My river's-eye view of the wonders of the Broads
PUBLISHED: 11:07 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:07 05 February 2018
For his latest Wild in Anglia foray Nigel Pickover takes to the waterways just a few miles from the bustling heart of Norwich.
Nestled in the fluffy, comforting, feathers of her mother’s back, this was surely the warmest and safest place on the small broad they know as home.
The sharp-eyed great-crested grebe and her chick kept close watch on the slow-moving kayak ‘convoy’ which had appeared before them.
But they didn’t flee into the nearby reeds and sedges, allowing the dozen visitors a close-up only those who arrive by water can get.
This delightful scene was in Rockland Broad and I was in one of the two-berth kayaks, taking pictures at one minute and paddling the next.
For the umpteenth time I celebrated our Norfolk (and Suffolk) broads and the joys you can find there ... and in the wetlands between them.
But this time the perspective was new to me - I was eye to eye with the birds, as my low-lying kayak glided quietly by.
This memorable day out proved two things to me; that ‘wild’ places can be enjoyed just as much on the waters as on dry land - and that you don’t have to be alone to feel ‘away from it all’.
This adventure started at the RSPB’s Strumpshaw Fen reserve, less than 10 straight-line miles from Norwich.
Strumpshaw is a much-loved sanctuary where visitors enjoy a mosaic of wetland habitats which are home to rare flowers, butterflies, trees and birds, including bitterns, marsh harriers and kingfishers.
Last year the RSPB at Strumpshaw formed a partnership with the London Kayak Company to offer trips starting on the nearby River Yare.
It gave visitors the chance to paddle up and down the river, diverting into little-known broads and tiny waterways where your paddles often touch the vegetation at either end of your paddle.
My kayak partner for the day was the RSPB’s Rupert Masefield, who, thankfully, took on the role of skipper.
With wind at our backs, the outward journey towards Brundall and Rockland Broad was calm and didn’t require too much paddle power for anyone in our group of six boats.
Once in the narrow water ‘lanes’ in and around Rockland Broad, a stillness and calm meant the paddling remained slow and easy.
One pair found a large freshwater mussel, another a mud-slide used by otters moving from land to water. No bitterns or otters - but the pleasure of silence broken only by the plopping sound of paddle cutting through water.
These were special moments, with the possibility of rare birds swooping by at any moment.
Back on the Yare, a strong wind had set in, blowing into our faces and whipping the water into mini waves.
Strong arms were needed to get us - all adults on this occasion - back to base. Everyone had enjoyed the trip but after that return leg each knew they had undergone a good workout.
This was a very different view of Broadland waterways - one I hope many more will enjoy this year.
RSPB Strumpshaw Fen, Low Road, Strumpshaw, NR13 4HS. There are two car parks. Follow safety instructions when crossing the Norwich to Lowestoft railway line to reach the reserve. There are regular train services to Brundall.
The RSPB and the London Kayak Company are to operate kayak services, including guided trips, for the 2018 Spring and Summer season - call 01603 715191 for more information, including child places and age limits.
Strumpshaw, purchased by the RSPB in 1974, forms part of the Mid-Yare Reserve, established in 1997 by English Nature. Apart from kayaking there’s a fantastic full day out exploring the trails of Strumpshaw.