Blogger: Aggie Rothon, Communications Officer

It made me laugh when, sitting behind me in the canoe this weekend, Paul suddenly mused, ‘Canoeing can either be beautifully graceful or incredibly ungraceful can’t it.’ I got the feeling that I fell in to the latter category as I paddled absent-mindedly towards the alder branches leaning towards us from the bank, whilst Paul battled doggedly to steer us on to a safer course. The trouble was, you see, that I was so busy looking at everything else, our direction of travel rather fell to the back of my mind.

We had been seen off by the proprietor of Bank’s boats, a gentle man with the calmness and ease of someone who has spent his life on the water. The sun shone evenly in a clear sky as he saw us on to the canal and as we meandered onwards the water lapped and chuckled against our paddles and the stern of the canoe.

‘This is incredible!’ we kept telling each other, ‘who knows just how beautiful the Broads are until you get out here.’ And what better way to do just that than by canoe. You can drift silently beside grey herons standing stiffly amongst reeds until you can almost look in to their glassy eyes. You swim alongside shoals of silvery roach as damselflies flit and quiver beside you, making their larger cousins the dragonflies seem like great juggernauts of creatures as they judder and stall amongst towers of great willow herb swelling from the bank.

And then the ballerina of the skies, the tern, soars and somersaults over head. The slender curve of its pure white wings scything through the air. Then upon a tremor he dives to the water causing the merest shudder through it’s smooth surface as he flips himself back to the skies and once again to his tumbling. A water rail screeches from a tangle of reeds, far removed from the acrobatics of the tern but no less wonderful in his personifying of the wild hidden world you have found yourself amongst.

But it’s the bittersweet that hangs exotic from trailing stems, its bright red berries full of potential that reminds me most of the Broads. It’s because of its beauty, and the way it is hidden away. You only get to witness the intensity of its colours when you go slowly and look carefully. It reminds me how much more there is to these waters than the picture postcards show.

So here is my pledge, to make like a canoe! To go slower and quieter and look more carefully, because out there where the motors stop and the wild takes over is where the terns and the herons and the bittersweet thrive.

Love the Broads? Visit RSPB Strumpshaw Fen. Call 01603 715191 to find out more.

Article in the Eastern Daily Press on Saturday 6th August 2011

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