50 must do things on the Norfolk Broads
PUBLISHED: 09:20 24 August 2012
The Broads are Norfolk's crown jewels — a network of seven rivers and shallow lakes that are a haven for wildlife, nature lovers and holiday makers. They offer something for everyone. STEPHENPULLINGER and SIMON PARKIN pick 50 memorable things to do.
1 Visit Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s floating visitor centre at Ranworth. Learn about the wildlife and catch a glimpse of some spectacular birds, possibly even an elusive osprey if it returns to the broad this summer. www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
2 While in Ranworth, visit St Helen’s Church, sometimes called the cathedral of the Broads, and climb the 89 spiral steps and two ladders to the top of the tower for the best view in Broadland. www.broadsideparishes.org.uk
3 Hire a day boat and explore the famous waterways. For many people, hiring a motor launch for the afternoon is their first experience of getting on the water in the Broads. Today’s day boats are extremely easy to handle and an excellent way to go exploring. The various boatyards are happy to help first-timers get out and about safely. (www.enjoythebroads.com for a list of hire companies.)
4 Visit the imposing 15th century St Catherine’s Church, in Ludham, a village close to the tourist honeypot of Potter Heigham but very much quieter and more traditional. www.ludhamarchive.org.uk
5 Close to Ludham, take a trip on the Broads Authority’s Electric Eel boat at How Hill. A 50-minute waterborne trail by electric boat along dykes fringed with marshland plants; an experienced guide will show you the wildlife, which includes stunning dragonflies, marsh harriers, wildflowers and swallowtail butterflies. Hourly trips in the summer from 10am to 4pm. Pre-booking is essential on 01603 756096.
6 Visit Barton Broad, the largest broad in the Ant Valley, and wander along the boardwalk and nature trail, leading to a viewing platform. NWT Barton Broad lies 2km north of Hoveton on the A1151 Hoveton to Stalham road. Take the turn signposted to Neatishead. In Neatishead village turn right (signed to Irstead.) After half a mile, just before the entrance to Gay’s Staithe and The Old Rectory turn right for the main car park and toilets. (www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk)
7 Visit the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum at Neatishead, near Horning. One of the Broads’ hidden gem attractions. Learn about the fascinating history of Britain’s air defence with atmospheric displays and a lively commentary. www.rader-museum.co.uk
8 Unwind on a walk around Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden in School Lane, South Walsham. Beautiful gardens, picturesque views of the broad, boat trips and a tearoom with homemade scones. www.fairhavengarden.co.uk
9 Take the train from Great Yarmouth to Berney Arms (request stop and check times), one of the remotest stations in England in the middle of the often windswept Halvergate marshes, and walk the five miles back to Yarmouth along the Weavers Way next to Breydon Water, an RSPB reserve famed for its bird life. You can steel yourself for the walk with a pint in the Berney Arms freehouse.
10 Walk sections of the 35-mile Wherryman’s Way footpath which follows the course of the River Yare through the Broads from Norwich to Yarmouth, or 10 circular village walks off the main trail. www.wherrymansway.net
11 Take a ride on the Bure Valley steam railway between Aylsham and Wroxham, an 18-mile round trip following the meandering river through meadowland and ancient pasture. www.bvrw.co.uk
12 Take a trip to Lathams of Potter Heigham. The Broads’ equivalent of Boston’s original bargain basement. It’s piled high with all manner of cut price goodies. Not everyone’s cup of tea but they sell everything – including cups of tea.
13 Don’t miss out on the best of the Broads’ pubs/ restaurants. A straw poll of personal preferences here at Going Out includes the White Horse at Upton near Acle, the Ship at South Walsham, the Recruiting Sergeant at Horstead, near Coltishall, The Lion at Thurne, the Nelson’s Head at Horsey and the Fur and Feather at Woodbastwick near Salhouse. You can also visit the adjoining Woodforde’s brewery shop.
14 At the gateway to the Broads, enjoy an old-fashioned day at the seaside in Great Yarmouth. Its seafront delights including the superb Merrivale Model Village, the Pleasure Beach and the Hippodrome Circus (shows continue into September). Visit the Chinese shop in Regent Road and take away a souvenir from Docwra’s Rock Shop.
