A Boating Day Out on the Norfolk Broads
The Norfolk Broads, more recently referred to by some as The Broads National Park, which is under dispute by a large number of local people, however what is not in dispute is that it is one the largest protected areas of wetland amidst Norfolk's area of outstanding natural beauty.
The best way to experience this truly unique place and enjoy the wide variety of wildlife and breath-taking scenery is to hire a boat for the day and sent off in search of adventure.You can bring a picnic but you will find lovely food and drink establishments and even a boat selling ice creams along the river that will place temptation in your path.
A very good place to start is Wroxham, which is the hub of the northern Broads and a very popular place to shop – it boasts the largest village store ‘Roys of Wroxham’ in the UK. The village also has The Bure Valley Steam Railway, Miniature World and the Wherry Trust to explore before you set off.
There are several boatyards offering self drive easy to handle day boats, fully equipped with lifejackets. Some also have toilets and a kettle – always nice to have a cuppa on the water - tea tastes so much better in the open air!
If you arrive by car, then the boatyard will either keep it for you or they will direct you to the public car parks in the village. Don’t worry, the boatyards won’t cast you off from the shore without giving everyone on board a good safety talk and instruction on how to drive the boat and of course explain the rules of the road, so to speak, remember always drive on the right hand side of the river!
Heading away from Wroxham, the River Bure wends its way between the beautiful and unusual houses that line the banks and if you look carefully you will see lots of swans, geese, ducks, all sunbathing on the bank side and quite oblivious to the boats passing by!
After a short trip of about 15 minutes, Wroxham Broad can be found on the right hand side of the river. This is a large Broad ideal for anchoring off the banks for fishing or just watching the sailboats racing and as you continue past down the river you may see coots, herons and even the turquoise lightning flash of the Kingfisher or hear the cries of the Otters as they play and fish.
After another 10 minutes cruising the next Broad to emerge from behind the trees is Salhouse.
Here the meadows run down to the water and visitors can moor up along the quayside, children can run and explore the shallows and the fields before setting off again.
Very soon, Horning Village comes into view. Just before you reach the village, Black Horse Broad calls out for a quick visit. This is a very picturesque private Broad where the bird life thrives.
Once you emerge back onto the river, quaint thatched cottages line the riverbank all the way into the centre of this lovely village.
There are several pubs, cafes and restaurants - The New Inn, The Swan, The Bure River Restaurant and The Ferry, The Staithe n Willow, Harry’s Café, The Galley spread throughout the village to tempt the visitor off the boats and into a world of great food and locally brewed beers. Once lunch has been digested, continue on downstream right through Horning itself until you emerge into the open countryside and the marshes.
Reed cutting is still a big rural craft in Norfolk and the reed cutters can be seen, cutting, stacking and drying the reeds. The marshes are the home of the magnificent marsh harrier. They drift over the marshes looking for their lunch and they are quite fascinating to watch as they circle and suddenly swoop on any unsuspecting morsels. If you are very lucky you might see the elusive otter too.
After another 30 minutes cruising, Ranworth Broad beckons you in. This Broad is in the heart of the village and you can tie up at the quay and explore. There is a pub The Maltsters and café and the climb to the top of Ranworth Church brings its own reward with incredible views of the rivers and broads.
The Norfolk Wildlife Trust centre welcomes visitors offering a guided wildlife water trail. Ranworth Broad is about the extent of the cruising you can do from Wroxham in one day because you of course you have to get back to the starting point and when you do return the boat, you will be just in time for tea or a sundowner to be enjoyed perhaps on the riverbank at The Kings Head or The Hotel Wroxham.
Of course there are many lovely stretches of rivers to explore in both the Norfolk and the Suffolk Broads....decisions, decisions.... where to start!