Three swans a-swimming … on the path!

Blog post from NWT Thorpe Marshes by Chris Durdin on 16 December, 2019. Written with NWT blog in mind, published here in case it helps anyone coming to the guided walk on 17 December.


Mute swans on the flooded path at Thorpe Marshes.

“Streets full of water. Please advise.” It’s a famous telegram about Venice’s canals, certainly tongue-in-cheek, and though the wording and origin is disputed, the spirit of the quip came to mind as I walked around NWT Thorpe Marshes. 

The path through the marshes was under water after recent high tides. Three mute swans were surprised to see me as I waded along the path while I took the usual circuit around the reserve. It was that way round – the swans being surprised, not me. When the reserve is flooded the swans seem to choose the flooded paths over the ditches and water-filled marshes. There was a half-hearted hiss as I went past the trio, as if to say, “This is our kind of place today, what are you doing here?”

NWT Thorpe Marshes gets inundated by the tidal River Yare at some point in most winters. It’s usually when there’s a combination of high river flows after rain and high tides. It may be inconvenient for a few days for visitors and dog walkers, but I certainly don’t mind. It underlines that a wetland nature reserve is the ideal use for the area.

The Yare here retains some elements of a naturally functioning river system: in other words, it should flood. On these occasions, the marshes act as a temporary water storage area, a kind of safety valve that contributes to protecting people and property elsewhere.

Anyone reading this ahead of the next guided walk at Thorpe Marshes on 17 December may be wondering if the walk will be affected. It depends on the next few days, of course, but from experience the water drains away quickly. If paths across the marshes are under water, then the walk will simply stick to the higher riverside footpath that leads to the viewpoint over St Andrews Broad. But do wear wellies!
 Floods in a gateway at Thorpe Marshes.



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