Push to promote the northern and southern Broads as a whole
- Credit: Nick Butcher
They have become an iconic part of the eastern landscape – and, for many, synonymous with Norfolk.
So well-known are the Norfolk Broads, they received a nod from music legend David Bowie in his 1971 track Life on Mars.
And while certain key waterside towns are within county borders –Wroxham and Ludham to name two – there have long been concerns that Broads communities further south are being overlooked.
Now, Broads Tourism has said it hopes to use a 'joined-up approach' to promoting the wetlands as a whole as a holiday hotspot and encourage visitors to cruise down to Suffolk.
Chairman Greg Munford said the group was aware it hadn't 'made enough of the assets' in parts of the so-called southern Broads, which cover the wetlands and rivers in Norwich, south Norfolk and Suffolk.
'There is so much to offer,' he said. 'The rivers are beautiful and tranquil, but it isn't all about the boats.
'There are fantastic walks such as Carlton Marshes and Beccles is a delightful market town.'
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He said that Broads Tourism hoped to recruit more members from the area, and said that recent meetings had been held in Suffolk to encourage a united approach.
While differences in the landscapes have traditionally attracted varied visitors – the tranquil waterways in Suffolk are often seen as even more of a haven for nature-lovers than the wildlife-rich northern Broads – Mr Munford said a change in holidaymakers' habits had seen the southern Broads neglected.
'People tend to book shorter breaks now,' he said. 'With a week's boat hire, you can take a leisurely trip down to the southern Broads and back, but on a long weekend or day hire, there's just not the time.
'So with the majority of hire boat operators in the north, less people are visiting.'
The drive is one supported by The Suffolk Coastal destination marketing organisation (DMO), which represents attractions in the Waveney area.
Annie Willey, brand manager, said: 'We are always looking for ways in which visitors can explore and discover the whole region.
'Visitors don't have geographic boundaries and you can see an awful of Norfolk and Suffolk in the space of a few days. We would support anything that encourages that aim.'
On Tuesday, Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) announced it was hoping to raise £1m to restore Broadland scape near Carlton and Oulton marshes.The ambitious scheme, backed by Sir David Attenborough, would add 384 acres to their existing reserve.
As well as providing a haven for wildlife, it would act as a major tourist draw in the Suffolk Broads.
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Tourism businesses hit hardest by decline in trade
Holiday parks in the southern Broads see the difference in tourist trade first-hand.
James Knight runs Waveney River Centre, in Burgh St Peter, which, over the last few years, has undergone a transformation.
Mr Knight said the southern Broads had always played 'second fiddle' to their northern counterparts, partly down to a difference in landscape.
'The southern Broads are very open, there's less of the scrub and trees and the rivers are quite wide,' he said.
'They generally appeal to a niche audience, someone who enjoys the relaxation, the wide open skies and tranquillity – which is often different to a busier break on the northern Broads.'
But he said the decline since the 1980s had been noticeable, with the number of boat hire firms – and, in turn, holiday boats – in the south dwindling to just a handful.
'Every year we are seeing less holiday hire cruisers - right now it's less than half of what it was 10 years ago, and it was bad then,' he said.
He echoed Mr Munford's position that changing holiday patterns had compounded the decline.
'People are going away for shorter breaks now,' he said, 'and with only a few hire cruisers here, it's no wonder that people aren't making their way down to us.'
As a result, his business has had to evolve from a destination for passing hire vessels to a land-based holiday park by the water, with a focus on both land and water activities and luxury camping.
'There needs to be greater promotion of all the wonderful walks, wildlife and things to see in this area.
'If you want to appreciate the wildlife then, actually, there aren't many better places to be.'