The Broads – a Norfolk and Suffolk Treasure - 10th February 2015
The first “home” meeting of the Foxearth and District Local History Society of 2015 consisted of an archive film evening in Foxearth Village Hall on 10th February.
Chairman Alan Fitch welcomed 25 members and guests. The film was “The Broads – a Norfolk and Suffolk Treasure” and after a slight hitch in the engine room we were soon launched onto the waterways!
The film dealt with the several centuries development of this extremely large and important
conservation area from early times when it was a sparsely populated wetlands with families mainly engaged upon reed cutting for thatching, eel fishing and operating trading wherries to what came to be recognised as a valuable National Park and recreation facility.
In the 18th and 19th centuries artists were drawn to this pastoral and unspoilt haven and their work showed the landscape of rivers and lakes and reed beds. The earliest photographs were of the labour intensive tasks of reed cutting and the harvesting of osiers for basket and hurdle making; tools for cleaning the waterways and shaping the banks were also made as required. From about the beginning of the 20th century people began to escape from the smoggy cities to take holidays in the Broads and boat hire became popular.
Between the wars a number of companies set up business in hiring sailing boats and small cruisers and more building took place on the banks. In 1940 the Broads became a prohibited area because of invasion scares but after the war rapid development occurred. In 1948 there were 500 holiday craft afloat but 20 years later this number as estimated to be 2,000. In 1989 the Broads Authority was established to manage the National Park, ensure public safety and deal with pollution from agricultural run off.
The Broads teem with wildlife; to mention just a very few -birds including marsh harriers and waders; animals such as the water-loving coypu and the small Chinese deer – and the beautiful Swallow-Tail butterfly. In his book -which ran to many editions - “The Swan and Her Crew” the author , Christopher Davy said of the Broads that “there's no better playground in England”; this comment of about 1900 has certainly been borne out in later years.
The next meeting will be the AGM – the Society's 16th – on 10th March at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall. There will be cheese and wine, a history quiz and members are asked to bring along their earliest photographs of absolutely anything at all.