Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. There's something about an early morning on Salhouse Broad, gossamer nets of mist catching streams of the low sunlight, or the fiery colours of falling leaves spinning in a blustery wind. Mixed in with the days of grey drizzle are cool, clear nights of calm stillness. Although many species from the summer have left us to find warmer climates, we're instead joined by wintering wildfowl who have spent their own breeding seasons in Scandinavia, Siberia or Greenland. The Broads are an important area for these species, and it means it's always worth taking a walk down to Salhouse Broad even in the winter. Some of our native species are joined by migrants, for example starlings, which at this time of year form huge flocks known as murmurations. And although there's still abundant berries and nuts in the wild (this year has seen a particularly good crop of wild foods!) as the winter wears on smaller birds will rely more on garden feeders, so it's important to make sure these are cleaned and topped up regularly.
All the changes at this time of year are a result of the Earth's tilt. Autumn sees the northern hemisphere leaning away from the sun, which not only results in shorter days but also has solar energy hit us at a steeper angle. This means the sunlight has more atmosphere to pass through, weakening the energy reaching us and giving us colder weather. Deciduous trees economise by sucking back valuable green chlorophyll from their leaves, which is wasted during the short days of winter. This unveils the other pigments that have been there all summer, just hidden by the green, giving us the characteristic kaleidoscope of Fall colours.
Autumn is a time of change at Salhouse Broad as well: I joined the team of Rangers at the beginning of October, taking up the mantle from David and Pippa and lately Holly who have been running the show this year. I arrived after working in collaboration with Salhouse Broad for the last two years as a Reserve Warden for the Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail, just across the Bure from Salhouse. I come from a conservation background, having moved to Norfolk in 2012 to study Environmental Science at UEA, and just this past year completing a Master's in Ecology and Conservation. I'm now looking forward to bringing my knowledge and enthusiasm to Salhouse Broad, making it a place where wildlife, visitors and locals alike can thrive together.
The last month of the season proved to be a busy one, culminating with the Friends of Salhouse Broad's annual Halloween Horror Hunt. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the other Rangers: Belinda, Piggy and Holly, and the wonderful volunteers from the Friends of Salhouse Broad for making the day such a success. It was a great way to end the season with over 650 children taking part in the trail, which was hopefully educational as well as fun. We had a glorious sunny day, and the Broad looked amazing: the Blackthorn Tunnel was strewn with cobwebs, and toadstools could be seen in the gloom of the woods. There were also games, arts and crafts, and delicious Halloween themed treats. Thanks to all who attended. We'll be kicking off next season with the annual Easter Egg Hunt on Good Friday, which promises to be just as successful as this year.
In addition to running these great events, the Friends of Salhouse Broad help us maintain and improve the Broad. One of my aims for the next year is to provide more opportunities for volunteering at Salhouse, whether that's maintenance, engagement or conservation work, and also organise more social and community events.
With that in mind, please get in touch if you'd like to be involved with Friends of Salhouse Broad. It's a great opportunity to meet new people, work in a wonderful environment and contribute to the local area. Some of the ideas I have to make the place more sustainable are to replace the Portaloos at the camping field with composting toilets, maybe adding in some solar powered showers as well. I'd like to manage the open areas more sympathetically to wildflowers and maintain and restore the areas of reedbed up the Wherry Cut, and on the Spit. And of course there's the regular day-to-day maintenance as well, repairing fences and boardwalks, weaving willow hedges and ornaments, and cutting back scrub and vegetation from path edges.
From my point of view, Salhouse Broad is an asset for the whole village, and I would love for people to feel invested in the area. If you have any suggestions or queries, please feel free to get in touch. I'm looking forward to meeting many of you over the next few months, and will update you with the goings-on at Salhouse Broad over the winter in the next edition.