Thursday, 31 July 2014

Busy start to the school holidays

By Adrian Vernon, Head of Ranger Services

The period before the holidays was busy with a few incidents involving vessels stuck on Breydon Water and fallen trees.

There have also been two dog rescues. The first was at Great Yarmouth and involved a huge Burmese Mountain Dog which had fallen in .The two Yacht station staff tried in vain to rescue the dog and were on the phone to the coastguard for assistance when they managed to pull it clear of the water.

A five-month old Labrador puppy was reported to have gone missing from a vessel travelling between Horning and Didlers Mill.

A riverside property owner found a very bedraggled puppy on her slipway and took it in to let it rest with her own dog while phoning Broads Control. The owners who were still in the area were reunited with their puppy but almost immediately the puppy fell back in the water and had to be rescued again.

The riverside owner has now lent her dog life jacket to the puppy owners to save any more dramas.

A Super Safety Day took place at Somerleyton on Saturday .There were plenty of vessels about but only eight were slowed down, one blue book was issued and warnings were given for fishing from a moving vessel.

Spring tides produced some strong flows and two vessels had been pinned to bridge fendering while several small oil spills were investigated and dealt with.

There was a grounding on Breydon Water and a call from the MCA to a broken down on the River Waveney at dusk which was dealt with by the local on call ranger.

Whitlingham Country Park started its Whitlingham Wednesday treasure trailwhich attracted 300 young bounty hunters.

Broads Beat have been out patrolling and have been undertaking patrols with rangers and the EA fisheries enforcement staff.

Unfortunately there was a search for a missing person at Oulton Broad which resulted in a deceased man being found. This incident is being investigated by the police.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Rangers v giant hogweed - let battle commence!

Rangers have been winning the battle against one of their arch enemies - giant hogweed.

It might sound like something out of a Harry Potter book but the plant (Lat. Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a very real threat.

Giant hogweed is one of the most problematic invasive non-native species in Britain today. It can grow up to five metres in height, with each plant producing many thousands of seeds a year, and contains a poisonous sap that causes painful blistering and severe skin irritation.

Yet it was exported by the Victorians as an ornamental plant, one of many foreign plants brought into Britain in the 19th century, mainly for ornamental reasons.

Originally from Caucasus it is now widespread throughout the British Isles, especially along riverbanks. By forming dense stands, giant hogweed can displace native plants and reduce wildlife interests.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Royal visits and triathlons

By Pip Noon, Deputy Head of Ranger Services

Special events have dominated the week for rangers – including a visit by the Princess Royal on 8 July when our Waveney Ranger provided on the water support and Operation Dragonfly.

At the weekend the Norwich Triathlon took place at Whitlingham Country Park while rangers helped at South Norfolk Fun Day on Sunday and on the BA promotional stand at the Chet Valley Festival on the previous weekend where badge making for children proved to be particularly popular.

Meanwhile further Ranger Volunteer training is being hosted by the Yare/Whitlingham team to help our fantastic volunteers towards Level 2 skills.

On the water a navigation channel post was noted as missing from Breydon Water and arrangements were made for a temporary buoy to be used as a marker. Our Yare Ranger aboard the Hardley launch removed a large log which was causing a hazard to boaters on the River Chet.

The Wroxham/Ant Ranger team has been undertaking routine site checks and brushcutting this week. Some paths have been cut on Wroxham Island in readiness for Himalayan balsam pulling sessions with volunteers next week.

Between navigation patrols, the Ludham Ranger team has been assisting Environment Officers with the remediation project at Duck Broad by planting reeds in the dredged sediments.

The wind and rain has caused several tree branches to collapse at various locations across the Broads. Emergency tree works were undertaken on Wednesday evening to clear branches on the public highway at Whitlingham. Hire boat customers have coped very well with the difficult conditions.

On 10 July, Breydon Rangers met with representatives from Keep Britain Tidy and Great Yarmouth Borough Council to discuss a foreshore clean-up initiative involving the local community later this year. There is a great accumulation of litter along the edges of Breydon Water.

It’s hoped that a new group may form to care for this area longer-term using the RiverCare model. The litter is a sad detraction from the beautiful purple blush of sea asters which are in bloom across the salt marsh presently.

And lastly three Rangers valiantly fought a sadly losing battle in the BA versus Broadland District Council six-aside football tournament last Friday.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Broads Authority joins ambulance and coastguard agencies in Operation Dragonfly major incident exercise

Staff and volunteers test major incident readiness during Operation Dragonfly
Last weekend around 60 St John Ambulance, HM Coastguard and Broads Authority staff, volunteers and observers successfully tested their preparedness for a major incident on the Broads and coast during a complex exercise.

