How did the Broads Form?

Norfolk Broads RiverUntil the 1960s, people thought the broads were manmade. Farming ensured Norfolk the most densely populated area in Britain 900-years ago. All these people had to keep warm, so with a shortage of timer, peat was dug for fuel.


This continued for 200-years, resulting in quarries gradually filling with water as sea levels rose. Regular flooding stopped peat extraction, and as these holes filled, over 200 km of navigable lakes and rivers formed – providing channels of transportation to boost commerce throughout the 16th-century.


Norwich became the second largest city after London, with its goods of wool, weaving and agricultural produce exported throughout the world from the port of Great Yarmouth.


Overflowing of these lakes and rivers created what is known as “fens”, consisting of water and reed marshland.


Centuries later, these were drained for grazing cattle - using an intricate system of dykes.


About 200-years ago farmers started using wind pumps to drain the marshes by pumping water along the dykes and back up into the rivers. Steam and diesel replaced wind, and now electric pumps are used. Most “windmills” in Norfolk, are really wind pumps, never intended for milling.

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