Jane Day discovers the magic of the waterways on a trip to Norfolk with her family.
Take a deep breath and relax. Slow down. Chill out. Escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. Enjoy the freedom and tranquility. Welcome to the magical waterlands of the Norfolk Broads.
The Broads were formed in medieval times when peat was dug out to use as fuel. Years later, as water levels rose, the areas flooded and by the 14th-century they were abandoned, forming shallow lakes or “broad” areas of water. With more than 60 broads and six rivers, the best, and most obvious, way to experience the Broads is on the water.
Our adventure started at Potter Heigham, one of the many villages that lie on the 125 miles of waterways. Broads Haven boat building and mooring facilities have been here since Herbert Woods took over the family boat building business in 1926. Their cruisers are built on site to the highest specification, combining craftsmanship with the latest technology, and with knowledgeable staff we instantly felt in safe hands.
Being boating novices, we took advantage of one of the wooden self-catering cottages on the marina with its own verandah and boat mooring. Well-equipped to a high standard even with excellent wi-fi connection (so you don’t feel too out of touch!) we were soon content feeding the wildlife while watching the boats coming and going. With our confidence and sea legs growing we hired a small diesel boat to explore the Broads further. At a speed of no more than 6mph we spent a leisurely few hours cruising the River Thurne. Navigating the Broads is surprisingly easy – we avoided the sailing boats and canoeists and even negotiated the medieval bridge at Potter Heigham, our little vessel clearing with inches to spare.Travelling at such a relaxed pace meant we could appreciate the beautiful surroundings, the wildlife, spot the odd windmill and admire other boats and more experienced sailors.
Probably the most well-known village on the Broads is Wroxham, just north of Norwich, where you can hire a boat or join one of the many river cruises.
Wroxham and Hoveton St. John are two connected villages which are split by the River Bure. Most of the village facilities are actually in Hoveton, but are generally known as Wroxham – the capital of the Norfolk Broads.
Wroxham contains many visitor attractions including a riverside park, the Bure Valley steam railway and Hoveton Hall gardens and just ten minutes away is the popular Wroxham Barns with craft shops, junior farm, restaurant and children’s rides.
All around the Broads are a selection of wonderful villages which are a must to explore with their lovely waterside pubs serving local seafood, cafes for cream teas or pick up local honey, cider or fresh fruit and veg from one of the many roadside stalls.
Continuing our “back to nature” holiday we enjoyed a pleasant morning at Pensthorpe nature reserve in Fakenham. A haven for bird and garden lovers with pond dipping and Land Rover trails, our boys are eager to return this summer when their new adventure play area “Wild Rootz” opens. Aimed at getting kids active and interested in wildlife the £1m investment does look like it will be worth a visit. Another enjoyable day was spent at BeWILDerwood – an enchanting environmentally-friendly adventure park.
Based on children’s books by Tom Blofeld, younger visitors love the boat ride across Scaaaary Lake to get a surprise from Mildred the Crocklebog. Older ones get their thrills from the zip wires and slippery slope rides. All ages, from two to 92, are encouraged to discover tree houses, dared to cross the broken bridge and build dens in the woodland clearing.
This was our third trip to Norfolk and yet again it did not disappoint. This glorious eastern county offers so much from shopping to the seaside, but the Broads was a truly magical experience we can’t wait to continue.
www.herbertwoods.co.uk, 0800 144 4472
www.bewilderwood.co.uk, 01692 633033
www.pensthorpe.com, 01328 851465
www.wroxhambarns.co.uk, 01603 783762