For some time I had considered a lovely and relaxing boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads. However, being a complete Norfolk novice, the thought of handling and parking a large cabin cruiser was somewhat daunting, to say the least. Imagine my delight when I discovered that Herbert Woods, specialists in Broads Holiday Adventures, hire out cottages in their marina at Potter Heigham, and, included, is a day boat! This sounded an ideal way for a first timer like me to experience the Broads.
A Magical Waterland
With over 110 miles of lock-free waterways, the Norfolk Broads are referred to as a magical waterland, a National Park which welcomes more than 7 million visitors each year. The Broads are set between the city of Norwich and the seaside coasts of Norfolk and Suffolk. A unique 303 square kilometres of gentle landscape, broads and rivers, this world famous attraction is without a doubt mainly associated with boating although there are other leisure experiences that attract visitors such as walking, cycling, canoeing, fishing and nature watching. Pretty towns and villages are dotted throughout the Broads along with mills and historic landmarks nestled amidst the waterways and fens.
Home from Home
We had booked our Norfolk Broads holiday adventure to start on a Sunday afternoon and it was a glorious day when we arrived at Potter Heigham. The boatyard and marina are accessed by a security gate with a keyboard code which had been emailed by Herbert Woods a couple of weeks earlier along with useful information about our cottage and the local area. Check-in was fast and efficient and with keys in hand, we were soon driving through the marina to our cottage – Marsh View. As you can see from the picture this is some cottage!
Situated within the Broads Haven Marina this was a fully equipped home from home with comfortable furnishings, central heating and Wi-Fi available. Facilities at Marsh View also included a large fully equipped kitchen and dining room with dishwasher and a double oven. The lounge was very comfortable and spacious with a digital flat screen TV, DVD player and CD player. The large patio doors overlooked the lawn and private decking with outside tables and chairs. We were able to park our car in the allocated spaces adjacent to the main entrance of the cottage. Marsh View sleeps up to 9, there’s a master bedroom with en-suite, a double bedroom, two twin rooms and one single room. There’s an additional family bathroom with bath and shower and an additional shower room with basin and w.c. Wheelchair access is available.
Herbert Woods have 10 waterside holiday cottages and 3 waterside apartments, on the edge of the River Thume or within the marina, varying in size from 4 to 9 beds. If you want to eat out Herbert Woods provide a useful booklet detailing local pubs, restaurants with 10% discounts or offers such as free tea or coffee or free desserts. Just across the road from the marina, we discovered the family owned Bridgestone’s and enjoyed a lovely cooked breakfast here each morning.
There’s a wide choice for eating out, however, be aware as this is a rural location taxis are on the expensive side – if drinking I would suggest that you allocate alternating designated drivers instead. Venturing out from Potter Heigham we found some delightful restaurants – The Boathouse at Ormesby Broad and for fine dining The Ingham Swan. You can download a handy guide to eating out on the Herbert Woods’ websites under the food and drink tab.
Cruising along the Broads
Herbert Woods have over 125 cruisers to choose from to suit every party size sleeping from 2 to 9 persons available for midweek and weekend hire. With our cottage, however, came the best of both worlds – day boat hire. A day boat is a great way to experience the sights and sounds of the Norfolk Broads. The day boat included is a small open top cruiser which looked easy to manoeuvre. However, our ‘day boat day’ was looking a bit cloudy with the chance of rain so we decided to upgrade at a very reasonable price to one of the Picnic Boats. Starlight 5, our boat, seated up to 10 people on comfy cushioned seats and included onboard was a gas hob, fridge, sink and toilet. Additionally, there were mugs, glasses and kettle etc.
Starlight 5 was moored in a line of other cruisers and came equipped with life jackets and a full tank of fuel. Facilities included a small forward sun deck, warm air heating, radio and a split-sliding roof which was perfect! Steering and controls were situated in the cabin and to the port side. Mark from the boat yard was very helpful and patient as he described the various functions and dials, how to steer and reverse the boat, along with a safety briefing.
Here was the first test of the day, moving the boat out of her berth into the River Thume. This was a rather tight spot but luckily for me, Mark took the controls and guided her out so at least I had a straight run to start. Having said that, as we got underway on our 2 and a half hour journey to Horning I found the boat remarkably easy to handle. Gentle movements of the steering wheel were called for and a close eye on the speedometer as speed limits are regularly enforced with speed zones of 6, 5, 4 and 3 mph clearly marked on the banks as you cruise along.
After a delightful and relaxing morning cruise along the Broads, we arrive at Horning, a picturesque waterside village. Conveniently it’s time for lunch and we spot the New Inn with its large riverfront garden and free mooring for visitors. Here’s the second challenge of the day and I decide to moor Starlight 5 against the side which was relatively easy until the landlord appears asking me to park at right angles. Forward, reverse, forward again and with a little quayside assistance we’re tied up safe and sound ready for a classic pub lunch. Fed and watered we take a stroll around Horning calling in at a few of the interesting shops and art galleries.
Now time to head back to Potter Heigham and I’m really into the handling of the boat, so much so that I can take in the environment, wildlife and even wave to occasional fellow cruisers as we pass by. One disconcerting moment as we near ‘home’, a couple of sailing boats with rather large yard arms coming towards me and they seem oblivious to my presence. I keep close to the bank and we pass safely by.
Now my final test of the day as we arrive back at the boatyard – reverse parking back into our space! Left hand down hard on the wheel as I engage reverse, forward a few turns and back into reverse. I feel Mark watching from the quay as he’s spotted our return. Hard left again on the wheel, straighten up and I’ve done it! Mark ties up the boat – an end to a lovely day on the Broads.
This was a wonderful and memorable way to spend a short holiday on the Norfolk Broads. Herbert Woods were efficient and professional from start to finish and our accommodation was superb. The Norfolk Broads offer all year round attractions both on and off the water. The historic city of Norwich is right on the doorstep and rolling farmland, fens, marshes and woods surround picturesque local towns and villages.
Would I do it again? … Most definitely, no longer a novice, I think I’ve got the hang of boating!
Herbert Woods are situated at Broads Haven
Bridge Road, Potter Heigham, Norfolk. NR29 5JF