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Selbrigg Lake
what3words location - ///weeps.soulful.migrate


The River Glaven rises about 2½ miles upstream of Selbrigg Lake in Bodham parish at NGR - TG12933848. In its 10½ miles to Blakeney Point the river falls 163 feet. The Hempstead parish boundary runs along the river course and it can be seen from the maps at the bottom of this page that the 9 acre Selbrigg Lake was dug over the original river course c.1810. The river was subsequently diverted to run round the south side of the pond c.1970.
White's 1836: In the vale of the Glaven is a large wild fowl decoy, belonging to Mr. Gurney.

River Glaven curving around Selbrigg Lake - 16th April 2020
River Glaven curving around Selbrigg Lake - 16th April 2020

For several years there has been a Toad Patrol on the road at Selbrigg to save toads, frogs and newts from being killed by traffic as they make their annual migration and cross the road to their breeding ground. This year the patrol of 23 volunteers ran from 31st January to 10th April. The best night was the 10th March when 804 toads, 15 frogs and 1 newt were helped across the road (even if they didn't want to be!).
The total for the 2020 season was -
Anyone wishing to join the Toad Patrol can contact the orgainiser, John Mangan, by emailing Selbrigg admin.

22nd June 2020
22nd June 2020

Selbrigg Lake - 5th August 2013 22nd June 2020
Selbrigg Lake - 5th August 2013
Selbrigg Lake - 22nd June 2020

A wind turbine application for Selbrigg was passed early in 2020 along with another on a site at Bodham. Apart from providing 'clean' electricity, if the project goes ahead, it will make an annual donatation of £2,500 to Hempstead Parish Council, with a further £2,000 being split between the Holt Youth Project, the Toadwatch scheme and the Parish Newsletter.
The site of the turbine can be seen on the above left hand photograph as the two rectangular bare patches in the sugarbeet above the wood on the left. The patches were the result of an archaeological dig to ensure the turbine foundations would not compromise anything of local historical importance.

The pond was dug by hand around 1810 as a header reserve for  Hempstead_Mill.  The mill was suffering from insufficient water despite 4 other smaller ponds having been made between the mill and Selbrigg Pond.
The Tithe map of 1840 shows a pond around 9 acres in size with streams from Bodham and Baconsthorpe entering the pond. Indeed the pond stretched back to 'Selbrigg Road' In Lower Bodham.
The parish boundary between Hempstead and Bodham runs through the pond, presumably along the original line of the streams.
Subsequently to the original pond being dug, a duck decoy was incorporated - a funnel shaped area that was netted as a way of catching ducks. Furthermore, a boat house was subsequently built mid-way along the Northern bank, little now remains.
By the 1950's the original pond had silted up quite badly.
Traction engines were used to dredge the pond. However this was not completed owing to the retaining bank wall (with the sluice in) moving with the disturbance.  To try and stabilise the bank trees were planted along it. The Sluice was replaced at the same time and the water level maintained about 5" higher than at present.
By 1970 the pond was becoming polluted and fish dying so the two streams that fed it - from Baconsthorpe and Bodham, were diverted around the south side of the pond. Since that time it has been entirely spring fed and is recorded as having some of the purest pond water in the country.

Selbrigg official website

Francis Feilden announced his intention to rejuvenate Selbrigg Pond which was last dredged by his father in the 1950's. The trees will be coppiced (last done about 40 years ago); the pond dredged to remove the overgrown rushes. There will be some delay for the 6 days it will take to finish the work beside the road.
Church & Village News - March 2011

Selbrigg Lake - 16th April 2020 Selbrigg Lake - 16th April 2020
Selbrigg Lake - 16th April 2020
Selbrigg Lake - 16th April 2020

22nd June 2020
22nd June 2020

At the beginning of 20th century, when the turbine was fitted, there were 5 sources of water - mill dam, upper pond (swept away in the 1912 floods) Horsepit Pond, Old Decoy (Selbrigg Pond) and New Decoy.
enough water to work a few hours a day, the Hempstead_Mill worked a regular twelve hour shift, its water supply being topped up at the main mill pond by releases from Selbrigg Pond, the upper mill pond (until it was swept away in 1912), from Horsepit Pond and occasionally from the Small Decoy. This arrangement meant that the miller had to walk or ride to operate the sluices of these other ponds at regular intervals. The roadway past Hawksmere, turning up hill to Horsepit Pond and the Red_House, leading on to Selbrigg, would have been built for this purpose.

