The Norfolk Broads
Roughly two thirds of all the holidays taken on our waterways use over 2500 miles of interconnected rivers and canals. The other third takes place within these Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.
Open sky, distant horizons, reed swamps, village ‘staithes’, waterside pubs and car inaccessible backwaters make water-borne exploration very rewarding. Competition between wildlife in the fens and marshes and human activity, e.g. sailing, walking, canoeing, windsurfing, etc, is intense. The Broads Authority provides much needed management to achieve balance between conservation, recreation and navigation.
Five rivers wander through marshland to an eroding coast. Formerly, peat was dug from behind the riverbanks to supply the hearths of Norwich (1000s - 1400s). The diggings were abandoned then became flooded and formed ‘The Broads’ . Some are silting up and slowly returning to mixed woodland via reedbeds, fen and carr.
Huge pumps harnessed the wind to drain the peat which then became rich farmland but also shrank. About a third of the Authority’s area is below sea level. Only riverbanks stop flooding of the area. Strict speed restrictions for boats are enforced as banks could be undermined by their wash. Wind encouraged tides sweeping in from the North Sea have been known to break through (1953).
Potter Heigham Bridge. 700 year old Bridge with limited clearance under the central arch. Although 17 miles upstream from the sea, this is where an understanding of tides is essential. A pilot assists hire boats through as tidal movement can be two feet on a nominal seven feet. How Hill: Ludham. Major educational centre (1983) with access around the estate showing ‘Broads in microcosm’- reed, sedge, carr, marshman’s thatched cottage, clear open water and marsh meadows.
Oulton Broad. Home to the oldest power boat club in the country. Power boat racing can be seen most summer Thursdays. Water sport schools abound. Windsurfing, canoeing, sailing are all available.
Breydon Water is the remains of a river estuary. Very shallow except in the dredged channel. Fast running tidal stream enters from Great Yarmouth.
Hickling Broad (Norfolk Wildlife Trust). Coot, moorhen, butterflies in abundance can be viewed from the water trail boat trip on a replica reed lighter. Together with nearby Horsey Mere it makes a huge area devoted primarily to wildlife.