Broads

After a flurry of activity in the 1950s, when ten National Parks were made, there wasn’t much to cheer about until 1989 when the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads were granted National Park protection. And like many favourite late children, the Broads was definitely worth the wait for their magical reed-fringed lakes and waterways. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads is one of Britain’s finest wetlands. It is of international nature conservation importance covering an area of 305 square km, mainly within Norfolk, but with a small part in Suffolk.

The boundaries of this special area follow the valleys of the lower reaches of the Rivers Bure, Yare and Waveney, together with the two tributaries of the Bure, the Ant and Thurne, and the Chet Valley, a tributary of the Yare. The dominant landscapes are expanses of water, grazing marshes, fens and wet woodlands. The Broads are more the work of man than nature. It was peat digging between the 11th and 14th centuries that created pits which then filled with water after they rose.

Although busy in the summer months you can escape the 130 miles of congested waterways for patches of pure peace and tranquillity where the only sound you will hear is that of slow-flowing water creeping between the tall reeds. And obviously a chirp or two. The Broads is famous for its various species of birds. Teal and wigeon spend the winter on the open broads, and you can see reed and sedge warblers and the rarer Cetti’s warbler in the reedbeds. The marsh harrier is back again too. You should spot some willow tits, long-tailed tits, greater and lesser spotted woodpeckers and treecreepers in some areas of wet woodland. And Britain’s largest butterfly resides here too as well as 250 different species of plants.

There is much here for walkers with over 300km of footpaths to be walked and 150 hectares of access land to be explored, and hopefully enough time to take in the glorious wildlife mentioned above. The Park hosts two well-known walking routes – the Wherryman’s Way and The Angles Way. The Wherryman’s Way takes walkers through the heart of the Broads along the River Yare, recalling the trading boats known as wherries that once used the local waterways. The Angles Way was voted the best waterside walk in Britain by waterscape.com in 2003. This is an illustrious national treasure yet it is under threat from pollution, rising sea levels and demand for water. We can do our bit by leaving the car at home and letting public transport take the strain.