How we can all enjoy the Broads

The solar-powered boat Ra on Whitlingham Broad

The solar-powered boat Ra on Whitlingham Broad - Credit: Broads Authority © 2012

Bubbly Broads lover Jo Murphy likes to get out on the water. But her options are limited as she has to use a wheelchair.

Wheelchair users will have no problems with access getting on and off the Ra at Whitlingham Broad

Wheelchair users will have no problems with access getting on and off the Ra at Whitlingham Broad - Credit: Broads Authority © 2012

However Jo, of Acle, has discovered the Broads Authority's solar passenger boat Ra, which gives trips on Whitlingham Broad, which, with a ramp, can take not one but several wheelchair users.

The eco-friendly boat sits high on the water giving excellent views and a chance to see Broads wildlife close to the city.

'Ra is very accessible,' says Jo. 'I was pushed on by my neighbour, Jean. It was an amazing experience with so much wildlife to see. Our guide, John Davies, was so knowledgeable and such fun. You can ask him anything and he will know the answer. You can see he has a passion for what he does.'

Jo, who used to be a consultant medical secretary at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and her husband, Alan, an operations manager at Greater Anglia, love to get out on the Broads. During the week Jo now works as an administrative assistant to the advice manager at Independent Living Norfolk (soon to be called Equal Lives) a charity which supports people with all kinds of disabilities.


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But, on fine days off, she heads for the Broads. 'I absolutely love going round Whitlingham Country Park,' she says. 'It is a great place to go with its accessible pathway round the Great Broad, and the visitor centre with its café.

'It's always nice to have a cup of coffee after being out on the water or, when you come back from a walk, or, as I now call it, a bimble.'

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Ra runs trips from April to October. For details ring Whitlingham Visitor Centre on 01603 756094; or visit www.enjoythebroads.com

Jo's other favourite places in the Broads are Fairhaven Woodland and Water Gardens, which has mobility scooters for visitors, a café with home-made cakes, and an accessible bird hide which Jo was invited to open last year.

The bird hide was part-funded with a grant from the Broads Authority's Sustainable Development Fund. Visit www.fairhavengarden.co.uk

Jo has also fallen in love with The Waterside, a restaurant which overlooks Rollesby Broad, a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) which is rich in wildlife.

The Waterside has boats for hire – among them a Wheelyboat for wheelchair users, which was also part-funded by the Sustainable Development Fund – and Jo is looking forward to a trip aboard this summer. Visit www.thewatersiderollesby.co.uk

Wheelchair accessible boats can also be found at:

Fritton Lake: Wheelyboat suitable for wheelchair users, with two seats for other occupants. Phone 01493 488288.

Horning: Ferry Marina, electric day boat. Phone 01692 631111.

Neatishead: Nancy Oldfield Trust – motor cruising with wheelchair access, sailing, canoeing and birdwatching for all, whatever disabilities you may have; day activities, holidays and courses; self-catering residential bungalow for up to 10 people. Phone 01692 630572.

Norwich: City Boats, electric day boat. Phone 01603 701701.

Oulton Broad: Waveney Sailability – sailing club offering members with disabilities the opportunity to sail in specially adapted dinghies. Phone 01502 566533.

Rollesby: The Waterside, Rollesby – day Wheelyboat. Phone 01493 740531.

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