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Travel Review: Norfolk Broads boating holiday is all relaxation and waterside pubs

PUBLISHED: 08:00 17 July 2016 | UPDATED: 09:20 18 July 2016

Bridget's boat Folkstone Light slept up to 12

Bridget's boat Folkstone Light slept up to 12

VISUAL DEVOTION

Bridget and family found a boating holiday on Norfolk’s waterways was a great way to force you to relax and take in the views

Bumping along at top throttle in the teeth of a headwind, I peered through the rain-lashed windscreen and wondered how long before our boat hit calmer waters.

Time your passage through Great Yarmouth badly, and you’ll fight against the tide – you may even have to wait for water levels to subside before you can pass under the bridges.

It was perhaps foolish to cross Bredon Water from the north to the south broads on our first day aboard a leisure cruiser, but we were on our way to visit family.

We’d picked up our boat from Potter Heigham the day before at one of the broads’ longest running hire companies Herbert Woods, where the whole business of being kitted out with lifejackets and - literally - taught the ropes was friendly and efficient.

A 125 mile complex of rivers and lakes, many created by medieval peat digging that later flooded,

Norfolk’s broads have been a tourist draw since Victorian times. We made it to Acle for our first night, bagging the last mooring at The Bridge, a popular thatched pub that does great fish and chips.

Norfolk’s climate is usually dry, but the half term weather was against us.

Cold, wet and windy, we were however toasty in our five cabin cruiser with well equipped kitchen and living room. The children were happy watching TV, playing games and watching the world go by.

A week on the broads is a holiday of enforced relaxation, punctuated by visits to waterside pubs.

You can only travel a max 6kph so getting anywhere is inevitably at snail’s pace. But for us Londoners it was great to slow down.

Stock up on avocados and olives before you go - the waterside shops do great fudge and tinned goods but little fresh stuff.

The haul down south took us past Somerleyton, the stately home of Lord and Lady Somerleyton, which has free mooring a short walk from the nicely renovated Duke’s Head pub (take away fish and chips if you don’t want to tarry)

But we pressed on to St Olaves and a date with my aunt and uncle.

Mooring at The Bell it was lovely to enjoy a pub meal with just a short totter back to your bunk.

The next day we hitched up our cruiser at my cousin’s mooring to see his renovation project backing onto the Waveney River.

A quick cuppa and we were soon chugging on to the Waveney Centre, a well-run campsite and complex with small marina.

£10 mooring buys you hot showers and access to a nice warm swimming pool, shop, play area, pub and restaurant.

The boat’s toilets cum showers are hot too, but it’s not the strongest jet and the water supply has to be replenished daily.

We cooked a roast chicken and played cards as the rain beat down, but the kids were finding it all a great adventure.

Sitting in the beer garden of the The Ship at Reedham watching the swingbridge operate across the River Yare next day, there was even a glimmer of sunshine.

At Reedham’s pretty quay there’s a statue marking it as a hub for building the large-sailed shallow wherries that plyed the broads in the 19th century. Further along is a chain ferry where cars can cut the corner from Norwich to Gt Yarmouth. We could have sailed all the way to Norwich to see another cousin, but on my aunt’s advice we crossed back through Yarmouth to the busier, prettier north broads.

At Stokesby we had a family gathering at another Ferry Inn where the kids had a kickaround on the village green and play area.

Nearby, Thurne which has one of the broads’ few working windmills (used not to grind corn but to drain the land) My son got to manually stop the sails before entering the slightly clammy interior. As the sun beat down and a regatta of sailing boats tacked back and forth across the river Bure we turned into Ranworth one of the most picturesque broads.

A broadwalk takes you to to an RSPB nature reserve where a visitor centre has binoculars and hands on activities.

Then we slid back the boat’s roof and sat in the sunshine with a cup of tea watching birds nesting on the banks and looking out for herons and geese withbroods following in their wake.

We climbed the steeple of the parish church to get a glorious view of the regatta then had a pint and a pizza at the Malsters while the children played out until evening with the offspring of fellow boaters who offer a nice camaraderie.

On our last morning we chugged upstream to the capital of the broads at Wroxham.

There’s shops, pubs, pleasure crafts and chocolate box riverside properties some novelty shaped as windmills.

But it all felt a bit busy compared to the peace of our previous days and we were glad to steer for home.

We had barely covered half of the Broads but that seems a good excuse to go back.

Herbert Woods this month celebrates 90 years offering holidays on the broads. Prices start from £413 per week off peak and £279 for weekend off peak with fuel extra. Bookings: 0800 1444472 herbertwoods.co.uk

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