Treading the Broads

Norfolk Broads
Norfolk Broads
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English holidays don’t get much better than this. Richard Hercock took his family for a week on the Norfolk Broads.

Regular travellers will acknowledge it’s often true that you don’t appreciate what’s on your own doorstep.

Summer after summer, we fly across the globe looking for new exotic destinations.

Australia, tick. Asia, tick. Florida, tick, tick, tick.

Well, this summer I decided to look at a more traditional holiday with my young family and settled on a week boating on the Norfolk Broads.

Now, I love holidaying on the water. The Shannon in Ireland was fun, Saarbrucken in Germany was a challenge, while the South of France was idyllic.

But this was my first time to Norfolk, the Broads an institution when it comes to British holidays.

If, like me, you have driven to Great Yarmouth, you’ll have no doubt have seen signs for Norfolk Broads, but still had little idea of where it is.

And that’s probably because in a car, you just go too fast to actually take in your surroundings. Not so on the Broads. Four miles per hour means you can breath in what’s passing you slowly by.

We picked up our boat from Richardson’s boatyard in Stalham, and after a quick lesson in how to steer the craft, we were left to get on with our week’s holiday.

Our boat – the Monte Carlo – slept eight, had three bedrooms with two bathrooms, although every night we usually ended up mooring close to shower blocks.

With a fully kitted-out galley, it was your choice whether to eat on board, but again, with so many eateries along the waterways enticing people in it was easy to go the entire week without troubling the microwave.

Each day was different, but we usually aimed to travel for approximately three hours each day, then found somewhere for the children – the captain’s first mates Thomas, five, and Esme, eight, – to run their legs off.

Ranworth Broad and its superb nature centre made for an enjoyable afternoon, while a picnic on one of the many well-manicured lawns was a world away from fish and chips on Yarmouth seafront. Yacht clubs offered night-time moorings, where it was easy to take on water or fuel, for a small charge, but there was also plenty of other locations along the Broads where you could just tie up for the night for free.

That freedom is something which encapsulates boating holidays, and with youngsters on the trip, every day became an adventure.

Wroxham was my favourite stop. This is a town which thrives on the water, although life can be a little intense at peak times with sailboats out in force. A bit like cycling a tandem up the M1 in rush hour, with HGV trucks hurtling along without the use of breaks.

After a day dodging the yachts, a cool beer is welcome and you don’t have to venture far from the water’s edge to find an inviting pub garden.

What amazed me about the Broads – and what made it so different to other trips – was how many Norfolk towns embraced life on the water.

From pubs offering moorings on their doorstep, to even a floating ice-cream man, a week on the Broads only scratches the surface.

We packed in plenty of sight-seeing, nature reserves, pub lunches, and even an afternoon on Great Yarmouth promenade in the arcades.

But we failed to venture south of Yarmouth, although that is on the ‘to-do’ list for future holidays.

Monte Carlo is one of almost 300 boats which Richardson’s have, offering boats for every budget. Personally, I drooled at the Broadsman, a sleek-looking vessel which was like a miniature version of some Russian billionaire’s ride. Maybe next time.

The Broads consists of 125 miles of lock-free navigable waterways – encompassing five rivers, the Bure, Yare, Ant, Thurne and Waveney – so there is plenty of scope for future trips.

Getting there

Richardson’s has helped visitors experience the best of the Broads for more than 60 years. They have almost 300 boats making it the largest operator on the Norfolk Broads and offer vessels to suit all budgets.

There are five rivers which flow through the area – the Bure, the Yare, the Ant, the Thurne and the Waveney – and the Broads themselves are basically 40 or so shallow lakes which are the result of flooding the remains of medieval peat diggings.

There are some 125 miles of lock-free navigable waterways to explore.

Everyone who books a holiday is given a ‘trial run’ demonstration on how to drive the boat and Richardson’s promise that it’s easier than you think.

Richardson’s Boating Holidays, 01692 668974, www.richardsonsboatingholidays.co.uk