15 Take the increasingly popular green option and explore the beauty of the Broads by canoe or bike. For 14 cycle trails and details of hire centres visit www.thebroadsbybike.org.uk; for canoe hire centres visit www.canoethebroads.co.uk
16 Visit Wheatfen Reserve at Surlingham, home to the Ted Ellis Trust. Described by David Bellamy as “probably the best bit of fenland we have, as important in its own way as Mount Everest or the giant redwood forests of north America”. (www.wheatfen.org)
17 Enjoy the stunning scenery of the RSPB reserve at Strumpshaw Fen, off the A47 between Norwich and Acle. See an array of dragonflies and butterflies, including swallowtails, as well as a rich diversity of birds and a surprisingly bold population of otters.
18 Discover the history of the Broads at the Museum of the Broads, Stalham Staithe. Open daily in the summer, 10.30 to 5pm, with boat trips on the steam launch Falcon running Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays. (www.museumofthebroads.org.uk)
19 Fun for the whole family is assured at the outdoor adventure park Bewilderwood, one of the Broads’ most popular new attractions on the Horning Road between Horning and Wroxham. Magical tree houses, imaginative trails and quirky characters. www.bewilderwood.co.uk
20 Enjoy a wander around the waterside tourist hub of Wroxham, ‘the capital of the Broads’, and explore the multi-shop empire of local favourites Roys.
21 Take a stroll around Whitlingham Broad, on the doorstep of Norwich, and go for a trip on the Broads Authority’s unusual looking Ra (named after the Egyptian sun god), the first solar-powered passenger vessel in the UK when it came to Norfolk in 2000. www.enjoythebroads.com
22 Stop off at Waveney River Centre, Burgh St Peter, off the A143 Great Yarmouth to Beccles road, and take the newly revived passenger ferry into Suffolk for a walk across the marshes to Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Carlton Marshes reserve. waveneyrivercentre.co.uk
23 Step back in time at the Hunter’s Yard, Horsefen Road, Ludham. Celebrating their 80th anniversary there events going on all summer, including sailing Sundays, a chance to get on board one of the sleek, mahogany boats built before the Second World War. www.huntersyard.co.uk
24 Enjoy a river trip on one of the Broads Tours trip boats from Wroxham with licensed bar and toilets on board. www.broadstours.co.uk
25 Savour the views of picturesque Rollesby Broad from The Waterside at Rollesby; enjoy a snack or meal and hire a rowing or electric dinghy or take a wildlife-spotting trip on Gentleman Jim. www.thewatersiderollesby.co.uk
26 There is loads to do for the whole family at Wroxham Barns, Tunstead Road, Hoveton; craft studios, stylish retail outlets, an award-winning restaurant, min-golf, fun fair and Junior Farm. www.wroxhambarns.co.uk
27 Visit Hoveton Hall Gardens, off the Norwich Road, Hoveton. The 15-acre garden mixes formal and informal planting across the seasons, beginning with a burst of early spring bulbs, the spectacular rhododendrons and azaleas in May and June through to the mid-summer delights of the ‘Spider Garden’. Full summer colours of hydrangeas followed by autumn berried shrubs and leaf tints complete what is truly a garden for all seasons. www.hovetonhallgardens.co.uk
28 Enjoy all kinds of exotic wildlife in a beautiful, relaxed country setting at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, Filby near Great Yarmouth. www.thrigbyhall.co.uk
29 Explore the wildlife haven of Hickling Broad reserve and book a boat trip at the visitor centre. Linger a while in the charming village of Hickling which has two renowned pubs, the Greyhound and Pleasure Boat Inn. www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
30 Family fun guaranteed at Fritton Lake, off the A143 at Fritton, near Great Yarmouth; nature trails, pitch-and-putt and putting, rowing boats and electric launch trips, adventure playground, pony rides and other fun activities www.somerleyton.co.uk
31 Take a one-hour guided cruise on the tranquil waters of Horsey Mere with Ross’ River Trips aboard Lady Ann, a pretty wooden boat that seats a dozen passengers. Afterwards stretch your legs on the three-mile nature trail around the mere. www.rossrivertrips.co.uk
32 Walk the Weavers’ Way. This long distance path runs between Cromer and Great Yarmouth taking in the northern broads. From Stalham it loops around Hickling Broad, then via Potter Heigham, up the River Thurne. Download a map mat www.countrysideaccess.norfolk.gov.uk
33 Perfect place to leave the city behind is Whittlingham Country Park — really where the Broads start on the doorstep. There are woods, parkland and the water’s edge to explore, and it’s all accessible by foot or bike. The visitor’s centre is in a converted flint barn.
