Journey along the magical waterways of the Norfolk Broads aboard a luxurious river cruiser
The Norfolk Broads are a stunningly beautiful network of areas of open water liked by scenic channels and natural rivers.
Abundant in wildlife, ancient landmarks, quiet villages and plenty of waterside pubs, life drifts by at a leisurely pace in this part of the world.
And there is no better way to experience the Broads than by boat.
We hired a luxury travel cruiser for a few days from the Herbert Woods fleet, which marked its 90th anniversary this summer, and is based in the marina on the River Thurne at Potter Heigham.
Our vessel, Dazzling Light 1, was light, airy and spacious, with four bedrooms and a galley, saloon and bathrooms and simple to manoeuvre.
Setting off at a sedate 3-6mph, we loved the wonderful panoramas across the Broads; a landscape punctuated by wind pumps and drainage mills, the towers of distant churches or ruined abbeys, nature reserves, reed-lined banks and cattle grazing on the marshes.
You will see mothering swans and their cygnets, ducks and a fluffy brood as well as moorhen, geese and long-legged herons swooping over the river.
The Broads and the rivers within it – Ant, Bure, Thurne, Chet, Wensum, Yare and Waveney – are so big that you can cruise for days exploring them, passing across large open man-made Broads – created centuries ago by peat extraction and alive with sailing vessels – or quiet dykes and channels where you’ll find moorings close to a village pub for the night.
And while you are moored up, you can even fish from the vessel.
A favourite stretch for me was the River Ant, meandering north into the Broads through reed-lined banks bordered with pasture and grazing marsh with the large property at How Hill is a dominant feature.
With Turf Fen Drainage Mill in the foreground and the residence – now the How Hill Trust residential centre which endeavours to improve education of the Broads environment – and with a string of vessels of all sizes passing to and fro, this is the quintessential Broads picture.
The Broads are a massive area and as Britain’s third largest inland waterway more than 125 miles of it are navigable.
It is also a haven for a quarter of the country’s rarest species, while bird life includes crane, bittern, marsh harrier plus a whole host of insect and plants. And there are 28 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in the area.
From the Bure, Thurne and Ant and the surrounding Broads, it is possible to cruise along to Great Yarmouth and Breydon Water and take the River Yare towards Reedham, for example, or on to Norwich
Alternatively, you can branch off and take the River Chet to Loddon whilst the River Waveney opens up the route to Lowestoft, via St Olaves and Oulton Dyke and Oulton Broad or on to Beccles and Geldeston Lock.
Even novices to the world of cruising can soon get the hang of steering and mooring and with helpful maps you can while away delightful days exploring these wonderful waterways by boat.
Mark Nicholls cruised the Broads aboard Herbert Woods’ holiday hire model, the 44-foot Dazzling Light 1. Capable of sleeping eight people in four cabins, plus an additional two if required, it features an external upper sundeck and dining area. For first-timers, there is a friendly and efficient check-in service, issue of lifejackets and a familiarisation briefing of the vessel before a practical steering session along the river. The vessel also has a bow thruster for ease of mooring. Weekly hire rates are £1232 (off peak) and £2548 in high season, whilst a Monday-Friday short break is from £861 (off-peak) and £1780 in high season. There is also a damage waiver of £55 and fuel deposit of £150. For more information, visit Herbert Woods or call 0800 144 4472.