to ensure a full, sound understanding of the hydrology and ecology of the fens using a range of expertise and officers are urging action to establish a partnership research programme.

This would not only provide more information on the best sustainable management of specific sites like Catfield Fen but for other fen areas which may be subject to similar pressures and it will inform areas of work like climate change adaptation.

Full details of the committee report can be found on the Broads Authority website.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Broads Authority staff lay treasure during 25km sponsored journey to mark 25 years

Staff at the Broads Authority will be running, walking or cycling 25km on Saturday to celebrate the organisation’s 25th anniversary and raise money for projects to protect and nurture Britain’s magical waterland.

And in addition to dozens of staff journeying from Whitlingham Visitor Centre along the Wherryman’s Way to Loddon there will be a number of Broads souvenirs which will be laid in various geocache sites along the route for people to find.

Would be treasure hunters can download the co-ordinates and clues from www.geocaching.com under the name friedagaric.

The journey for staff will end with a well-earned barbecue washed down with Woodforde’s Flagondry – an ale especially brewed to mark the Authority’s silver anniversary.

All sponsorship raised by the effort will go to the Love the Broads charity, which administers projects to benefit conservation, environment and tourism facilities within the Broads and its immediate surroundings.

Broads Authority Chief Executive Dr John Packman, who will be among the cyclists, said: “I speak on behalf of all staff and volunteers when I say how proud we are to be part of an organisation that has made such strides in managing and looking after this precious part of the national park family.

“Twenty-five years is a significant milestone and it is important that we celebrate the Authority and all its achievements during that time. It is particularly fitting that we are making the journey along the Wherryman’s Way as helping to establish this route is one of those achievements. “My thanks go to all our staff and volunteers for making everything we have done possible.”

Walkers and runners will be setting off from Whitlingham at 8.30am on Saturday and cyclists will be following at 12pm. Sponsorship can be made at www.justgiving.com/broads-authority

25 of the Broads Authority’s biggest achievements over the last 25 years

1 Dramatic improvements in water quality – thriving water plants and clear water are the best in half a century

2 Return of rare wildlife – bittern, marsh harriers, otters, cranes, buzzard

3 Barton Broad restored and a new boardwalk built providing access for disabled visitors

4 Britain’s first passenger solar boat ‘Ra’ launched – now operating on Whitlingham Broad

5 Canoe and bike hire networks started

6 Raised standards of eating establishments through the Eating Out Guide

7 Improved sustainable practices through Green Tourism Business scheme

8 Revived the reed and sedge cutting industry in the Broads

9 Trained millwrights to keep heritage skills alive

10 Developed Whitlingham Country Park for visitors

11 Improved access to the Broads for people with disabilities – footpaths and wheelchair accessible fishing platforms.

12 Helped develop the long distance footpath, the Wherryman’s Way, with partners.

13 Works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, inspiring them about the Broads and wild spaces.

14 Provided more than 60 free 24 hour moorings, all with safety features

15 Extended electric charging points across the Broads to encourage eco-friendly boating

16 Took the dredging operation in-house—achieving 25% more dredging for less money

17 Built a new dockyard facility as the hub of its maintenance work

18 Restored two historic reed beds by reusing dredged sediment.

19 Works with the Environment Agency on flood defence

20 Improved safety on the Broads

21 Took over the management of Breydon Water from Gt Yarmouth Port Authority

22 Invested in high speed, heavy duty launch for Breydon Water with year round patrols

23 Established three visitor hubs each with their own boat trip

24 Took over the management and refurbished Norwich and Gt Yarmouth Yacht Stations

25 New branding has changed the image of the Broads as Britain’s magical waterland, a nature lover’s paradise

Saturday, 10 May 2014

First few May days....

By Adrian Vernon, Head of Ranger Services

The Bank Holiday weekend was fairly quiet with a total of nine warning given mainly for speeding.

A ranger assisted on the Broads Authority stand at the Horning Boat Show and three volunteers and the ranger on launch were nearby at the moorings and on the river. The event was well attended and agreed by all to have been a success.

On Monday a speeder who had been complained about in the Northern Broads was caught up with and blue booked.

A vessel that has stayed at the Norwich Yacht Station twice without paying was stopped and the police have become involved.

A great deal of rubbish and debris is recovered by the Rangers in the normal course of their work, but the more unusual finds this week were five 1 metre long logs which were recovered from the Chet.

A joint patrol has been undertaken with Broads Beat Police in the Wroxham area.

On Wednesday our Chief Executive John Packman continued his mission to go out with all staff and he became part of the Breydon crew.

He helmed the vessel all day and the patrol was involved in an escort in the morning and the recovery of a broken down speedboat in the afternoon. The weather was windy with gusts nearing 30 mph and heavy showers so the speedboat crew were very pleased to see the Breydon Patrol.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Broads Authority beats dredging target

By Rob Rogers, Head of Construction, Maintenance and Environment

Navigation Committee members have welcomed the news that the Broads Authority has exceeded its annual dredging target by more than 13%

At the committee meeting last Thursday I updated on the progress of the Construction, Maintenance and Environment Section work programme, including the fact that 56,507m3 of sediment had been removed from the rivers and broads during 2013/14 against a target of 50,000m3.

This is great news for boat users and the Authority and was largely thanks to progress made at Duck Island and helped by the milder winter. Significant progress has also been made at Heigham Sound, Upton Dyke, the Chet and the hump in Breydon Water.

The committee also welcomed news of tree and scrub clearance on the Upper Bure and Upper Ant for navigation and land management purposes.

More good news was that the new 24 hour moorings at Hardley Cross has been completed and opened in time for the season boasting 90m of new mooring space and 25 new mooring posts.

Mud pumping at Heigham Sound went well with more than 13,000m3 and dredging at Upton Dyke has been completed, with boats being allowed back into the dyke. The arisings have been put into a shallow set back to de-water. Once dried, the area will be restored to a grassed area with a small wetland section at the basin end, to encourage biodiversity.

The dredging in the River Chet, from Pye’s Mill to the 24hr mooring has been completed, including Loddon basin. Some of this sediment is being used as part of the European partnership project (PRISMA) trial where sediment is mixed with varying amounts of cement and lime to see what level is needed to bring the material up to the required sheer strength. This will help with future flood defence works and has the potential of providing a future re-use of dredged material.

Breydon Water had some maintenance spot dredging undertaken, with 500m3 removed near the downstream span, adjacent to the true right bank. This small lump was causing a shallow spot and was picked up by the Rangers on a routine patrol. A damaged navigation channel marker post has also been replaced.