'Forgotten' Norfolk broad could be re-flooded and restored

Norfolk farmer Luke Paterson hopes to restore Dilham Lake which was drained to create grazing land in the late 1970s

Norfolk farmer Luke Paterson hopes to restore Dilham Lake, shown on this 1906 map, which was drained to create grazing land in the late 1970s - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk farmer hopes to recreate a long-lost "forgotten broad" - an idea which he says could benefit a heritage waterway, tourism and agriculture.

Dilham Lake used to be connected to the North Walsham and Dilham Canal before it was drained and turned into grassland in the late 1970s.

Prior to that, it had been used for decades for fishing and sailing, and its water drove Dilham water mill at its southern edge.

Luke Paterson pulls back the undergrowth to reveal part of the wheel pit of the former water mill on Dilham Lake

Luke Paterson pulls back the undergrowth to reveal part of the wheel pit of the former water mill on Dilham Lake - Credit: Chris Hill

Now, the grassy former lake bed is grazed by sheep, and all that remains of the mill is the ruins of its brick wheelpit.

But landowner Luke Paterson is exploring ways to flood the land, and bring the lake back to life.


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He said this could restore a piece of Broadland heritage, create a watersports asset for his farm's growing tourism and camping enterprise, and act as a winter storage reservoir for his farming operations. 

"I've seen it referenced as the secret or forgotten broad, " said Mr Paterson. "It is a long-term ambition to restore it. It is not something that is going to happen overnight, but it would be quite nice to put back something that was there before.

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"It could be used for paddle-boarding, canoeing, maybe sailing. It could also work as a winter storage reservoir for me as well, so if we get lots of flood water coming down the canal we could store it to use in the summer time on our crops.

"It could be a win-win on the farming, a win-win on the tourism, and a win-win on heritage restoration."

Mr Paterson is the fourth generation of his family to farm at Dilham Hall, near North Walsham. 

Dilham Lake appears on a 1906 map hanging on the wall of the farm office, which shows the mill, lakeside boathouses and the 14-acre water body - although earlier references suggest it was 25 acres.

Norfolk farmer Luke Paterson hopes to restore Dilham Lake, which was drained to create this grazing land in the late 1970s

Dilham Lake was drained to create this grazing land in the late 1970s - Credit: Chris Hill

Mr Paterson said his family were previously dairy farmers, which prompted the decision to drain the lake to create grazing land for the cows.

"Now the direction of travel for our business is very much tourism, so having 14 acres of water and an old mill would be a lovely story to put some heritage back," he said.

He is now exploring the necessary permissions and licences that would be needed to reconnect the lake to the canal.

A Broads Authority spokesperson said although no planning applications had been received relating to Dilham Lake, the authority "welcomes applications and will work with the applicant to provide them with information and guidance relating to the planning process."

A 1906 map showing Dilham Lake, which was drained to create grazing land in the late 1970s

A 1906 map showing Dilham Lake, which was drained to create grazing land in the late 1970s - Credit: Chris Hill

Norfolk farmer Luke Paterson hopes to restore Dilham Lake, which was drained to create this grazing land in the late 1970s

Norfolk farmer Luke Paterson hopes to restore Dilham Lake, which was drained to create this grazing land in the late 1970s - Credit: Chris Hill


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