Would it surprise you to know that there is an army of volunteers helping to protect the Broads?
As we continue our series of blogs celebrating The Broads as a vital wetland, it's essential to highlight the incredible army of volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to preserving this unique landscape. The story of The Broads would indeed be incomplete without acknowledging their tireless efforts.
Each year, countless individuals generously contribute tens of thousands of hours of their free time to maintain the beauty and safety of The Broads, its wildlife, residents, workers, and visitors. Their roles are diverse, ranging from rescue operations to conservation and beyond.
Among the most visible are groups like the Hemsby Inshore Rescue Service, which is always ready to respond to water rescue calls. Then there are the Broads Authority volunteers who diligently clear scrub and maintain pathways, ensuring safe and accessible routes for everyone. Not to be forgotten are the NNDC Flood Wardens who operate flood barriers, a critical task especially during emergency situations.
However, numerous smaller groups and individuals, though less visible, play an equally crucial role. Organizations like Broads Watch and Marine Wildlife Rescue are dedicated to wildlife rescue, often supported by Runham Wildlife and Wild Touch when injured wildlife requires in-house care.
The angling community is another vital contributor, with individuals braving all weather conditions to monitor salinity levels in our river water during surges and assist with fish tagging and rescues. As part of a national initiative, the Angling Trust/Environment Agency's Voluntary Bailiffs are involved in river patrols and vital crime intelligence gathering, helping to protect wildlife and ensure the safety of the waterways.
Then there are those who perform seemingly small but incredibly significant tasks. Individuals who litter pick, tend gardens, plant trees, and run social groups, all contribute to making their little piece of The Broads a better place. Many of our most cherished places, such as Salhouse Broad, the Museum of The Broads, and almost all of our wildlife reserves and historic buildings, owe their appeal and preservation to these dedicated volunteers.
And, of course, we must mention Broad Sword, the Broads Society's own practical waterside work team. This group is currently undergoing restructuring to adapt and continue meeting the demands of today's Broads, more to come on this through 2024.
Most of these groups rely on their own fundraising with no government assistance turning out sometimes at very short notice. Apart from the important work they undertake, let's not forget the hours of training they also undertake sharing their individual skills for the benefit of the Broads.
The wildlife organisations often work in tandem with individual volunteers, responding to calls from the public and authorities and often to remote locations. As an example, Broads Watch monitor social media and help coordinate wildlife rescues, alerting the nearest responders and What 3 Words for locating incidents. Once the responder has undertaken the rescue, they will contact the nearest wildlife “hospital” and convey the injured bird or animal to them. It was a particularly difficult time when the Avian Influenzas struck the Broads when countless birds died and volunteers spent much time, where legally possible, removing dead birds.
On the Broads, any emergency on the water involving people warrants a 999 call to Coastguard who will coordinate the rescue using resources including their own local Coastguard teams, Hemsby Inshore Rescue Service, BA Rangers, Fire Rescue, Ambulance and Police.
Flooding (including saline surges) has probably been one of the big issues facing the Broads for the past few years, certainly 2023 and now 2024 has seen far above average water levels and resulting floods. By 28 January 2024, the Ant, Bure and Thurne catchments had been on Flood Alert for 108 consecutive days (including 4 days of Flood Warning).
North Norfolk District Council have a Flood Warden scheme of volunteers covering the North Norfolk Coast and the Broads (within their district). The Flood Wardens at Potter Heigham have been “on duty” at the time of writing for over 100 consecutive days, monitoring flood conditions, installing and removing flood barrier, undertaking controlled release of water, and laying sandbags.
The changing climate brings with it a host of challenges, from rising water levels to increasingly severe weather events, affecting the delicate balance of this unique landscape. In this context, the role of our dedicated volunteers becomes even more pivotal. These selfless individuals are not just guardians of the present; they will also be a vital part of resilience for the future of The Broads.
The increasing demands placed on this wetland due to climate change highlight the need for adaptive management and responsive conservation strategies. Our volunteers are at the forefront of this battle, monitoring environmental changes, protecting vulnerable species, and ensuring that the integrity of this wetland is not compromised. However, as the challenges grow in complexity and scale, the support for these volunteers must also evolve.
It's crucial that we invest in resources, training, and support systems to empower these volunteers. Providing them with the latest tools, information, and training can enhance their efficiency and effectiveness in facing the new challenges ahead.
In Germany, the THW Technical Rescue teams stand out as a globally recognised civil defence organization, predominantly powered by volunteers yet financially supported by taxpayers. This exemplary model showcases how structured backing and resources can elevate the work of volunteers to new heights. Perhaps adopting a similar initiative in the UK could significantly enhance the capabilities and achievements of our incredible volunteers, offering them the support and recognition they truly deserve.
These volunteers, whether they are part of a group or working individually, are the lifeblood of The Broads. Their commitment and hard work ensure that this unique area remains a beautiful, safe, and welcoming place for wildlife and people alike.
So here's to all the volunteers – the unsung heroes of The Broads. Your contributions are invaluable, and every effort you make helps to preserve the heart and soul of this special place. Thank you.
For an impressive 70 years, The Society has thrived thanks to the dedication of volunteers from all walks of life, deeply committed to the Broads. These passionate individuals give their time and expertise to address vital Broads issues, playing a crucial role in preserving this unique landscape for future generations.
🌟 Now, we're reaching out to you! If you're passionate about nature and community, your skills and enthusiasm could be the perfect fit. Join us and become part of a legacy of care and conservation. Volunteer with The Society today and make a tangible difference in protecting and celebrating the beauty of the Broads! 🌿🤝