I’m Kayleigh Judson, Heritage Planning Officer for the Broads National Park. I’ve worked for the Broads Authority in planning since 2008, specialising in Heritage, after my Masters in Conservation at the University of Reading. Having grown up in the Broads with a strong connection to the houses and developments within it, I am now extremely proud to be able to influence decisions on how to manage appropriate change to the historic environment, while balancing many (often conflicting) issues and opinions. The highlight of my job is visiting the many old houses in the Broads and discussing their history with their enthusiastic owners.
Oulton Broad is like no other Broad within the National Park. Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two very different, yet beautiful sides to Oulton Broad. Located in Suffolk, it is often forgotten in publications on the ‘Norfolk Broads’, yet I find it the most vibrant and also the most calming of them all.
The town straddles the eastern shore of the Broad, and during the summer it comes alive with many pubs, bars and restaurants. On balmy summer evenings live music and animated conversation can be heard floating across the water.
This place is particularly special to me – it’s where I grew up. I have so many fond memories as a young child enjoying the boating lake at the play park, the huge orange slide, the trampolines and endless ice-creams on the bandstand on the green. As a teenager, the Broad remained the go to place for my friends and I – enjoying freedom from our parents – on our bikes and headed for makeshift smoking shelters. Later in life, the long walks on the marshes (along its west and southern banks) would tempt me outside.
The northern bank is punctuated by a mix of large houses with long gardens and moorings that extend out into the Broad. To the south-east, Nicholas Everitt Park is home to a large play park and gardens, the Lowestoft Museum (a beautiful flint building) the Boulevard Amusement Café, and when I was younger, the Oulton Broad Lido.
It was of no surprise to me that street artist Banksy marked his staycation by visiting this park and chose an old bridge for one of his masterpieces, now enjoyed by many. While this side of the Broad is a hive of activity, towards the south and west, the hustle and bustle gives way to open marshland. Here, an abundance of quiet and wildlife can be experienced, only disturbed occasionally by the passing trains that serve two of Oulton Broad’s stations.
There is a particular spot in the southern part of the broad – a concrete pontoon – that I’d visited many times as a child, but it wasn’t until later in my life that I realised its importance to me. I would often head for it when I needed some time for quiet reflection. I’d take my parents’ dog for company and sit, crossed-legged, staring across the lapping water towards the marshes. I’d listen to the clanking of boat metal masts and flapping of sails, children laughing while learning to navigate canoes or dinghy’s, I’d smell the meals cooked on houseboats close by, and I would be enveloped by a sense of belonging and wellbeing.
It made me realise that National Parks can be so much more than just a photo opportunity. They are living, breathing, adaptable places, where people grow up, work, enjoy their pastimes, where they can be loud and have fun, and most importantly where they can find quiet contemplation at times when they need it.