A Brief Guide To The Broads
Covering 7 rivers and 63 broads the Norfolk Broads forms part of the nation’s family of National Parks. This historical landscape is one originally carved out by man, which over 8 centuries has become a vast wetland, abundant in wildlife and a haven for those seeking holidays on the water.
Written accounts date back to the 12th Century indicating that much of east Norfolk was cleared of woodland for building materials and fuel. A prosperous peat digging industry continued for 200 years, finally coming to an end after years battling against a rising sea level and regular storms accentuated the difficulties of peat production and brought it to an end.
Man’s influence on the area then continued to shape the landscape; harnessing windpower to drain the marshes of water and make them suitable for farming; with over 100 drainage mills still littering the landscape as remnants of a bygone age. Today, modern automatic systems continue to pump and drain the land, enabling this richly agricultural area to thrive and provide lives and employment.
But, it was not until the Victorian era and the rise of the railways, did the Norfolk Broads’ long existing boating heritage, as a trading transport network, be marketed as a holiday destination for leisure trips afloat; an industry which epitomises the area today.
It’s not all motor cruisers and sailing boats; the Broads offers plenty of opportunities to take to the water either by kayak, canoe or paddle board! The inland waters of the Broads and their connecting rivers, offer a fantastic way of getting closer to nature. The CanoeMan in Wroxham offer fantastic guided canoe trails which even do ventures out at night. They are experts in bush craft and offer Ray Mear’s inspired courses too – it’s a fantastic way to explore the quieter corners of the broads and get to know its flora and fauna. Paddle boarding is an ever growing craze amongst water sports enthusiasts – if you fancy trying your balance – then Martham Boats, in the very east of the Broads, offer beginner courses, to get you standing up and paddling.
The Broads are not all about water sports and boating. This man – made habitat is one the most important freshwater wetlands in the low lying areas of the UK. They are of great international importance, being sites for rare pondweeds, flora, butterflies and dragonflies as well as being highly important wintering sites for migrant waterfowl.
Most of the wetland areas and their wildlife are cared for by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the oldest wildlife Trust in the country. This organisation has some fantastic facilities, informing visitors of their continuing work, to encourage a positive equilibrium between community and wildlife. Both Hickling and Ranworth Broads have fantastic facilities – Hickling, being the largest of the broads offers chances to see their bug hotel, or a water trail to the Tree Tower giving views across the wetlands and out to the sea. Ranworth Broad has an all access winding board walk, taking you through the sounds, smells and sights of brimming reed beds. You can take part in pond dipping at both sites; try your skills at identifying waterboatmen, tadpoles and snails…
Or, of course if all this activity sounds too exhausting – why not find a quiet spot next to the river and soak up the peace and serenity of this unique landscape.