25 JULY 1903, Page 19

THE BROADS.* IT must now be about half-a-century since the

Norfolk Broads were discovered and advertised by lovers of the picturesque The railway had already come, and had taken much of the carrying trade out of the wherryman's hands, though it has not yet entirely robbed him of his livelihood. Pleasure- seekers followed, at first in small numbers, to explore the waterways and try the marshland inns, then in larger tribes,

so that during a short season the Broads, like many other places, are overcrowded and detestable. It is natural that so peculiar ..nd charming a district should have a literature of its own. George Borrow, who lived a while by Oulton Broad, never, if we remember rightly, wrote anything about the r. ;ighbourhood. But other less eminent writers have been busy in making known the attractions of the flat Dutch land- scape, the sluggish waterways and peaceful meres, the free shooting and fishing, and the strange life of the marsh-folk who have drained the fens. There is a book called Norfolk Broads and Rivers, by Mr. G. C. Davies, among the bigger works, and innumerable smaller guides and local histories.

The most luxurious boats can now be hired to navigate the waters, and the clean white sails of yachts mingle with the dirty brown sails of the wherries on the rivers Yare, Bare, and Waveney. Mr. Dutt, whose admirable book we have read with the greatest pleasure, knows the country and the people thoroughly, and writes in a very agreeable fashion :—

" But the visitors who content themselves with what they can see of Broadland from a yacht's deck can never become really acquainted with the Broads and Broadland life. To gain a real tnowledge of these, they must, to some extent, `rough it,' as the early adventurers did : trudge the river walls ; associate with the • The Norfolk Broads. By William A. Dutt, assisted by numerous Con- tributors. With 48 Coloured and 29 Uncoloured Illustrations by Frank Southgate. London : Methuen and Co. [21s. net.1

eel-catchers, niarshmen, reed-cutters, and Breydon gunners; explore the dykes unnavigable by yachts and the swampy rush marshes where the lapwings and redshanks nest ; spend days with the Broadsman in his punt, and nights with the eel-catcher in his house-boat; crouch among the reeds to watch the acrobatic antics of the bearded titmice, and fraternise with the wherrymen at the staithes and ferry inns. If the stranger in Broadland is unwilling to do these things, he must rest content with the outward aspect of the district and second-hand knowledge of its inner life. But there must always be many whom lack of time, opportunity, or inclination will debar from becoming intimately acquainted with the scenery, inhabitants, archaeology, history, sport, and wild life of this most delightful and interesting district; and it is for such persons, as well as for the guidance and information of those who have ample time for exploration and investigation, that this book has been written."

Among the most pleasing features of the book are Mr. Southgate's water-colour sketches of the landscape, the sailing craft, the birds, and the vegetation of Broadland.

They are exceedingly pretty and full of charm. By a very successful process they have been reproduced in colours, and it is long since we have seen a book of this kind with such pleasant pictures. It is, indeed, a relief nowadays to find one that is not illustrated with wearisome photographs. Mr. Dutt in Part I. writes first, in outline, on the history of the country from the earliest days, when all East Norfolk was the bed of a vast estuary ; then of the Roman days, when the galleys could sail up to Norwich ; then of the days of great inunda- tions and the work of reclamation. At the beginning of the seventeenth century parts of most of the swamps had been drained, and the resulting pasture put to profit. But the wild life was not yet seriously imperilled when Sir Thomas Browne made his list of Norfolk birds. The peewits in almost recent days were so plentiful that cartloads were brought into Norwich, and the rustics used their eggs in puddings. The cranes bred there, it is believed, till 1542; the spoonbills nested in 1671; the avocet ceased to breed about 1825 ; the black-tailed godwit's egg was last taken at Reedham in 1857; the bittern and the black tern will most likely never rear their young again in the county of Norfolk. Other chapters describe, with intimate knowledge, the life of the marsh-folk to-day and in the past. We are told how the eel- catchers set about their business and make a precarious liveli- hood; how the professional wildfowlers are now all but an extinct race; and how the marshmen control the drainage, look after the cattle, and make a harvest of the reeds. All this is very pleasantly described. Lastly, Mr. Arthur Patterson contributes a chapter about the wild life on Breydon. No one is better fitted to do this. Breydon, which is thirteen hundred acres in extent, is, strictly speaking, not a Broad, but an estuary to which numerous sea-birds and waders resort. Many a rare straggler from foreign countries has been shot there ; the spoonbills still appear every year, and commoner birds visit the flats at the seasons of migration. An old gunner used to boast that he had secured over a hundred dunlins at one discharge of his punt- gun. Although Breydon is not a Broad, there are about fifty pieces of water, some, of course, small pools, which receive that name. Hickling, Rollesby, Ormesby, and Barton each have an area of over two hundred acres, and eight other of the best-known broths are each more than a hundred acres in extent. Such a district has much to make it favoured by animals and plants.

