Winter's a magic time for boating on the Broads
PUBLISHED: 16:11 12 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:11 12 October 2017
The waterways are quieter, mooring space more readily available, the air crisp and clear and it's one of the best times of the year to spot wildlife.
Winter boating on the Broads may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but an increasing number of hardy boaters are seeing it as a good time to take to the water.
Donna Hardingham and her partner Chris Thompson said a winter Broads boating holiday offered a completely different experience when compared to the warmer months.
Ms Harding, who has been boating on the Broads for 10 years, said: “Watching the Broads change from season to season is simply beautiful. The landscapes take on a whole new view during the winter.
“It is so much quieter which means wildlife is so much more natural. I love it - the cold dog walks and then snuggling back on board is simply out of this world.”
Ruth Knight of Broads Tourism said if properly prepared, the Broads offered a magical winter holiday boating destination.
“If you’ve got the right gear you can really enjoy it. We have cold, clear and crisp days which are absolutely beautiful for being otuside.
“We’re always looking to promote the Broads as an all year round destination as there are so many attractions.”
Broads Authority senior ecologist Andrea Kelly said there were many advantages to taking a boating holiday on the Broads in the winter.
“One of the most notable aspects is the peace and tranquillity of the Broads at that time of year. High season is over and with less activity you are all the more likely to see the famous Broads National Park wildlife.”
She said cosy pubs, crisp winter walks, misty mornings and the characteristic sails sweeping across the fields were all emblems of the time of year.
“There are still chocolate box villages to explore away from the moorings, footpaths, board walks and museums. In fact most of the things you can do in the broads during the summer you can still do in the winter.
“There might be less blooming flowers but reddening berries and rustling reeds are arguably just as beautiful. You can never really know a place if you’ve only seen it in one of its many seasonal phases.”
While the spring and summer months are boom time for the boatyards, a select number run a reduced hire fleet over the winter.
Herbert Woods marketing Amanda Walker said winter in Norfolk could be just as beautiful as in the summer - and cheaper.
“Herbert Woods offers 20pc off motor boating holidays from November through to February. There is not such a fight for mooring spaces and the pubs are always welcoming with open fires and great winter menus.”
She said the Broads was also a photographers dream as wildlife sightings were much better along with “fabulous sunsets and mist rising over the marshes”.
Herbert Woods runs around 25 cruisers throughout the winter months in addition to its picnic boats for half day or full day hire.
“Guests can have extra blankets if requested for the cruisers,” said Mrs Walker.
“Heating is on the boats and when moored guest can access electric hook-ups for heating, so no engines need to run.”
Hoseasons has been offering boating breaks on the Norfolk Broads for more than 70 years.
The company’s Simon Altham said an investment in warmer, more luxurious boats, as well as facilities both on and off the water meant the company was now able to offer Broads breaks well into the winter season.
“All boats come with heating systems and are well equipped for on board cooking meaning customers can enjoy a winter break on the water in comfort,” he said.
Jenny Simpson of Broom Boats said the company was looking into the possibility of running a reduced number of hire boats during the winter months.
“There are obviously a lot of things we need to take into consideration, but we have been consulting with our customers about it and the feedback has been positive so far,” she said.
Broom Boats season traditionally runs from March to the end of October.
The Broads Authority said it was investigating the option of extending mooring times in the southern Broads to 48-hours.
A spokesperson said: “The matter has been discussed alongside other possibilities to encourage greater use of the southern Broads.
“But no decision has yet been made in regards to that suggestion.”
What to pack
Simon Altham from Hoseasons said the Broads was the perfect location for a boating break at any time of year.
“Autumn visitors will find life on the water a little more peaceful than during the main season, which makes it ideal for those looking explore the Broads for the first time,” he said, adding: “You can cruise at your own pace and take advantage of the perfect mooring spot outside one of the area’s fantastic local pubs.”
He listed the following as some tips for an autumn or winter boating break:
•Pack warmer clothing as you would for any other winter break.
•A torch for walking to and from the riverbanks is always useful.
•Don’t forget walking or waterproof boots.
•Gloves are useful for holding the ropes when mooring and in locks (especially when wet).
•Grab a blanket and enjoy the picture postcard views of frosted marshes, winter sunshine and blue skies.
Wild about wildlife
The Broads Authority said winter is a good time for wildlife watching on the Broads as the quietness made it all the more likely to spot unusual breeds.
Senior ecologist Andrea Kelly, right, said many migratory birds visited the region from Siberia and the continent.
“The red listed bittern is boosted in population numbers during the colder seasons as bitterns overwinter with us, and with the reeds being less thick at this time of year you’re much more likely to have a sighting.”
She said marsh harrier numbers were also boosted by birds from the continent in the winter.
“Chinese water deer begin their rutting season at this time of year and you might catch a glimpse of the males fighting, or hear their high pitched squeaking sounds. Otters are also around but you’re only likely to see them if its early morning or late evening. The pink footed goose overwinters in the Broads and migrates all the way from Iceland to be here.”