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The Thurne, Heigham Sounds, and Hickling Broad


Womack Broad - Ludham - Heigham Sounds - The Bearded Titmouse - Night on the Sounds - Hickling Broad - Horsey Mere - Somerton Broad.
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Thurne Mouth is about two miles down the Bure from Ant Mouth. The Thurne or Hundred Stream, as it is sometimes called, has a fairly wide and deep channel as far as Potter Heigham, above which navigation is not quite so easy; but the scenery is often charming, and Hickling Broad,which is about six miles from Potter Heigham Bridge, is the largest sheet of water - except Breydon, which is not a broad - in the Broadland. The bridge is about four miles from the river mouth, and is usually the first halting-place of voyagers on the Thurne; but before it is reached Womack Broad is seen to the left of the stream. This is one of the many broads now almost "grown-up" with aquatic vegetation; but a channel is kept open through it by which it is possible to visit Ludham, a village where the abbots of St Benet's had a "grange" to retire to when tired of the monotony of existence at their marshland abbey. The grange eventually became an episcopal palace of the bishops of Norwich, one of whom restored it after a disastrous fire in 1611. The restored edifice is now a farmhouse known as Ludham Hall; a chapel erected subsequent to the fire is converted into a granary. Ludham Church is another of the Broadland churches containing gorgeous screens. Potter Heigham Bridge connects the parish from which it takes its name with Repps-cum-Bastwick, whose church stands close to the railway which also crosses the river.

Voyagers on the Thurne, however, seldom loiter over the first few miles of river, being anxious to get on as speedily as possible to the wild fen-like country around Hickling Broad. So you may hurry on till you come to Kendall Dyke, a channel on the left, which leads into Heigham Sounds, a wilderness of wild-fowl-haunted reeds and waters, the latter famous for their pike. Reeds grow in great abundance in this neighbourhood, which has always been one of the favourite haunts of that handsome little fen bird, the bearded titmouse (Panurus hiarmicus). If, in the course of your cruising, you come upon a pair or flock of these beautiful birds, and have an opportunity of watching their acrobatic antics in a reed bed, you will enjoy one of the most fascinating scenes of bird- life, and it is to be hoped that however much you may be tempted to shoot one of the elegant mustached cock-birds, or persuade a broadsman to obtain one for you, you will resist the temptation. For the Norfolk Broadland is the only district in England where bearded tits are now to be found, and even here their number is lamentably small. In 1898, Mr J. H. Gurney, who has contributed an interesting article on the species to the Transactions of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society, could hear of only thirty- three nests in the county; whereas in 1868 it was estimated that there were some one hundred and twenty-five nests of eggs hatched off, and in 1848 about one hundred and sixty nests. Special protection is now extended to both nests and eggs; but the number of badly-stuffed bearded tits seen in marshmen's cottages and elsewhere in Broadland excites doubts as to whether this protection is much good to them. The nests are usually easily found, and it generally rests with the finder to decide whether the eggs in them are to bring forth young birds. Would that all persons who discover bearded tits' nests were content to simply admire them, or at most to photograph them!

Mr T. Southwell, F.Z.S., who has edited a new edition of Lubbock's " Fauna of Norfolk," is en- rapturedwith Heigham Sounds. In his introduction to the book he writes: - " Let the reader drift quietly through Heigham Sounds on a glorious night in the early autumn, the dying breeze just stirring the sails of his yacht and raising the slightest possible ripple on the surface of the lake, only enough to make more brilliant the moonbeam's burnished path along the water, and to wake the whispering reeds - the stillness broken only by the cry of some startled water-bird, or the splash of a monster fish as it darts into the reed-beds - and he will behold a scene which no artist can depict, and which will haunt his memory for many a day. Nor will the sights and sounds on a fine night early in summer be easily forgotten. During the day not a wing may have been seen, but after sundown the place is alive with the song of the reed-birds, the air resounds with the bleat of the snipe, waterhens and coots are calling in all directions, and many are the strange sounds borne on the soft air of evening which reach his ear.

Heigham Sounds lead into Whittlesley or Whiteslea, a reed-girt lakelet from which, by way of a dyke, access is obtained to Hickling Broad. As I have said, this broad is the largest in Norfolk. It is rather more than 400 acres in extent, but is shallow in places and, as in the case of Barton Broad, it is safest to keep within the post-marked channels. Your dingy, however, will enable you to make yourself thoroughly acquainted with the surroundings of a magnificent lake which, as a writer on the Broadland has stated, is larger in area than Hyde Park. Nowhere in Norfolk can you better appreciate the almost primeval nature of some of the Broadland scenery. To be afloat on Hickling Broad when the gorgeous hues of a Broadland sunset are reflected by its waters is to witness a scene of awe-inspiring grandeur never to be forgotten.

There are one or two smaller broads in the neighbourhood of Hickling, but they are private property. Fishing is also preserved at Horsey Mere, a find broad of 130 acres which may be reached from Whiteslea by a 1½ miles long channel, the Old Meadow Dyke. This broad is about half-an- hour's walk from the sea, with which it is connected by Palling Dyke. If you explore the district you will find yourself amid the scenes of the sea's incursions described in the chapter " By the Wild North Sea." The little town of Martham, to which reference is also made in that chapter, is not far from the ferry which crosses the river a little way above Kendal Dyke; and Somerton Broad, - not a particularly interesting piece of water - is about a mile above the ferry. Beyond that point navigation is impracticable, and you had better not attempt it.


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Pictures for The Thurne, Heigham Sounds, and Hickling Broad

Ludham
Ludham >>>>
Thurne Potter Heigham.
Thurne Potter Heigham. >>>>
Hickling Broad
Hickling Broad >>>>

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