Saturday 31 January 2015

The Great Hoveton Broad Swindle

Sometimes I like to explore the parts of the Broads where only a fish can go, and the other day I decided to visit Hoveton Great Broad - one of the biggest Broads there is.

My Great Grandfather used to tell me what a fantastic Broad this was, before the owners closed it off to boats so that it could be their own private playground about 120 years ago. How sel-fish of them!

Well, I couldn't believe my eyes when I got there. In fact, I couldn't believe my gills, the water quality was diabolical - completely stagnant and I couldn't breathe! And they call it a nature reserve? Not much nature in there I can tell you, yuk. That's what happens when you close off Broads and don't manage them - they gradually silt up until there's nothing but mud. Which is nice if you're a hippopotamus I suppose but pretty useless for fish - and indeed boats.

So, when I read about the Hoveton Great Broad restoration project, I thought to myself "goodness me Eddie, the owners have seen the error of their ways and decided to dredge the Broad and re-open it so that everyone can experience the serene beauty of this fabulous expanse of water". Sure enough, they've got together with Natural England and asked for £5 million of lottery money to dredge the Broad. Hurray!

But wait, what about public access and navigation to this Broad, restored with public money? No doubt those gates will be removed so that it can be enjoyed by everyone? Well apparently not. In fact, the entrances are going to be blocked up with tonnes of concrete and rocks to form "temporary fish barriers".

Temporary. Fish barriers. Using concrete and rocks.

Now, does that sound like just a teensy bit of overkill to stop a few fish getting in? Did they consider using a net? The fishing industry have found them to be quite effective for some years now I believe. And certainly much easier to remove than hundreds of tonnes of rock. Do we even have the technology to do that?

So, intrigued, I had a chat with a friend of the owners to see if I could understand this aversion to allowing other people to enjoy the Broad, and it turns out that it basically boils down to the fact that they don't like boats, not one little bit. "Because they destroy the Broads, you see? Look at the rivers, and the Broads which have boats on them, and you'll see that they're ruined!" Really? "The water quality's dreadful and the plant life is declining!" I mentioned that this sounded a bit more like Hoveton Great Broad to me but he just gave me a look. Don't the owners have their own boats on the Broad? "Well yes, of course, but that's entirely different, they know how to look after the Broad and won't ruin it…" Mmm-hmm.

You'd like to think that the Broads Authority - responsible for 'promoting the right to navigate' - would use this as an opportunity to remind the owners that this is a tidal Broad - swapping the Authority's support for a commitment to re-open the navigation. But no, apparently this would cost too many legal fees. The owner is a High Court judge, you see. Click to read last September's report which expresses "disappointment" that there is no intention to restore the navigation but recommends that the scheme is supported anyway!

But it's ok, because there's going to be a canoe trail through the marshes. A private, guided one. Which stops short of the Broad. Well - how much public access can you possibly expect for just five million pounds?

PS there's a 'survey' being carried out as part of this project - but you only have until 6th Feb to complete it. The questions are fairly useless as they assume support for the project but there's a (small) comment box at the end. Click here to complete the survey.

Friday 23 January 2015

Broads Authority drops plan to become a National Park

Boat owners and residents are reacting to today’s news that the Broads Authority has formally dropped its long-term ambition to become a National Park.

Members also voted overwhelmingly to reject the introduction of the Sandford Principle – now or in the future.

The news was greeted with dismay by some hard-core conservationists, who fear that the move will result in an explosion of hire boat numbers, the destruction of important habitats and the dualling of the A47.

Having agreed that the area would not become a National Park, the Authority was asked to decide whether it should be referred to as one anyway, because National Parks are often seen as A Good Thing amongst visitors. Members were assured that, although this ‘rebranding’ was intended to encourage tourism, it would be unlikely to result in an actual increase in visitor numbers and would merely improve the quality of the existing visitors – thereby resolving the apparently conflicting demands of the holiday industry and conservationists in one simple stroke of genius.

Some navigators remained unconvinced by the announcement, pointing out that you can’t believe anything that the Broads Authority says, ever. I couldn’t possibly comment on this.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Eddie Rebrands as Broads National Pike

In a surprise move, it has emerged that A Fish Called Eddie - the southern Broads’ statue of a leaping pike – is to be re-branded as a Broads National Pike.

The move follows an “ofishal” consultation process, in addition to a survey of over 1,600 boat owners, residents and visitors. Brand consultants found that, once the opinions of the residents and boat owners were removed from the figures, 80% of the remainder were in favour of the re-branding.

Although Eddie is a member of the Pike family, he is not technically a National Pike. But that doesn’t matter much these days, as Eddie explained – “National Pikes are a globally-recognised brand. By calling myself one, I stand to gain thousands more followers on Twitter – so who cares whether or not it’s true?” Eddie’s brand manager, Dr John Pikeman agreed – “Eddie isn’t actually saying that he is a National Pike – he’s just calling himself one. See?”

Critics have pointed out that if Eddie actually becomes a National Pike, then his right to swim throughout the Broads may be curtailed in the event of an outbreak of rare weeds or protected newts. But Eddie has confirmed that, if he is allowed to call himself a National Pike then he will give up his long-held aspiration of becoming one.

Eddie is no stranger to re-branding, having started life as a 28lb stuffed pike hanging on the wall of the Waveney Inn in 1948, before becoming a galvanised steel statue of a leaping pike as part of a millennium sculpture trail in 2001 and regenerating again as a kind of online virtual fish in 2010.