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Surlingham lies approximately 6 miles south east of Norwich. The village is located in a loop of the River Yare between Bramerton and Rockland St. Mary.

The writer and naturalist Ted Ellis (full name Edward Augustine Ellis) lived in a cottage at Wheatfen Broad near Surlingham with his wife Phyllis for 40 years. He set up his own nature reserve on the 130 acre site comprising woodland, fen and marshland.

Ted Ellis

Ted Ellis' Cottage at Wheatfen Broad

Ted's Cottage at Wheatfen Broad

From 1928-1956 he was the Keeper of Natural History at the Norwich Castle Museum but at the age of 47 he resigned to concentrate on his work as a naturalist. For many years he wrote nature articles for the Eastern Daily Press and he was also a successful TV broadcaster. He had an extensive knowledge of the wildlife and eco-systems of the Norfolk Broads and eventually became know as 'the people's naturalist'.

Wheatfen Nature Reserve

Wheatfen Nature Reserve

Ellis was particularly inspired the Yarmouth-born naturalist Arthur Patterson (see Breydon Water)  - who was also an EDP nature diarist (writing under the pseudonym John Knowlittle). Patterson came from humble beginnings - the son of a shoemaker - but his work as a naturalist was recognised internationally and, as a result, he was made a member of the Linnean Society of London. Here is a passage from a memoir written by Ellis about Patterson:

'He introduced me to the reed-girt Broads on various delectable excursions. We watched spoonbills circling over Breydon until they were lost in the blue of the sky; we trampled the saltings of the north Norfolk coast when the sea asters were in bloom; we watched glow worms on a fen in the sweet summer dusk and waited the arrival of migrant birds along the beach on chill autumn evenings.'

David Bellamy was one of the people who recognised the importance of Ellis' work at Wheatfen Broad and had this to say:
'Wheatfen Broad is, in a way, as important as Mount Everest or the giant redwood forests of North America. It is probably the best bit of fenland we have because we know so much about it. That is purely because one man gave his life trying to understand it - Ted Ellis.'

Ted and Phyllis Ellis are buried among the ruins of St. Saviour's Church - which lies close to the RSPB Reserve. (Take the track from Surlingham Church and turn right at the corner.)

St. Saviour's Church

The Remains of St Saviour's Church


More Wheatfen Nature Reserve Photographs





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