Hempstead, A Norfolk Village - Robin Carver, 2000

The Hidden Lane
(Near Selbrigg)

I’d gone for walks upon that land
Ploughland and grass, ten times or more
Even the fields adjoining it
But never seen the lane before

So like a hedge it looked outside
But even so I might have guessed
From the long line of stunted oaks
Where missel-thrushes had a nest

Not that it seemed much of a find
Choked as it was with blackberry-long
It must have been since anyone
Interrupted the robin’s song

I walked a little way until
I found a gate to lean upon
Though thistles rose above my knees
And half its bottom bars were gone

Huge clouds lay quietly on the sky
The road ran on till lost to view
Behind a shoulder of the hill
To Paradise for all I knew

I broke the tallest thistle's back
Smiling to see its head hang yet
By one small strip, then turned to go
But half aware I may regret

That never shall I know what lies
Beyond the hill where that lane goes
Perhaps a lover like myself
Who tries to look this way, who knows?

W. H. Auden - March 1925

Slightly further up the river Glaven was Selbrigg pond, which was dug out two hundred years ago to provide additional head waters for Hempstead_mill. When I mentioned this to my father at home it was assumed I was talking of Felbrigg , as no one had ever heard of Selbrigg. There is no village of Selbrigg, just a road of that name going to Bodham, the next village, so it not surprising that nobody has heard of it.
In the spring of 1963 Selbrigg pond was frozen over like the rest of the countryside. This was during the Big Freeze. A Big Freeze it may have been by our standards, but the pond was not frozen so solid that you could walk all over it. Being foolish young children we enjoyed playing on the expanse of ice. How deep was it? I don't know but deep enough to be very dangerous. We could easily both have drowned. I was on the ice with another boy called Ward when it began to crack. I remained on the cracking ice but Ward fell into the freezing water. Luckily I was able to pull him out. He must have been very cold as we cycled back to school. Despite the cold weather we were wearing school uniform - shorts of course! All boys did in those days, even 14 year olds, and his were soaking wet as well.

Joseph Mason

Francis Fielden announced his intention to rejuvenate Selbrigg Pond which was last dredged by his father in the 1950's. The trees will be coppiced (last done about 40 years ago); the pond dredged to remove the overgrown rushes. There will be some delay for the 6 days it will take to finish the work beside the road.
Village News - March 2012

10th November 2017
Selbrigg swans - 10th November 2017

I went to Selbrigg at about 16.45 to look for wildlife to photograph.
There was just myself and a young lad fishing.

The swans were centre left in the pond.
I suddenly heard quite a loud sound, a cross between strong wind and water flowing fast.
I’ve never heard it before and it was almost alarming.
I looked over and centre right was a raised section of water with a spiral above it.
It then started moving to the left towards the swans.
It almost looked as if a large fish was swimming towards them just under the surface but it wasn’t that.

As it moved towards the swans it speeded up and spray was visible above it.
When it got closer to the swans, they panicked and swam away fairly fast.
The ‘lump’ of water carried on and eventually disappeared into the reeds, having gone right across the centre of the pond.
The young lad and I had both watched it and we were both quite sobered by the experience.
Jonathan Neville - 30th July 2020

30th July 2020 Selbrigg Lake waterspout - 30th July 2020
Selbrigg Lake waterspout - 30th July 2020

Selbrigg Lake waterspout - 30th July 2020
Selbrigg Lake waterspout - 30th July 2020

