To many folk, the Norfolk Broads are largely synonymous with Norfolk. It’s easy to understand why. Covering an area of over 100 square miles, the waterways and lakes that form the Broads make it Britain’s largest protected wetland, home to a wealth of birdlife and yacht owners alike.
In light of the Broads natural appeal, it may come as a surprise to many that the landscape is largely man made; the lagoons are flooded Medieval peat extraction pits. Evidence of more recent intervention is also clear, with dykes and windpumps to manage water levels,.
The Broads is a relaxing place to spend a day and it is possible to hire small pleasure craft for as little as an hour or two.
We would highly recommend making a day of it and planning your journey beforehand, taking a picnic and a map, and exploring the navigable waterways lined with reed banks and picturesque villages.
Where To Start…
Wroxham and Hoveton lay claim to the title “Capital of the Broads”. These adjacent villages offer a good starting point for boating excursions on the Broads.
Both villages are served by Wroxham Station on the Bittern Line, so there is a regular and direct public train service from Sheringham and Norwich. In addition to this, the Bure Valley Railway runs a timetabled service from Aylsham, though the service only runs at weekends out of season.
If you prefer to drive then there is a large pay and display car park near Station Road.
Boats can be hired by the hour or for longer periods. Life jackets are provided and the boats are self-drive. Don’t be put off by that; they are very easy to pilot and the Broads are on the whole, well, broad, and the speed limit is quite low. We have used Broads Tours and Barnes Brinkcraft in Wroxham on occasions. Both offer a variety of boats for all sizes of parties and budgets. It is worth calling ahead to book during peak season.
Norfolk Broads – Things To Do
It is impossible to miss “Roys of Wroxham”. The department store claims to be the “World’s Largest Village Store” and was founded by the Roys brothers in 1895 and has remained in family hands since.
Heading north from Wroxham Station on Tunstead Road, you’ll find Wroxham Barns, which offers something for the entire family including a variety of shops, a restaurant, junior farm, mini-golf and funfair.
The Bure Valley Railway runs between Aylsham and Wroxham, stopping at Brampton, Buxton and Coltishall. The railway operate steam and diesel locomotives and with 18 miles of track, it claims to being the longest 15″ gauge railway in Norfolk.
For the more energetic there is a cycle & footpath constructed the entire 9 mile length of the railway. Cycles can be carried aboard scheduled services for a small charge, subject to space, for the return journey.
Horsey Windpump, near Great Yarmouth, is a 5-storey draining windpump managed by The National Trust which offers stunning views of the coast and broads alike. The nearby beach, Horsey Dunes, is a major wildlife site, home to the only community of seals living in the Broads.
The Museum of the Broads is one activity our family has not yet visited, though it is on our list of things-to-do. The museum is family friendly with activities for children, a café and gift shop. There are timetabled trips up the river in the “Falcon”, a Victorian steam launch, along with regular and varied special events. The museum is easy to get to by road, bus and of course boat, with moorings nearby. The museum is open from Easter until the end of October.Some pictures courtesy of www.tournorfolk.co.uk