50 memorable ways to make the most of The Norfolk Broads
06:00 08 August 2014
The Broads are Norfolk’s crown jewels — a haven for wildlife, nature lovers, water-loving boating enthusiasts, families and holidaymakers. So what better way to make use of the wetland wonder on our doorstep, than by going to one of the 50 events listed below?
1) Visit Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s floating visitor centre at Ranworth. Take a walk through the reeds, learn about the wildlife and catch a glimpse of some spectacular birds, possibly even an elusive osprey. www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
2) While in Ranworth make sure you visit St Helen’s Church, sometimes called the cathedral of the Broads, and climb the 89 spiral steps and two ladders to the top of the tower for the best views in Broadland.
3) Hire a day boat and explore the famous waterways. For many people, hiring a motor launch for the afternoon is their first experience of getting on the water. Today’s day boats are extremely easy to handle, including eco-friendly electric boats, and an excellent way to go exploring. A list of hire companies is at www.enjoythebroads.com
4) Visit the imposing 15th century St Catherine’s Church, in Ludham, which houses one of the best East Anglian-style 15th century fonts. www.ludham.churchnorfolk.com
5) Take a trip on the Broads Authority’s Electric Eel at How Hill. A 50-minute waterborne trail by electric boat along dykes fringed with marshland plants and wildlife including stunning dragonflies, marsh harriers, wildflowers and swallowtail butterflies. Hourly trips in the summer from 10am to 4pm. Pre-booking is essential on 01603 756096.
6) Visit Barton Broad, the largest broad in the Ant Valley, and wander along the boardwalk and nature trail, leading to a viewing platform. www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
7) Visit the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum at Neatishead, near Horning. Learn about the fascinating history of Britain’s air defence with atmospheric displays and a lively commentary. www.rader-museum.co.uk
8) Unwind on a walk around Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden in School Lane, South Walsham. Beautiful gardens, picturesque views of the broad, boat trips and a tearoom with homemade scones. There is live jazz this Sunday and kids activities on Wednesday. www.fairhavengarden.co.uk
9) Take the train from Great Yarmouth to Berney Arms (request stop and check times), one of the remotest stations in England in the middle of the often windswept Halvergate marshes, and walk the five miles back to Yarmouth along the Weavers Way next to Breydon Water, an RSPB reserve, so spot the birdlife on the way.
10) Walk sections of the 35-mile Wherryman’s Way footpath which follows the course of the River Yare through the Broads from Norwich to Yarmouth, or 10 circular village walks off the main trail. www.wherrymansway.net
11) Take a ride on the Bure Valley steam railway between Aylsham and Wroxham, an 18-mile round trip following the meandering river through meadowland and ancient pasture. www.bvrw.co.uk
12) Take a trip to Lathams of Potter Heigham. It’s piled high with all manner of cut price goodies, so perfect for bargain hunting.
13) Don’t miss out on the best of the Broads’ pubs and restaurants. A straw poll of personal preferences includes the White Horse at Upton, the Ship at South Walsham, the Recruiting Sergeant at Horstead, Nelson’s Head at Horsey and the Fur and Feather at Woodbastwick, with adjoining Woodforde’s brewery shop.
14) Enjoy an old-fashioned day at the seaside in Great Yarmouth. Seafront delights include the superb Merrivale Model Village, the Pleasure Beach and the Hippodrome Circus (shows continue into September). Visit Docwra’s Rock Shop in Regent Road.
15) Take the increasingly popular green option and explore the beauty of the Broads by canoe or bike. For 14 cycle trails and details of hire centres visit www.thebroadsbybike.org.uk; for canoe hire centres visit www.canoethebroads.co.uk
16) Visit Wheatfen Reserve at Surlingham, home to the Ted Ellis Trust. Described by David Bellamy as “probably the best bit of fenland we have”. www.wheatfen.org
17) Enjoy the stunning scenery of the RSPB reserve at Strumpshaw Fen, off the A47 between Norwich and Acle. See an array of dragonflies and butterflies, including swallowtails, birds and surprisingly bold otters.
18) Discover the history of the Broads at the Museum of the Broads, Stalham Staithe. Open daily in the summer, 10.30 to 5pm, with boat trips on the steam launch Falcon, running Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays (Plus August Bank Holiday). www.museumofthebroads.org.uk
19) Fun for the whole family at Bewilderwood, one of the Broads’ most popular new attractions. Magical tree houses, imaginative trails, quirky characters and numerous special events throughout the summer. www.bewilderwood.co.uk
20) Enjoy a wander around the waterside tourist hub of Wroxham, ‘the capital of the Broads’, and explore the multi-shop empire of local favourites Roys.
