Posted by: Ross Gardner | August 12, 2012

Upton Fen

Upton Marshes. Ross Gardner 2012

The Norfolk Broads is a special place – a wonderful wetland of open water and wet woodland, reed-bed and fen, and many of the subtleties in between.  It has had to deal with the onslaught of agriculture and the demands of the tourist industry and it is still a special, if somewhat depleted place.  And there always seems to be somewhere, within such expanses, that resonates the essence of place within the visitor.  To this end, each visitor may well each chose a different location to the next, but for me, and the occasion of my recent return to Norfolk and its Broads, it was the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Upton Marshes.

It was here that met the expectations of the Broads in our minds eye.  Somewhat off the beaten track, it was as quiet a spot as we could have hoped to find on a warm, sun-filled August morning.  From the instant we left the small car park we were reminded of the richness of life to be found among the ‘Broadland backcountry’.  A small, shallow pool, that seemed all the more conspicuous surrounded by cropped grassland in which it sat, was alive with Emerald Damselfly and Ruddy Darter dragonflies, while Gatekeeper flitted about the boundary hedgerows.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum). Ross Gardner 2011

The open sun of this small field ended abruptly in the shadow of lofty carr woodland – that which may develop on wet ground, conditions in which Alder and willows will hold sway.  The sunlight made the ground with the flicker of dapples through the leaf cover.  It almost seemed as if every third step disturbed a frog from the lush grass, as it leapt towards the safety of a pathside ditch.  Here too was the realm of Speckled Wood, guarding their stretch of path and always ready to take up and stake a claim to any would be challengers.  And, to our great delight, these are woods that are home also to that most ‘woodland’ of woodland butterflies – the so very handsome White Admiral.  It skimmed past and around us, settling all too briefly, before disappearing tantalisingly away through the trees.

Common Frog (Rana temporaria). Ross Gardner 2012

Where the woods gave way to open swathes of reed and the scrubby sallows adrift in this whispering sea of leaves, the sense of abundant life remained.  Most obvious were the Brown Hawker dragonflies dashing over the tops of the reeds, the Black-tailed Skimmers and brightly coloured damselflies drifting along the pathside.  Less assuming were the likes of the Common Green Grasshopper churring among the taller sward and the longhorn beetles lured to the stands of nectar-heavy Hemp-agrimony.

On departing I certainly felt that I had very much made my reaquaintence with the wilder face of the Norfolk Broads.

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