34 Surlingham Church Marsh is a small reserve provides a delightful circular walk around reedbeds, fens and pools. In spring and summer, marsh harriers, kingfishers, water rails, and reed and sedge warblers can be seen. Wetland wild flowers provide a riot of colour. Open all times, free entry
35 Evening Explorers next Tuesday will introduce you to the creatures of Hickling Broad. The event runs 7.30pm-9.00pm and costs £4, £2.50 for children. Pre-book on 01603 625540. www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
36 You’re near the water, so why not try sailing on it. Barton Turf Adventure Centre offers water sports and environmental activities for everybody, while Nancy Oldfield Trust, based at Neatishead, offers disabled as well as socially disadvantaged people all kinds of boating activities. www.btac-services.co.uk, www.nancyoldfield.org.uk
37 Eat the taste of summer. At the Grange, on Fleggburgh Road in Rollsby, there is a huge range of summer fruits and veg to be picked. Pick your own runs through to the end of September.
38 Situated within the Bure valley, just upstream of Acle, Upton Broad and Marshes is an area of quiet beauty and wildness. It supports some of Broadland’s rarest wildlife: from swallowtail butterflies and Norfolk hawker dragonflies to water voles, otters and a host of wetland plants. Open daily, from dawn to dusk throughout the year, free entry.
39 Brush up your survival skills. Norfolk’s Canoe Man runs the School of Wilderness Bushcraft where you can unleash your inner Ray Mears; exploring the forgotten skills dating back to our indigenous ancestors, utilising skills from around the world. www.thecanoeman.com
40 Visit the elegant five-story Horsey drainage windpump, run and maintained by the National Treust. Open daily 10am-5pm it is good fun to explore and offers some great Broadland views from the top. www.nationaltrust.org
41 Head out onto the tranquil waters of Whitlingham Broad aboard your own sailing boat, canoe or windsurfer. The watersports centre offers hire, tuition and taster sessions, that’ll take your mind of the city stresses. www.nccoutdooreducation.co.uk
42 A traditionally managed grazing marsh with large numbers of breeding wading birds, and ducks and geese Buckenham Marshes has guided walks between October and March. Reserve open at all times, entry free.
43 The River Wensum forms a loop around the city which makes it ideal for a boat trip to see Norwich from a different angle. City Boasts run a selection of daily cruises, lasting from 20 minutes to three hours and depart from three quays. www.cityboats.co.uk
44 Thorpe Marshes is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s first urban nature reserve. The 25-hectare site (off Yarmouth Road opposite Thunder Lane) consists of dykes that support a wealth of Broadland plants, dragonflies and damselflies including Norfolk hawker. Open all times, free entry.
45 Tomorrow night is Moth Night at The Ted Ellis Nature Reserve, Wheatfen Broad, The Covey, Surlingham, starting at 7.30pm. Enjoy a walk around the reserve before the traps open from 9.00pm till midnight. Take a torch and warm clothing. Cost £4, pre-book on 01508 538036. www.wheatfen.org
46 In the middle of windswept Halvergate Marshes, on the banks of the River Yare about 3.5 miles from Reedham, Berney Arms Windmill is the tallest in Norfolk, standing nearly 70ft high. It houses a little museum and tea shop that are well worth a visit. www.english-heritage.org.uk
47 Potter and ceramicist Malcolm Flatman has been crafting tableware and vases for more than 20 years. His fascinating Sutton Pottery workshop, on Church Road, Sutton, is piled high with the tools of his trade and his creations. www.suttonpottery.com
48 The Bittern Line may not boast steam trains but the Norwich to Cromer line but is well worth a trip as it really does give a different perspective on the Broads landscape and its villages. www.bitternline.com
49 The Broads is the ideal setting for angling and home to a large range of fish species, including bream, eel, pike, rudd and tench. The coarse fishing season runs from June 16 to March 14 and all you need to fish in the Broads is a current Environment Agency licence, available from post offices.
50 This Sunday the RSPB has Dragonflies and Butterflies at Strumpshaw Fen Nature Reserve, 2pm-4.30pm. Stroll through wildflower meadows and see these amazing creatures. Cost £5, £3 children, pre-book on 01603 715191. www.rspb.org.uk/strumpshawfen