In Part II. there are chapters by specialists. The Rev. M. Bird writes on ornithology, and describes how he has found the nests of the marsh harrier and Montagu's harrier on the same day. But both species (and many others besides) are doomed unless some method is devised of restraining the gamekeepers' pestilent activity. The ruff and the reeve have ceased. to exist as breeding species, though a nest is said to have been found as late as 1897. Mr. Claude Morley writes on entomology, and begs that the swallow-tail butterfly, which is now becoming very rare, may be spared. This is partly due to the insatiable greed of collectors, but also to the draining of places where the hog's-fennel, on which the cater- pillars feed, once grew abundantly. But the greatest treasure to be found in Broadland is a moth—Fenn's Nonagria—which was discovered in 1864, and so far has been found nowhere else in the world. Pond life, which is rather a vague branch of natural history, is dealt with by Mr. H. Harrell, who observes with much truth that " research in pond life " has the advantage of taking " the seeker after knowledge into a world totally different to that in which he has otherwise lived." But to study the rotifers and polyzoa a microscope is needed, with which few visitors to the Broads are likely to be provided. The chapter on botany (by the Rev. G. Harris) is more likely to be studied by the intelligent tourist. Popular interest in plants is unfortunately almost confined to orchids and ferns, which suffer accordingly. Ammophilaba2tica, a very rare grass which has spread from the sand-hills of the opposite coast, will not compete in vulgar interest with the flowering fern (Osmunda regalia), which has been exterminated in many spots by the fern-gatherers ; or with a small orchis (Spiranthes autumnalis), which is dug up by wretches armed with trowels. A sketch of the geological history of Broadland is supplied by Mr. F. Harmer, who shows why the natural features of the district differ so greatly from those in other parts of England. The earliest strata are cretaceous, and go back only to the comparatively recent geological period when East Anglia, like the rest of Europe, was under the sea. Now Nature, assisted by man, is still at work, and owing to the deposition of mud, the drainage of swamps, and the effects of tidal currents, the Broads are slowly vanishing. Mr. Dutt himself has written the chapter on archaeology. His survey extends from the days when prehistoric men made the flint implements which have been discovered in the valley gravels of the Upper Waveney. Yacht-racing is dealt with by Mr. A. T. Clarkson. What were known as "water frolics" date back to the eighteenth century, but " regattas " and "yachting " as we understand them are inventions of the nineteenth century. Fishing (on which Mr. Rudd has something to say) is not what it was on the Broads. The excessive netting has, how- ever, been stopped, and good bream fishing may be had in many places. The worst of the bream is that it is useless when you have caught it. Perch are not very abundant. Pike fishing is excellent in winter, and Mr. Rudd has seen a specimen of 36 lb. Roach, of course, are abundant; but rudd, which will take a fly, give better sport, and there are plenty in Barton Broad and some parts of the Bure. Mr. Nicholas Everitt (who, if our memory serves us, is the author of a book on Broadland sport) writes the chapter on wildfowling. Free shooting is now much restricted, but those who know the country and have the necessary permission can get some sport with fighting ducks. Snipe, redshanks, and plovers are also fairly abundant; but now the twenty or thirty gunners who made a living on Breydon water have dwindled to four or five. The book ends with a topographical chapter, which will be useful to the tourist, catalogues of the fauna, and a glossary of provincialisms.

This hasty and discursive survey has only enabled us to indi- cate for our readers' benefit how varied is the information in this attractive volume. One criticism must be made. The many pens which have contributed have led to a certain amount of unnecessary repetition ; but this also applies in a less degree to the chapters in Part I., which are only from the pen of Mr. Dutt. He writes, as we have said before, very pleasantly, and with much feeling for Nature ; but parts of his book might have been with advantage shortened.