History of the Club
Until the early 1980’s open shooting was enjoyed over this 52 acre expanse of fresh tidal water – the water may be fresh but typically when you are wildfowling the mud certainly is not. All you needed was a gun and a boat and you could enjoy unlimited wildfowling throughout the season. It has been known that on the 1st of September there could be in excess of 30 Boats hidden away in the secluded reeds awaiting the unsuspecting wildfowl. Shooting was free and unregulated due to the fact nobody has successfully claimed ownership of this body of water, which lies between Claxton Marshes, Surlingham’s Ted Ellis Trust and the river Yare. Initially excavated for its peat it was recorded at over 100 acres in size, which has slowly been reduced by the encroaching reed beds.
For many years in September the Broad would be full of young Mallard; in October the sky would be brown with parties of Gadwall; in November the Widgeon arrived in thousands; and the “Tufty” could be found in numbers religiously throughout the Season even though still today the Broad remains unfed, the fowl relying on natural food sources. If you are lucky enough to be on there when there is a South Easterly the sickly sweet aroma from Cantley Sugar Beet factory is enough to slip you into a daydream – that is when you will hear a loud zip being closed too quickly, and you are returned to reality with the knowledge the Tufties are already sitting in your decoys! This “free for all” shooting experience became under threat as Rockland Village Council, in conjunction with the Broads Authority started proceedings to apply for ownership of the Broad. The fear amongst the regular fowlers was that with the Broads ownership in the hands of a Public body, shooting would be prohibited and this unique experience lost forever. The Broad itself lies in the Yare Valley, which is an Environmentally Sensitive Area. The Broad is surrounded by Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Areas and is also classified as a National Park. The RSPB also have several reserves in the area owning around 11 miles of Yare marshes, as well as now owning adjoining land to the Broad. The fact that the Broad is situated in such an area was a huge threat to the possibility of retaining shooting on the Broad without a body lobbying to maintain this heritage.
However, thanks to the foresight of some 30 Wildfowlers, Rockland Wildfowlers Association (RWA) was formed in 1985 with the ultimate goal of preserving the shooting on Rockland Broad for generations to come, albeit in a more regulated capacity. With the help of BASC the new club constructed a management plan which would control shooting on the Broad under the guidance of RWA and through limitation, maintain sporting rights. Happily, this professional approach was welcomed by the Parish Council, Broads Committee and Broads Authority who agreed to a ten year lease, thus securing over the medium term, the opportunity for anyone with BASC membership to experience wildfowling on a Norfolk Broad from a club rowing boat (motorised boats are prohibited). There was a feeling amongst some, that with no owner of the Broad, shooting could never be stopped, as it had been carried out since the 1800's, and that regulated shooting would only be sacrificing the freedom that so many had enjoyed for so long. The status of RWA as sole manager of wildfowling on the Broad was challenged by a single individual who shot without affiliation or permission and he was successfully prosecuted by the Broads Authority. As well as ad hoc rubbish clearances the club members come together in March to carry out a comprehensive clean up of the Broad to the benefit of fishermen, bird watchers, tourists and the fauna of the area itself. Some 23 years on from the signing of the first lease, due to the excellent relationship RWA have with the Parish Council we hope to see members wildfowling on Rockland Broad for many future generations.