The Broads national park: a ranger’s guide

September 3, 2013

From the best places for boat hire and day trips on the Norfolk Broads to spotting its wildlife and finding great places to eat and drink, ranger Robin Allard has the lowdown

What’s new?

A canoe trip can be a real family adventure and a chance for that “taster” of the Broads. This year we have developed our canoe trails that extend from the Broads’ canoe hire centres. Visit to find out how you can explore; you’ll see that each trail offers options for the length of your route. The trails are mostly on the less tidal upper reaches of the rivers with an opportunity to get close to nature.

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Park highlights

The areas of Heigham Sound, Hickling Broad, Horsey and West Somerton have been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and are a haven for wildlife. You are bound to see the Marsh Harrier over the reed-beds looking for its next meal. You may be lucky and see an otter or if you venture up to Catfield Staithe you can happen upon the kingfisher darting along the river banks. There is a lot to do, Horsey has tea rooms, a wind-pump to visit and lots of walks, you can hike to the beach and watch the seals basking on the sands.

If the canoe hire option seems daunting then you can hire a dayboat from the yards of Martham Boats in Martham or from the Potter Heigham yards of Herbert Woods, Phoenix Fleet and Maycraft. I prefer the electric launches, in order to preserve the tranquility of the experience.

If you don’t want to sail/paddle/drive yourself then the Norfolk Wildlife Trust has trips out from its visitor centre at Hickling in an electric powered reed lighter (two-hour trips, adults £10, kids £6). The trip includes a visit to an 18m viewing tower with fantastic views over the reserve and staff on hand to answer all your questions. Hickling Broad is also the home of the Hickling Sailing Club a windsurfing club. It is a fantastic sight to see a large variety of dinghies and sailboards racing across the broad with their multi-coloured sails and spinnakers.

My favourite spots

A good viewing spot – and one that is often missed by people – is to climb to the top of Ranworth church for its sumptuous vistas over the broads. My own billet (meaning where I keep the patrol boat!) is next door to the Norfolk Wherry Trust. For an extra special treat you can charter a wherry with your family and friends and experience this iconic and historic mode of transport.

Where to eat/drink/sleep

Coltishall is a good place to eat, with three pubs, chip shops and more. My favourite is the Fur and Feather Inn ( at Woodbastwick village. To get there you should walk from the moorings at Salhouse Broad. The pub is home to Woodfordes Ales and for me, as a real ale fan, it is a proper treat. Brewery tours are available.

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My best wildlife encounter?

Over the years I have had all sorts of encounters with wildlife but although I have heard the unusual “booming” sound of the elusive bittern, I have yet to actually see one! © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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