Broads National Park
The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads is Britain's largest protected wetland and third largest inland waterway. It's also home to some of the rarest plants and animals in the UK. Located between Norwich and the coast the Broads are a vast network of navigable rivers and lakes, making the area a Mecca for pleasure boats. However, you don't have to be on a boat to enjoy all that the Broads has to offer. There are over 300 km of footpaths through some of the area's most attractive landscapes - nature trails, circular walks and long distance footpaths suitable for anything from a gentle stroll to a strenuous hike. You can wander along tranquil field paths, through woods and by water meadows and windmills, and visit picturesque villages with thatched cottages.
The Weavers Way long distance path threads its way through much of the Broads from Great Yarmouth and provides an ideal route to experience the characteristic features of this water based landscape, from windmills to marshes, and water meadows, home to many birds and rare butterflies, and tranquil hidden rivers and ponds. Just walking a section of the Weavers Way will give you a flavour of the Broads, but the section from Great Yarmouth as far as Potter Heigham is especially rewarding.
The route begins following the edge of the North salt flats of Breydon Water, a good area for spotting wading birds. At Berney Arms, where there is an enormous windmill well worth visiting, the route heads north-west across water meadows to the village of Halvergate. From here to Acle is a lovely walk through lush pastures with views of delightful woodland. In summer you may see many butterflies in this area. From Acle the route follows the River Bure and then the River Thurne for much of the remaining walk to Potter Heigham, giving you a chance to watch the river traffic.
Another enjoyable walk further up the River Bure Valley starts from Horstead, crosses the river to Coltishall and follows the northern bank to Buxton where it re-crosses the river. The route then returns to Horstead along the southern bank. The narrow gauge Bure Valley Railway, which runs from Wroxham to Aylsham has a footpath parallel to the track which provides another walk option in this area.
Origin of the Broads
Until fairly recent times it was assumed that the Broads landscape had evolved naturally, although it was not clear how. The answer came from records discovered at the remains of St Benet’s Abbey which suggested that major excavation of peat for fuel had taken place over several centuries beginning in the twelfth century. This was confirmed by surveys which showed that the broads had vertical sides and flat bottoms. The seven natural rivers eventually flooded the sixty three peat excavations to form the broads we see today.
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