Author: Shona Howe, Community Volunteer and Development Officer

After visiting the local school in Cantley to share my passion for Norfolk wildlife last week, I sneaked a quick breather down a picturesque lane to gaze over the marshes before heading on my way. As I took in the crisp air and marvelled at the dramatic backdrop of hazy pinks and blues in the sky over the river Yare, I was transported back to childhood adventures out exploring the marshes with my granddad.

Barn owl hunting across a field. Credit: John Bridges (RSPB)

With sandwiches and a flask of oxo, we would head off to unknown places plentiful with new birds and bugs to discover. Of course, granddad knew exactly where we were going, but he delighted as much as me in finding our first swallowtail each year or noticing the growing numbers of willow emerald damselflies. As the years went by, we walked further afield; he took me on walks around Berney and Halvergate Marshes, teaching me the history of the old mills and the Breydon Water estuary. As the distances we travelled together grew I began to understand that, like me, wildlife needs space to roam. Like me, it needs not just one safe haven, but many, connected up across the landscape.

I was woken from my nostalgic daydream by a magnificent barn owl landing on the post next to me. For no more than a few seconds, with its beautiful dark eyes and heart shaped face, the owl watched me without fear. On deciding that I was too big for a snack, the bird spread its enormous buff wings and took off across the marshes in search of a more appetising meal.

View from the broads with approaching boat, Norfolk. Credit: Ben Hall (RSPB)

Walking back from the gate, I couldn’t help but smile to be reminded so clearly of the reason I pass on my love of wildlife across a network of towns and villages in the Broads as part of the RSPB’s new ‘Networks for Nature’ project. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Broadland District Council and Richardson’s Boating Holidays, our project aims to bring communities together to champion the area’s unique natural heritage.

As part of this project, we are building a web of volunteers across the Norfolk Broads who, like my granddad, will inspire their children, friends and neighbours to love and protect nature for future generations.

We’re looking for volunteers to help us:

  • Share our love of nature with families at our wildlife information and activity centre at Wroxham Barns
  • Deliver nature classes in Norfolk primary schools
  • Set up community wildlife events such as pond dipping days, bat and moth evenings, or bug hotel making
  • Welcome and guide visitors around the historic Berney Arms Mill set in the wetland wilderness of Berney Marshes

Volunteers can give anything from half a day a fortnight to much more! Full training is provided so all you need is enthusiasm, an ability to communicate with the public and a love of nature!

For more information, contact RSPB Volunteer and Community Development Officer, Shona Howes:, 01603 715191.

Enjoy a Family Nature Fun Day at Wroxham Barns, Tunstead Road, Hoveton, Norwich, NR12 8QU every Wednesday from 10am to 2pm between now and Christmas.

Pop in for a chat to friendly RSPB staff and volunteers about new ways to support wildlife in your gardens and communities to keep our Broads wildlife thriving!

During the school holidays, the RSPB will be running free children’s activities including mask making and pond dipping. Bring the kids to discover ways to get crafty and help create homes for nature at home and school. Come summer, take a nature trail, discover the magic of mini bugs through a digital microscope and find out what an owl gets its claws into for dinner.