Is there a greener UK destination than the Norfolk Broads? We don’t think so, because you can’t see the best of the Broads National Park by car... Here's how to explore it
Ideally to explore this beautiful area of the UK, you have to be on the water, and when you’re not, then the region’s footpaths and cycleways, plus the fact that the main entry points are easily accessible by train, give you even more reason to leave the car behind.
Here are a few of our favourite green attractions in this magical, underrated British region:
Paddle a canoe through some of the smaller waterways that aren't so easily navigable by larger craft –silent, reedy adventures which are safe yet mysterious and fun for all abilities. Bank Boats is perfectly placed for idyllic canoe trips up the Ant or down to beautiful Barton Broad.
There have always been lots of picturesque riverside spots to enjoy a pint of local ale and watch the world go by on the water, but food standards have risen with the Broads Quality Charter and these days you can enjoy fantastic food using locally sourced Norfolk produce in any number of pubs and restaurants across the region. For an unmissable pit-stop visit Berney Arms, perhaps Britain’s greenest pub, only accessible by train, boat or on foot, and worth visiting for that alone. Located on the edge of the Berney Marshes RSPB reserve.
The Broads is the largest wetland area in the UK and one of the most important in Europe, and it's a haven for birds and all kinds of wildlife – indeed, there are more rare species in the Broads than anywhere else in Britain. Spot grebes, herons, kingfishers and, if you're lucky, catch a glimpse of the notoriously shy bittern. For the best of both worlds, stop by Fairhaven Water Garden, which offers an accessible taster of the local landscape, and boat trips on their own broad.
The Broads are greener than ever these days. Visitors can help keep the rivers and broads pristine and wildlife friendly by strictly observing the speed limits, using bio-degradeable washing products and taking care not to spill fuel. Opt to hire the newest and most environmentally sound craft, the best of which have low-wash hulls and adhere to the guidelines of the Green Boat Mark. Follow these guidelines with a green rental from Hunter's Yard. These admirable purists run a magnificent hire fleet of traditional Broads yachts and dinghies.
Just north of the village of Ludham, the impressive Arts and Crafts-style mansion of How Hill is home to the How Hill Trust, which runs residential art and wildlife courses pertaining to Broadland and also oversees the extensive gardens and grounds beyond, which you can explore on various marked paths, including a new one around Buttle Marsh, which is being conserved to attract very shy (and very rare) bitterns. It’s also home to Toad Hole Cottage, a marshman’s cottage near the river that was beautifully and authentically restored in the 1908s in the style of the marshfolk who occupied it until the turn of the century, with tools for reed-cutting, eel-catching and rabbit-foraging.
Just across the railway line on the edge of Strumpshaw village, Strumpshaw Fen is one of the most popular RSPB reserves in Norfolk. A glorious spot where you can see sandpipers, marsh harriers, kingfishers and lots and lots of butterflies and moths, including the Broads’ own swallowtail.
There are several well-maintained trails that take you through a variety of habitats – woodland, meadows and reedy fenland, all viewable from various hides, one at reception, and two others around the reserve, and it’s worth taking the path through the woods and then along the river into the fenland area to get the full flavour of the place.
The small village of Winterton-on-Sea is lovely, and has a good pub to boot, but the beach and dunes are awesome, a vast, dog-friendly stretch that extends for miles in either direction. You can swim with seals, have lunch in the excellent beach cafe or just hide out in the dunes. Plus, it's one of the few breeding grounds of little terns in the country.
These recommendations have been taken from the recently published Broads Guide for Green Travellers, available free from the Broads Authority. The guide was co-published by Cool Places and Green Traveller.