Exciting new exhibition!


Digging, Draining, Drenching – The Story of Peat in the Broads


Did you know that despite being a haven for wildlife, the Broads landscape is not entirely natural?

The Broads area is the largest protected wetland in the country.  It is a peat or bog landscape.  Peatlands cover 10% of the UK and 3% of the world.  They support important species of plants and animals, and store 30% of the global carbon – twice that stored in forests.

However, peat is also useful as a fuel.  Over 1,000 years’ ago people began to dig the peat that lay close to the surface.  Once dug, it was stacked and dried before being burned on fires in homes and in monasteries and to make salt.

Over the next 400 years, around nine hundred million cubic feet of peat was extracted.  But with more flooding and the availability of coal, the pits were abandoned and gradually became the lakes, or Broads we know today.

The rich soils were then drained by ditches and pumps, and walls were built to contain the rivers and keep out the sea.  Sheep and cattle grazed and gradually more land was ploughed for crops.  Throughout these processes carbon was released and that continues today.

However, there is an exciting new project to re-wet some of the landscape to retain carbon and ensure its ecological diversity.  But to do that, it must be economically viable too.

Discover the story of peat and have your say about how our landscape is managed in the future.  Enjoy activities and watch our special, new film.

Open from 24 April.


Image of Fen Orchid and Swallowtail Butterfly courtesy of Norfolk Wildlife Trust.