Where the wild things are

  • Contributor information: CNP

25 June 2018

The Broads National Park is a place of secrets, a place of dense reedbeds, and of open waters and vast skies. In its mud, ancient vessels have been uncovered and from its riverbanks ruins have tumbled into the shallows. But perhaps its best-kept secret of all is that despite only covering 0.1% of the UK it is home to a quarter of the country’s rarest wildlife. For where else might you see a bittern, a crane and a swallowtail butterfly all along the same footpath?

In a landscape of hiding places from water vole burrows to hare scrapes, how does one see these elusive beasties? The Broads Authority thinks that it might just have struck upon the answer…

Action at the bird table

There’s wildlife in the back gardens, check out these action shots! Photo credit: The Broads Authority

Even the back gardens of the Broads are teeming with life. Norfolk hawker dragonflies visit the family pond, cuckoos call from the horse chestnut tree and foxes slink between the rhubarb leaves, but in a world where most people don’t even have time for themselves, the Broads Authority wants to show people that they can at least make a little more time for nature, by hiring a camera.

The new Wild Watch Camera Scheme has seen the Broads Authority make hi-tech nature cameras available for hire to the general public. All you have to do is set one up in your garden and simply leave it. The camera is triggered by movement and the first images from this fledgling initiative have already produced astonishing results.

Footage shows a Chinese water deer staring straight into the eye of the camera, perhaps glimpsing its own reflection. There have been otters padding along riverbanks and finches in a frenzy upon a bird feeder. The thing that never changes, regardless of species or conservation status, is that seeing animals when they’re unaware of our presence is endlessly fascinating and gives people who would otherwise be detached from nature a greater empathy for their fellow creatures, be they a red-listed turtle dove or a humble pigeon.

A deer caught on camera in the Broads. Photo credit: The Broads Authority

Deer caught on camera in the Broads

Better still the results of the footage are being posted online for the world to see. So that everyone can be inspired by the back gardens of the Broads National Park and perhaps realise that every garden has the same potential for life from one end of the country to the other.

The scheme comes at a time when re-wilding is the new buzz word on everybody’s lips. With local community organisation the South Yare Wildlife Group encouraging people to leave wild patches in their gardens and Somerleyton Hall beginning plans to re-wild the estate’s grounds, it seems the profile of nature and its importance as close to home as a back garden are being brought to the fore and so the Wild Watch Camera Scheme could not have come at a better time. The UK has an estimated 16 million gardens and together they cover an area bigger than all of its nature reserves, so when it comes to wildlife, charity really does start at home.


Otters caught on a tral camera in the Broads. Photo credit: The Broads Authority

The Broads National Park will always be a place of secrOtters caught on a trail cameraets, marsh harriers will still rise from the reedbeds and avocets will still dabble in the mudflats, but with the launch of the new Wild Watch Camera Scheme it is hoped that more people will begin to realise that there are secrets in their own back gardens too, that there is a magic in the hedgehog shuffling through the dead leaves and a beauty in the badger who wanders through the vegetable patch and perhaps as a result people will invite the wild in, and love the teasels which feed the chaffinches and the tuffets of longs grass which hum with bumblebees.

The Wild Watch Camera Scheme was set up following Heritage Lottery Funding for the Broads Authority’s Water, Mills and Marshes programme. To find out more about the cameras and the broader initiative follow the link: www.watermillsandmarshes.org.uk to view the Wild Watch camera footage visit their Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/160162054@N05/

By Demelza Craven, The Broads Authority