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.


  1. Nobody complained when English Nature closed Cockshoot Broad to sludge pump and carry out green-wellied experiments, despite the fact that they had no legal right to close a tidal water. In return, English Nature promised to reopen Cockshoot. They haven't of course, the entrance remains shutter piled with steel(keeps the fish out!). And they wonder why they have a credibility gap?

    1. It certainly doesn't keep the fish out as Cockshoot is full of them.

  2. I wonder if people did write and complain about Cockshoot because in the early 1980's (?) there wasn't the communication and social awareness there is now, through t'internet. There could have been many letters sent, for all we know ....

  3. I'm planning to have a swim up to cockshoot before long and report my findings. I'm just trying to find the relevant information. If anyone has access to this agreement or promise, then please pass it to me for publication on BNP :-)

  4. I legally fished Hoveton Great broad many times during the 80's. It all depended on on a bottle of whisky!

  5. It will happen, as the owners are part of the 'old boys network' and I have seen public money spent on their property in the past for their benefit.

  6. A discussion page on Facebook for the GHB project is here