21) Take a trip on the Broads Authority’s unusual looking Ra (named after the Egyptian sun god), the first solar-powered passenger vessel in the UK when it came to Norfolk in 2000. It is currently at Whitlingham Country Park, the closest the Broads gets to the city. www.enjoythebroads.com
22) Stop off at Waveney River Centre, Burgh St Peter, and take the passenger ferry into Suffolk for a walk across to Carlton Marshes Reserve. www.waveneyrivercentre.co.uk
23) Step back in time at the Hunter’s Yard, Horsefen Road, Ludham. Their fleet of heritage sailing boats is the closest you’ll get to the Coot Club experience. Available for hire and sailing lessons. www.huntersyard.co.uk
24) Enjoy a river trip on one of the Broads Tours passenger boats from Wroxham. Themed cruises range from wildlife education tours to music nights for party animals. www.broadstours.co.uk
25) Savour the views of picturesque Rollesby Broad from The Waterside at Rollesby; enjoy a snack or meal and hire a rowing or electric dinghy or take a wildlife-spotting trip on Edwardian launch the Gentleman Jim or aboard the Lady Belinda picnic boat. www.thewatersiderollesby.co.uk
26) There is loads to do for the whole family at Wroxham Barns, Tunstead Road, Hoveton; craft studios, award-winning restaurant, fun fair and Junior Farm. www.wroxhambarns.co.uk
27) Visit Hoveton Hall Gardens, off the Norwich Road, Hoveton. The glorious 15-acre grounds include a spider garden, ice well, lakes and kitchen garden. www.hovetonhallgardens.co.uk
28) Enjoy all kinds of exotic wildlife in a beautiful, relaxed country setting at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, Filby. www.thrigbyhall.co.uk
29) Explore the wildlife haven of Hickling Broad reserve on its numerous nature trails and book a boat trip at the visitor centre. Time your visit to coincide with one of the open days at nearby Stubb Mill. www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
30) Family fun guaranteed at Fritton Lake, off the A143 at Fritton; nature trails, rowing boats and electric launch trips, adventure playground, pony rides and other fun activities. www.somerleyton.co.uk
31) Take a one-hour guided cruise on the tranquil waters of Horsey Mere aboard Lady Ann, a pretty wooden boat that seats a dozen passengers. Afterwards stretch your legs on the three-mile nature trail. www.rossrivertrips.co.uk
32) Walk the Weavers’ Way. This long distance path runs between Cromer and Great Yarmouth. From Stalham it loops around Hickling Broad, then via Potter Heigham, up the River Thurne. Download a map at www.countrysideaccess.norfolk.gov.uk
33) Perfect place to leave the city behind is Whittlingham Country Park — really where the Broads start. There are woods, parkland and the water’s edge to explore, and it’s all accessible by foot or bike.
34) Surlingham Church Marsh is a small reserve provides a delightful circular walk around reedbeds, fens and pools. In summer marsh harriers, kingfishers, water rails, and reed and sedge warblers can be seen. Open all times, free entry.
35) Horsey Gap is about as close as the Broads get to the coast. As well as enjoying the beach, this Saturday (10am) there is a free guided walk to see dark green fritillaries and other species of butterfly. Details on 01692 630674, www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
36) You’re near the water, so why not try sailing on it. Barton Turf Adventure Centre offers water sports for everybody, while Nancy Oldfield Trust, based at Neatishead, offers disabled people all kinds of boating activities. www.btac-services.co.uk, www.nancyoldfield.org.uk
37) Eat the taste of summer. At the Grange, on Fleggburgh Road in Rollsby, there is a huge range of summer fruits and veg to be picked to the end of September.
38) Situated within the Bure valley, just upstream of Acle, Upton Broad and Marshes is an area of quiet beauty and wildness. It supports some of Broadland’s rarest wildlife. Open daily, free entry.
39) Brush up your survival skills. Norfolk’s Canoe Man runs the School of Wilderness Bushcraft where you can unleash your inner Ray Mears. www.thecanoeman.com
40) Visit the elegant five-story Horsey drainage windpump, run and maintained by the National Trust. Open daily 10am-5pm it is good fun to explore and offers some great Broadland views from the top.
41) Head out onto the tranquil waters of Whitlingham Broad. The watersports centre offers hire, tuition and taster sessions, that’ll take your mind of the city stresses. www.whitlinghamoec.co.uk
42) A traditionally managed grazing marsh with large numbers of breeding wading birds, and ducks and geese Buckenham Marshes has guided walks between October and March. Reserve open at all times, entry free.
43) The River Wensum forms a loop around the city which makes it ideal for a boat trip to see Norwich from a different angle. City Boats run cruises. www.cityboats.co.uk
44) Thorpe Marshes is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s first urban nature reserve. The 25-hectare site (off Yarmouth Road opposite Thunder Lane). Open all times, free entry.
45) How Hill Trust runs residential courses in everything from natural history and social history to art skills. There’s a fantastic opportunity to visit some well-known local gardens and also experience some hidden gardens not normally open to the public on their Norfolk Garden Course (Aug 11-15, £395, details on 01692 678555). www.howhilltrust.org.uk
46) In the middle of windswept Halvergate Marshes, Berney Arms Windmill is the tallest in Norfolk, standing nearly 70ft high. It houses a little museum and tea shop that are well worth a visit. You’ll need to walk through, as there is no access by road. www.english-heritage.org.uk
47) Potter and ceramicist - Malcolm Flatman has been crafting tableware and vases for more than 35 years. His fascinating workshop, on Church Road, Sutton, is piled high with the tools and his creations. He also offers lessons for those wishing to learn to “throw” pots on the potter’s wheel. www.suttonpottery.com
48) The Bittern Line from Norwich to Cromer is well worth a trip as it really does give a different perspective on the Broads landscape and its villages. www.bitternline.com
49) The Broads is the ideal setting for angling and home to a large range of species, including bream, eel, pike, rudd and tench. The season runs from June 16 to March 14. All you need is a licence, available at post offices.
50) Fancy doing your bit to help maintain the Broads? Join in a practical conservation task at NWT Upton Broad and Fen on Wednesday (1pm-4pm). No experience necessary, just bags of enthusiasm. Details on 01603 598333, www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk