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29 October 2014
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Windpump and boat on the River Thurne
Windpump and boat on the River Thurne

Boating on the Broads

Messing about on the Broads is like no other form of relaxation, writes BBC Radio Norfolk's Wally Webb. He tells us of the joys of getting away from it all on Norfolk's famous waterways.


The small bright beady eye fixes on you before he stretches out great feathery wings that leave long twig-like legs dangling beneath him.

Graceful yet so slow he might stall in mid-air, the heron departs his waterside perch and crosses the river.

Looking on, the lone cormorant perches high on the lifeless branch of a dead tree surveying the activity below. A blue flash is the only evidence that a kingfisher has just passed by while the ducks noisily argue and chase each other in circles.

Lazy days

Herons are a popular sight on the Broads
Herons are a popular sight on the Broads

Going out on the Broads and rivers that lace Norfolk and Suffolk together may seem a lazy way of spending time. But the fact is, it can be demanding, exhausting, exacting and altogether satisfying.

Demanding because nature never takes a break and there are certain rules on water that must always be obeyed.

Exhausting (at times) when the chores outweigh your energy. There's endless cleaning and scrubbing to be done if you want to keep your vessel in good working order.

Exacting because the wind, the tide and the other vessels all demand due care and attention if you're to avoid even the smallest calamity.

All this is compensated by the satisfaction of a safe passage, a fine manoeuvre to a mooring place and the varied and glorious scenery that changes with each stretch of water and throughout the seasons.

Escapism

Watching out for herons, cormorants and the more rare species of wildlife is something that grabs every guest on board. Messing about on the river is like no other form of relaxation.

The swans at Potter Heigham
The swans at Potter Heigham

It takes all of your attention and so there's no time to worry about the trivial matters of life - or even the bigger problems.

Cruising is escapism and you can choose from a variety of situations. There's the bustle of Wroxham with day boats eager to see as much as they can within their allotted time, Salhouse Broad with its tiny beach, and the boat with a giant plastic cone will come alongside to sell you ice cream.

In the evening a paddle steamer cruises round with a live band filling the still evening air with jaunty jazz.

Beauty spots

Then there's Stalham, Potter Heigham and the nature reserve and broad at Ranworth. You can cruise from Acle bridge to the Pontiac Roadhouse American diner (formerly the Stracey Arms) and watch the sun go down.

Or perhaps you'd rather catch the tide for Great Yarmouth and spot the odd seal on the mud flats of Breydon Water.

Burgh Castle, St Olaves and Somerleyton all bring different vistas. The river opens out into the vast expanse of Oulton Broad with its welcoming marina.

A boat on the River Yare
A boat on the River Yare

Alternatively, take a break at Burgh St Peter then follow the winding Waveney to Beccles Marina and journe'ys end at Geldeston lock or from St Olaves take the cut through to Reedham with its awkward currents and attractive roadside moorings.

On the River Yare

The car ferry clanks its chains across the Yare further upstream where you can take the narrow River Chet up to the old mill basin at Loddon.

The Yare carries you upstream past Langley, Hardley, Cantley and the Beauchamp Arms before delivering you to Brundall, passing the entrance to Rockland Broad where the swans congregate in the winter months.

Then there's quiet Surlingham Broad where the river bus brings its passengers almost daily from Norwich. The pub and defunct ferry crossing are next before passing naturalist Ted Ellis's beloved Wheat Fen.

At popular Bramerton Woods End there's drifting smoke from a barbecue and the noisy flock of geese. Pass Thorpe Green and go on to the Wensum past Colmans and the Norwich City ground before you spot the spire of Norwich Cathedral, the Riverside development and the yacht station by picturesque Pulls Ferry.

It's a perfect way to spend a weekend - whatever the season.

last updated: 22/04/05
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