The spring-fed Selbrigg Pond was originally dug in 1810 as a water reserve for Hempstead_Mill. In the 1960s, however, the Mill stopped operating and the pond become an important home to a wide range of aquatic wildlife not found in the main River Glaven. As a result, Selbrigg is now designated as a ‘County Wildlife Site’.
The brick retaining wall - built to keep the water at a level of 1m higher than the highway - was beginning to crumble as trees were growing too close to the edge. There was a risk of failure and a breach in the wall, which could have led to water running across the road and descending downstream, carrying debris with it.
Norfolk Rivers Trust (NRT) re-built and strengthened the pond wall. Galvanised trench sheet pilling was placed 250mm in front of the existing brick wall and finished with a hardwood capping and waling. The gap between the wall and sheet was filled with concrete for extra strengthening. A new purpose made stop log weir was incorporated into the sheet metal piling, and repairs were made to the existing brick culvert. A new sluice system was installed into the new wall, with piping extending under the road.
At the same time as these works were being carried out, a large amount of accumulated silt was removed, and the encroaching reed growth was pinned back. A contractor, who had designed and modified equipment to create a giant claw that was fixed to the head of a digger, was used to ‘comb’ out the reed before suction dredging was used to remove the silt.
NRT is pleased to report that the pond is now one of the largest sources of clean water to the River Glaven.

Norfolk Rivers Trust

Cormorant-pike 16Sep2021 Cormorant-pike 16Sep2021
This remarkable sequence of a cormorant taking a pike was taken by John Mears at Selbrigg - 16th September 2021

Cormorant-pike 16Sep2021 Cormorant-pike 16Sep2021
After dealing with the pike, the cormorant was seen sitting on a tree stump drying off and relaxing

2022 batch of 9 cygnets - 21st May 2022
2022 batch of 9 cygnets - 21st May 2022

Swan’s ringed at Selbrigg Pond and their post juvenile dispersal movements

In February 2022 four of the six cygnets that hatched at Selbrigg Pond in 2021 were ringed and had orange alpha numeric added. The ring numbers were: 4ERN, 4ERO, 4ERP and 4ERQ
Selbrigg Swans
Swan parents with the 6 cygnets - 16th June 2021
  • All four of the birds were at Selbrigg until at least 28/2/22, with 4ERN still there on 21/3.
    4ERN then appeared at Salthouse Duck Pond on 21/4/22.
  • 4ERO re-located to Kelling Water Meadows between 12/3/22 and 1/5/22.
  • 4ERP was seen at Cley on 27/1 & 3 & 28/2/23.

In August 2022 that year's 7 cygnets also had orange rings added. These were 4FPO, 4FPP, 4FPQ, 4FPR, 4FPS, 4FPT, and 4FPU.

All seven were still present on 6/1/23, with only six on 20/1 (4FPT having move on), five on 25/1 (4FPR now gone), with the last four seen on 8/3 (4FPP having also already left).

  • 4FPO was seen at Cley from 7/6 to at least 9/8/23 (date of writing this report) and now has a mate and enjoys time right in front of one of the main hides.
  • 4FPQ was seen at Kelling Water Meadows on 6/5/23.
  • 4FPU was seen at Cley on 9/4/23 & Blakeney Harbour 6/7/23.

As is typical with most Mute Swans in the UK movements were all local, though without reports of all the cygnets we cannot be 100% sure none have gone further afield.

UK Mute Swans can occasionally make long distance movements with five UK movements of over 600km recorded, and birds are known to make movements between the UK and Europe - see the BTO ringing report for 2022 Mute Swan movements
The vast majority of our Swans are resident to a very small local area, where as in Northern Europe Mute Swans are more migratory, frequently moving around in winter, and in some areas are more resident in coastal habitat than inland, such as Gedser in Southern Denmark where Mute Swans habitually live on the sea feeding on sea grass, to the point of when storms effect their feeding they rarely take to inland locations and can sometimes, due to the sea grass being inaccessible prone to become emaciated.
If you see any orange ringed swans, ideally take a photo, record the location and send them to or on Facebook contact the Iceni Bird Monitoring Group - you help is appreciated! Report by Chris Lamsdell, edited by Francis Feilden

O. S. Map 1886
O. S. Map 1886
Courtesy of NLS map images

O. S. Map 1904
O. S. Map 1904
Courtesy of NLS map images

Selbrigg also has its own website

If you have any memories, anecdotes or photos please let us know and we may be able to use them to update the site. Please or telephone 07836 675369

Website copyright © Jonathan Neville 2023
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