Boating the Norfolk Broads

Jenny Igoe on 24 July 2020
I’ve discovered over the Covid 19 period that the word Staycation causes quite a divide. Some think it means a UK holiday, (I am in this camp) and some think it means staying at actual home, having the odd day out, and a takeaway.

So for the purpose of this blog, our staycation means a holiday in the UK, and we chose a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads followed by a holiday park in Suffolk which we used as a base to explore. See part 2 of my blog coming soon which will describe the Suffolk part. This blog is all about the Norfolk Broads!

I must give full Norfolk boating credits to one of my best friends Jenny for telling me all about her childhood experiences on the Broads, after hearing her stories we booked our boat the very next day.

We arrived in Wroxham, a cute town where many of the boats are hired from. A short lesson for my husband on how to drive it, while we purchased captains hats and food and drinks supplies… and off we went.

Life jackets on, our boat had a steering wheel upstairs and downstairs and we chose to drive upstairs whatever the weather as the views were amazing.

The speed limit means you never go too fast – 6mph at the most, but if you don’t keep your eye on your direction you could definitely do some damage! We almost took out a couple of fishing rods much to the local’s disgust, but other than that we did well as first timers.

On the first evening we took an easy looking mooring spot at Horning, around a 1.5 hour cruise from Wroxham. A friendly chap pulled us in by our rope when we struggled to do a 25 point turn to reverse in. We ate at the New Inn, and met some people who kindly showed my son how to set up his fishing rod, gave him some bate and we were delighted to catch a couple of small fish! Hot chocolate on the boat and all into bed by 10.30pm, lovely. We even had celebrity neighbours but my lips are sealed as to who's stunning boat it was!

We woke the next day to drizzle but had a wander around Horning and found friendly locals… and a cute shop selling everything from pirate swords to crabbing lines. But its speciality was all the ice cream flavours in the world. True Brits - we sat in the rain and enjoyed our ice creams.

Another 1.5 hour sailing to Ludham and we pulled into some free moorings a 15 minute walk from the village. This was most un-touristy and we found ourselves parked between a houseboat (a couple who’d lived 17 years on the boat, we had great chats) and a man who operates the bridges in Wroxham who knew this spot was a hidden gem. Unsuccessful fishing here, but we wandered through fields to the village and found a pub, the Kings Arms which had the greatest beer garden I’ve seen, with a great play area and a treehouse. We were able to eat here, plus enjoy a few drinks while our kids played in the treehouse and we all watched a very dramatic thunder and lightning storm! When the storm passed we stocked up at the shop with sweets and chocolate and walked back to the boat.

The next morning we got up early – we had been told of a special place where you need to moor up by mid- morning on a Sunday or else the daytrippers take all the spots – Ranworth Broad. Just an hour’s cruise away and so many fisherman along the banks on a Sunday. We had great weather today – sun cream and hats on… but when we reached Ranworth the spots were all taken. We dropped our anchor out in the water and waited, hoping for someone to leave – eventually our time came. Dragging the mud weight out of the water – not easy, David reversed the boat between 2 others. It was very snug, and the guy next door helped rope us in. This part of the boating holiday is high-pressure for the driver – hilarious for everyone else. During our 3 day trip we saw many a bad attempt at parking, couples having domestics, even a dog falling overboard – he was a great swimmer luckily. Unless it’s you driving – it’s one of the best forms of people watching I’ve ever enjoyed!

Ranworth Broad has a village green, a pub which has a wood fire oven for pizza (up to 5 toppings- decent) and a very old church. There is a shop that sells cream teas and doggy ice cream. Dogs are VIP's across the whole of Norfolk as far as I could tell and it made me wish so badly I had a dog to bring with us! The dogs are so happy on the boats, tongues out catching the fresh air and the occasional swim.

That evening we got to know our boat mates next door who played football with my son all evening and a great time was had by all. My eldest daughter caught a whopper sized fish and the sunset provided a perfect backdrop. We slept very well on our boat, Fair Commodore. It’s a 6 berth boat, with 2 bathrooms, kitchenette and living area. Our fave spot was up on top which has a sundeck and seats beside the driver. All 3 kids had their turn at driving, which they loved.

Returning the boat on the Monday morning was sad and wet occasion, with rain lashing down, but we couldn’t help but be impressed by the slick operation who hopped on board to refuel, clean and restock the boat for the next family.

The company we used is booked up until November, a result of Covid 19 and the hype around staycations. What a wonderful thing for these hardworking people, and all of the pubs, tea rooms and little village shops on the Broads who will benefit from the busy season.

We ended our Norfolk weekend with a cream tea at the River Café, a lovely spot to watch the boats go by in Wroxham.