Going wild in Norfolk - the best of The Broads

On the search for the swallowtail butterfly, river otters, marsh harriers and fen orchids

By: Elizabeth Fowler | 13 Aug 2018, 9.29am

The Broads are home to some of the rarest wildlife in the United Kingdom. The beautiful swallowtail butterfly, otters, marsh harriers and fen orchids are just some of the delights Elizabeth Fowler went in search of in this magical part of the world.

Setting up right on the beach

Our first stop was south of the Broads at the excellent White House Beach Club site in Kessingland, Suffolk. With luck you can get a spot almost right next to the sea and wake to the sound of birdsong as the sun rises over the waves.

A stroll along the water’s edge will reward you with frequent bird sightings, while the shingle is home to an amazing array of flowering plants, including the rare yellow horned-poppy.

Fairhaven boat trips

The excellent Lower Wood Farm CL is perfectly placed for visits to Great Yarmouth, as well as Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden.

If you don’t have time for extensive exploration of the Broads, Fairhaven is the perfect place to get in touch with nature. It’s home to 130 acres of cultivated, wild and natural plantings and boasts four miles of wooded pathways, while boat trips on the private broad are also available.

Culture trip in Norwich

Using Norfolk Broads Club Site as a base, we decided to spend the day in Norwich. We enjoyed a picnic lunch bought in the excellent market, before a free guided walk at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

I would urge you to also visit the magnificent Norman cathedral, taking time to explore the monastic cloisters – and look out for the peregrine falcons who have made the cathedral spire their home during the summer months. 

This CL was just the ticket

There are a number of superb heritage railways to enjoy in Norfolk but sadly the line that once ran through Attlebridge closed in 1959. Little remains except for the station which is now a perfect little CL. Its name? The Station, of course.

Many original features remain, and Keith has remade the crossing gates and signal box for added authenticity. Cycling and walking are popular here thanks to the adjacent Marriott’s Way off-road trail which follows the course of old railway lines between Aylsham and Norwich.

Cycling in the forrest

A further 30 minutes or so to the west, lay our next destination – the glorious Thetford Forest Club Site, which is a paradise for walkers and bird watchers. This area of the forest was home to the Desert Rats from May 1944 until the Normandy Landings, and a small museum just 100 yards from the site tells their story.

Another option from the Club site is High Lodge, an adventure centre within the forest where you can walk, cycle or explore among the tree tops on a high-ropes experience. We chose a segway adventure and had a thrilling time weaving along the wooded tracks and trails.

A visit to Ely and Oliver Cromwell’s house

The cathedral city of Ely, about 45 minutes to the west across the county border in Cambridgeshire, is a must-visit. The city can be easily explored on foot, the most obvious attractions being the glorious cathedral with its central octagonal tower, Oliver Cromwell’s House and an excellent museum housed in the 13th-century gaol.

A great base for visits to Ely is Heatherbield CL. Runner up in the regional section of the Club’s 2017 CL of the Year competition, this immaculate site is just a couple of miles out of town and a short walk from Little Downham village.

A watery world of bays and creeks

Our final stop was at Grafham Water Club Site , a further hour’s drive west where we were introduced to the enormous resident American Owl. We hired bikes and set off on 10 miles of trails around Grafham Water, passing such delights as Sanctuary Bay and Savages Creek before stopping at Meander Park for a snack.

Sadly our East Anglian odyssey was at an end. It had been a wonderfully diverse tour, taking in the best of coast and city as well as the unforgettable landscape of the Broads. In fact, one could say it’s a region of very broad appeal indeed.

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