HM Coastguard's Lowestoft, Gorleston and Winterton teams and St John Ambulance's Lowestoft unit joined the Broads Authority on Saturday 5 July for Operation Dragonfly at Goodchild Marine in Burgh Castle.

The carefully planned scenario, which lasted the entire morning, involved two boats which had collided after the captain of the larger one, a pleasure craft, had suffered a stroke.

With many role-play casualties on board the boats, on land and in the water, the three organisations had the complex task of assessing the incident, prioritising injuries and extracting all casualties from the area.

As with all exercises of this type, casualties were given realistic injuries by an experienced make-up artist and were briefed on how to act when the rescue teams arrived, ranging from being very subdued to extremely vocal and distressed.

One casualty was a wheelchair user on the top deck of the larger craft and several others were immobilised by major fractures and broken limbs, needing stretcher evacuation.

After the teams started leading and stretchering the injured away, the scenario planners had included some extra surprises including a panic attack from one casualty as she had to be taken to dry land on another boat, and an angina attack from a second woman as she arrived on land where ambulances were waiting.

The inclusion of water and boats in the exercise added another element of difficulty, as did a sudden and very violent downpour later in the morning.
Pip Noon, Deputy Head of Ranger Services at the Broads Authority, said: "This has been a brilliant opportunity for the three agencies to work together with multiple role-played casualties in a waterside setting.

"The exercise has taught all three groups how to work closely and communicate effectively in these situations. Training needs to be ongoing for staff and volunteers and I particularly appreciate the input of our volunteers and commitment to taking part today. This is certainly an exercise we would like to repeat."

Peter Byatt, HM Coastguard Station Officer at Lowestoft, added: "This was an excellent opportunity to be able to work alongside other emergency services organisations and practise our skills.

"To be put in a position where we had to assess multiple casualties and ensure that the appropriate resources were put in place to treat them was invaluable. It was a very well organised exercise which we hope to repeat on a yearly basis."

Tony Curd, St John Ambulance's District Manager with responsibility for Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, said: "While we all hope never to have to deal with situations of such complexity and severity, it is vital that we and our partner agencies ensure that our volunteers are operating at the highest levels of proficiency to bring incidents of this sort to a successful conclusion.

"The meticulous planning that went into the exercise from all three organisations has meant that we have had a superb scenario to deal with today, with many unexpected twists, and I'm pleased that our first aiders showed that they truly possess the skills to be the difference between life and death. We're very much looking forward to collaborating with HM Coastguard and The Broads Authority on similar exercises in future."

All three organisations gave their thanks to the volunteers, staff and observers who attended the exercise, as well as Goodchild Marine for use of their facilities.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Swan rescues and safer moorings

By Pip Noon, Deputy Head of Ranger Services

A Waveney Ranger rescued a swan with a fishing hook in its mouth after spotting it while on patrol at Oulton Broad . He was able to capture the bird before taking out the hook and releasing it again.

Rangers across the area have been strimming and mowing mooring sites and pathways to ensure safe access for members of the public.

And the crew aboard the Spirit of Breydon helped two vessels which had gone aground on Breydon Water,  offering re-assurance to the people on board. Breydon Ranger Steve Williams was interviewed by BBC Radio Norfolk about safe crossing of Breydon Water on Friday 4 July.

Rangers have also been carrying out radar speed checks on the lower Yare, where they helped a boat off the mud at Polkey’s Mill, and undertaking joint patrols with Broadsbeat and EA fisheries officers at Wroxham and Norwich.

A number of anglers have received contravention notices for failing to produce a valid rod licence. Each offence carries a potential fine if convicted of £2500. The annual rod licence, in comparison, costs only £27.

On Tuesday 1 July, the Hardley launch was deployed to escort a large BA workboat ‘Shoveler’ from Reedham onto the Chet and rangers marshalled powerboat racing on Oulton Broad, Thursday 2 July during the afternoon and evening. Rangers also provided launch support for planning officer investigations on 2 July.

 Northern rivers rangers arranged for the Wroxham boat shed to be emptied ahead of a construction project. The building has developed structural issues due to subsidence. Alternative arrangements to house the patrol launch ML Yare have been made.

On Saturday 28 June, a training session on power tools and equipment use was run by the Yare/Whitlingham Ranger for Ranger volunteers at Whitlingham Country Park. This training counts towards Level 2 in the 3-tier training scheme for Ranger volunteers. Thirteen volunteers attended the day.

One of the old patrol launches which remains for sale by sealed bids was taken from dry moorings at Thorpe Dockyard to Potter Heigham on Thursday 3 July.

Between patrols and maintenance duties, Rangers have been distributing more copies of the free Broadcaster publication to various outlets.