Everything packed into one canoe. Two people, one dog, all in a canoe. Why? People have asked us why an awful lot, and maybe we have ourselves, but the main reason is for a bit of an adventure, something different from the ‘normal’ holiday. With a new canoe, Tentipi and stove as our base camp I think we were pretty set for some fun on the water. After looking at the weather forecast in Scotland for the week we had booked off we opted for the Norfolk Broads instead, with campsites rather than the wild camping we hoped for. (next time though!)
Once arrived at the broads we headed towards our first night of camping at Salhouse Broad; £16 per night per pitch for a field and port-a-loos. Very basic camping but is right by the water’s edge. You can launch your canoe for free if you can be bothered to drag it down the long track from the car park. The camping field which is near the water is 0.5 miles from the car park so it’s a long trek down but they do provide wheelbarrows and a big wooden cart, which definitely came useful!
After setting up camp rather than going in the canoe, much to Ant’s annoyance, we let Inca play in the water playing fetch with another boxer dog; she loved it, especially after being stuck in the car for over 3 hours.
As we weren’t wild camping we had brought our big oval fire pit so for dinner we cooked chicken curry, making our own damper bread to use as a naan bread. Be careful not to burn your toe on the fire!! L (one ditzy moment for Charlotte there!)
As plans had changed we’d come to the broads with no map – not the best idea in the world – so first mission was to try and find one on our way. With the canoe out early and heading out of Salhouse Broad towards Wroxham, which is one of the busiest places for boat hire along the River Bure. Pulling into a marina just before Wroxham Broad; Norfolk Broads Yacht Club, the first stop on the map hunt, but they couldn’t provide however said to try Wroxham itself.
The weather was beautiful, to the point of burning the tops of my legs from sitting in the canoe – a few lessons being learnt already – suncream also needed! The river was busy at times with other boats but most would say hello as they passed and loved the fact that Inca was in a life vest. Passing through the river into the village the water’s edge was lined with beautiful thatched houses.
Pulling in at the bridge in the centre of Wroxham Ant jumped out in search of an OS map and an ice-cream! While I sat waiting for him the canoe got surrounded with swans coming to say hello to the people throwing bread into the water. With a map purchased and refreshed by the cool ice-cream we continued canoeing and turned left just under the bridge into Bridge Broad, which was beautifully quiet away from the river boats leaving from Wroxham. A little further on, stopping off at a mooring point bathed in a beautiful willow tree and green area of grass we set up a little base for lunch, of sausage sandwiches, while Inca played around in the ramp to the water.
This was a great place to stop and was a little quieter on this section of the river from the other boats, with only another family with 2 canoes stopping off. Cooling the beer in the river, attached to a piece of paracord to the canoe, I thought I’d try out the water and took a dip in the River Bure.
Heading back the way we came a little later we stopped off at The Kings Head pub in Wroxham for a well-deserved drink from a very hot first day getting away from it all canoeing – Oh now that doesn’t happen does it and Ant bumps into an old friend from back home in the pub, who had also changed their plans last-minute – the coincidence!
Back at the campsite we cooked a chicken and ham carbonara with the left over chicken we had in the cool box; that was beginning to be no longer cool!
Starts with an amazing sun, so warm, another good day on the cards and remembering the sunscreen this time round! We ate a good full fry up with the remaining sausages and bacon to set us up for the day.
There we many people out with their sailing boats – Such majestic and beautiful craft. Some were tacking wildly to go up-stream against the wind while others were struggling to find a breeze while drifting slowly down stream.
Today we set the canoe in the opposite direction towards Malthouse Broad on the River Bure. