Five days to the weekend: The Norfolk Broads
These stunning waterways are far from a summer destination alone. Lucy Fulford explores what the Norfolk Broads have to offer
Why go there?
This time of year is one of the best to enjoy the English countryside, which takes on a whole new persona – none more so than the Norfolk Broads, which are quieter, calmer and more contemplative as we move into autumn and winter.
A network of rivers and lakes in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Broads are granted the same level of protection as a UK National Park and constitute an area of over 100 square miles, with 120 miles of navigable waterways. Born from the flooding of Mediaeval peat excavations, the Broads landscape is typified by wet woodland, grazing marshes and fens; reed and sedge beds.
With 63 broads and seven navigable rivers, water-based activities are always going to be key to the region. A consequence of having no locks, the Broads are incredibly easily navigable, ensuring a smooth travelling experience for boating visitors, who have flocked to the area since the late 19th century. Choose from hiring a larger vessel for the whole weekend or an electric boat for day trips.
It is worth noting that some broads have navigation restrictions imposed on them in autumn and winter, but don’t let this hold you back – just make sure you check with The Broads Authority before you travel.
There are countless more activities available to suit all the family – opportunities abound for walks, cycling rides and fishing trips that take in the stunning serenity of the region. This time of year provides attractive walking conditions: cooler temperatures, bright skies and quieter pathways. Itineraries and trip ideas for your weekend away are readily available.
Britain’s largest protected wetland sustains a wealth of wildlife, and birdlife in particular, making the area a must-see for birdwatchers. Waterfowl such as Mallards, Moorhens and Egyptian Geese can be spotted, along with larger Cormorants, Kestrels and Grey Herons. You can also go seal-watching on the coastal fringes of the Broads, by Horsey.
Where to eat?
Delightful, picturesque villages are dotted about the wetlands landscape, providing ample opportunities for hearty pub meals or sampling fresh, seasonal produce. The Bure River Cottage Restaurant in Horning is a speciality seafood restaurant, primarily sourcing food from the local coast, including Norfolk mussels and local lobster.
Where to stay?
Five minutes from sandy beaches at Sea Palling and fishing and boating opportunities on Hickling Broad, Dairy Barns is both a family farm and welcoming B&B in glorious surroundings. With 360 acres of land on your doorstep, you are well set up to begin exploring all that the Broads have to offer. Freshly prepared local produce is used in the breakfasts, which can even be delivered to your bed.
A local secret
The origins of the Broads as a man-made structure were not rediscovered until 1952 by Dr Joyce Lambert.