Our Travel Stories, Travel Reviews

4 nights afloat on the Norfolk Broads

All photo credits: Terri Shanks

I have written many many blogs as a single Mum travelling with a young child and I’m not going to lie, it was really nice to get away and have 5 days (4 nights) as a child free break.

Having lost Dad just 2 months ago and lots of stress before and after, I was most definitely ready for a relaxing break and travelling at an average speed of 5mph on the Norfolk Broads gives you no other option than to totally slow down and relax which was exactly what I needed.

It’s just under 4 months now since I met Simon and although we have spent several weekends away together in Somerset, this was our first proper holiday together and being cooped up in a small boat for 5 days with only each other for company was always going to be the first real test of our relationship. A test which we not only survived but thrived. 5 days of loving, laughing and planning our ‘happily ever after’ had to be the best tonic for the most stressful and heartbreaking few months I can ever remember, and after swearing that I was never going to settle down again with anyone, I still have to pinch myself every day that I met someone who is so special and so right for me. (squeeeee !!)

Anyway, enough of the soppy stuff and back to the boats! I have a friend who regularly goes out on the Norfolk Broads and recommended we hire a boat from Barnes Brinkcraft in Wroxham. A recommendation is always good enough for me, and before I had time to blink Simon had booked the boat and our excitement began.

Wroxham itself is a very pretty little village and a hive of activity. A large food store (Roys) is located right by the entrance of the boat yard, so plenty of opportunity to shop for fresh produce (and alcohol!!) directly before boarding the boat.

Check in was quick and easy and after collecting the boat keys and loading up, Simon left his car keys in the office and his car was safely parked up whilst we were away.

We had a smaller 1 bedroom boat as there was just the two of us, but there are various size boats available to cater for different party sizes. The boat was spotlessly clean, modern and well equipped. Even providing a colour TV and wifi, (we also had great phone and 4G signal for our entire time on the broads). There was plenty of storage on board and for us the boat was the perfect balance of being spacious but cosy, and with a retractable roof it makes it perfect for rain or shine.

Although we had loosely planned a route from the map sent to us from Brinkcrafts, it was always going to be left open to change. We didn’t pick the boat up until around 4pm on day 1 so we made the short trip from Wroxham to Horning where we moored up for the night outside one of the many riverside pubs where we also had dinner that evening. With pubs and restaurants only just re-opening after lockdown we decided that even after 4 months this was actually our ‘first date’ as this was the first proper opportunity we have had to go ‘out out’ to eat! The journey from Wroxham to Horning is actually one of the most beautiful parts of the broads with picturesque houses lining the river banks with their own private moorings and boat houses. It’s not really too surprising to learn that it wasn’t long before we were discussing/dreaming of our forever home….and boat! 🤔 (oh and did I mention the pet donkey too????)

For the next 3 days we explored many miles of the broads, mooring up in some very quiet little dykes of an evening. A chance to stretch our legs and go for an evening walk as sitting on the boat for several hours at a time does make you feel rather lazy. That said, we did moor up a few times during the day as well, and walked…usually to the nearest pub for lunch.

The bird life was amazing, the scenery was both spectacular and ever changing. As we sailed along I found myself saying “this reminds me of…Florida/Singapore/Australia/New Zealand/Holland/Belgium, it made me realise that despite travelling the world, we really have got some of the most amazing scenery and waterways just 3 hours drive from home, and with Simon being born and raised in Norfolk it was truly special getting to see some of the beauty of his home county.

Having travelled all over the world, I have to say that if I had realised the Norfolk Broads were this beautiful I would have definitely done it years ago. Even though this was only short break it was enough to relax, switch off and completely re-charge. It may have been my first boating holiday, but certainly won’t be our last.

As a complete novice I found the boat easy to drive and the waterways easy to navigate, we obviously had a map to follow but also the broads app ‘Aweigh’ gives you live updates on exactly where you are at all times. There were a couple of bridges we didn’t manage to get under due to high tides, one at Potter Higham and the other entering Great Yarmouth. We could have course waited for tides to turn but timings meant it would have left it very tight for us to get back to Wroxham on time, so we said next time we will plan to do these earlier in the trip so we have plenty of time.

Bridge at Potter Higham (photo from Google images)

We saw plenty of families on other boats with young children of all ages, but I have to admit that if we taken Cameron with us I don’t think I would have fully relaxed even if he had been wearing a life jacket full time. I would have been waiting for that big ‘splash’ the whole time. We may take him in a couple of years, but I think for now I would be happy to do it again as a cheeky child-free romantic getaway.

My travel plans this year have turned out to be very different than the itinerary I had in January. There has been disappointment, cancellation, personal bereavement and heartache, but amidst it all I fell in love, found true happiness for the first time in my life and got to discover some of the most beautiful places in England which I have never visited before. 2020 has certainly been a roller coaster of emotion, but I am generally very happy and excited about the future.

‘Windswept on the Broads’
Even more windswept on the Norfolk Coast!

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