The Norfolk Broads


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Restored windmills, medieval churches, charming villages and peaceful waterways are just a few of the delights that visitors discover when they explore the Broads.

Much of the area’s history has been influenced by the ways in which the rivers have been used over the years, from transporting heavy goods to boating holidays. But the area is also home to some of the rarest plants and creatures in the UK.

Fascinating facts
  • The Broads is Britain’s largest nationally protected wetland. It covers an area of 303 sq km.
  • As one of Europe’s most popular inland waterways, the area attracts more than two million visitors a year.
  • The Broads were formed in medieval times by turf cutters who dug holes in the ground to gather peat for fuel. The pits flooded when water levels rose.
  • Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758 – 1805) was born in Norfolk and learned to sail on the Norfolk Broads.
  • There are no locks on the 125 miles of waterways.
  • Norfolk wherry boats were once an important trading vessel used to transport coal, timber and agricultural products. The popularity in boating holidays helped revive wherry boats with some converted and others specially built for recreational purposes.
  • The Broads Authority was set up in 1989 to conserve and enhance the beauty of the Broads.

There are two types of windmill in Norfolk; those that grind corn have been in use since the 14th century, while the drainage mills were built from the mid 1700s.

Grazing marshes could only be used in summer when they weren’t flooded but as the water levels rose the flooding became more frequent. Drainage mills were used to pump water from the marshes into the dykes which fed into rivers and flowed out to sea at Great Yarmouth. During the 1800s, over 200 drainage mills were built; only a handful of these remain today. Horsey Windpump at Horsey is a restored five-storey drainage windmill owned by The National Trust. The windpump offers amazing views of the Broads and the coast, and the Horsey Estate is an internationally important wildlife site. Dogs are welcome if they are kept on leads near livestock and under close control elsewhere.

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The Norfolk Broads has been a popular destination for boating holidays since the Victorians discovered the pleasure of the waterways in the 19th century. A boating holiday is the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful Norfolk Broads; visitors can go where they want, when they want. There are many places where boats can be moored so holidaymakers can explore the villages and market towns, or stop off for a bite to eat in a pub. There are lots of different types of boats that people can hire, from a little motor launch for an afternoon, right through to a 12-berth yacht for the whole week.