I, like many people, thoroughly enjoyed the early end to winter as February fell into March. The normal wet, grey skies gave way to glorious sunshine and soaring temperatures, and it was great to see so many people enjoying Salhouse Broad over the half term. Birds were singing, butterflies flitted about, flowers bloomed and tree buds burst. It was idyllic. I watched long- tailed tits gather nesting materials, whilst I sat on a log and let the sun warm my back.
As well as enjoying the weather, a walk down to the Broad will give you the chance to see some of the improvements we’ve made over the winter. For a start, the whole of the boardwalk from the bottom of the hill to the play area has been refurbished, with a large stretch of it completely reconstructed. We’re very grateful to the Friends of Salhouse Broad who helped fund the work (more info on how to help out below). As well as the boardwalk repairs, we’ve also cut back the overhanging trees which have been obscuring the view to “the wreck” from the Wherry Cut Boardwalk. By taking out these trees we have also taken a lot of weight off the old boat, and hopefully preserved its life for a little longer. We’ve done a lot of cutting back of overgrown vegetation, round the beach area to open it up, and round the “unicorn tree” which is a great photo opportunity right by the Broad at the bottom of the hill. We’ve taken out the old willow sculptures in the play area, as these had become too old and gnarly to rescue, but we’ll be replacing them with something even better soon! We’ve cut 1/3 of the reedbed along the path from the car park, which will provide new growth and more habitat, and make sure the reedbed is healthy and teeming with wildlife. We also had a go at some hedge laying along the hawthorn hedge that runs along the edge of the campsite.
I’m extremely proud of the staff and volunteers at the Broad for all their hard work over the winter. If you’re at the Broad and see any of them working, do take the time to stop and thank them as well. Hearing people’s thoughts and memories of the Broad is lovely, and makes all the hard work worth it to keep the place beautiful for years to come.
On a slightly gloomier note, despite the wonderful weather I couldn't help feeling a sense of unease at this seemingly unnaturally warm spell. Whilst I generally count myself as an optimist, this sort of extreme weather event is a worrying sign of climate change. Any scientist will tell you it's impossible to link any one weather event specifically to climate change, but all our climate models predict more frequent extreme weather, like the Beast at this time last year, or last summer's global heatwave.
There is no doubt among the worlds' scientists that humans are directly responsible for climate change. But worryingly, the same week that the UK experienced its first ever February day when temperatures topped 20°C, scientists released a report that showed how easily humans normalise extreme weather events. Our reference point for what "normal temperatures" are can be based on as little as our experience of the past two years. This means not only are we unlikely to notice the average warming of the globe which has dominated the previous half a century, but we are also less likely to recognise extreme weather events when they arise.
This is one of the problems with human psychology. Our brains are adapted to see patterns, but only in the present or near future, and only on a human scale. Global change over decades means we need data, and scientists trained in the analysis of data, to make informed decisions about our future.
Now, back to the Broad. How are we using data to inform our decisions? Well, so far, we haven't been. But this is going to change as we begin a plan of surveys at the Broad. We've been putting a lot of effort into conservation work over the winter, from reed cutting to hedge laying, scrub clearance to erosion control. And we want to ensure those actions are contributing positively to the Broad. How do we do that? By gathering data! Naturally, these surveys will requires time and effort, so if anyone would like to volunteer to contribute to this, please get in touch.
We couldn't do the work we do without our volunteers, co-ordinated by the Friends of Salhouse Broad. Attending events like the Friends' Easter Egg Hunt on Good Friday funds things like boardwalk repairs, and supports volunteers doing the conservation work, gaining new skills, meeting new people and getting outside. We’re planning a fund-raising quiz night later in the year to support the work of Friends, so look out for details of that. But even if you can’t attend, Friends get money for every bottle you recycle at the bottle bank in the car park or by the Broad. We're very grateful for the generosity of the public, the local community, and to Friends for making Salhouse Broad a better place for all.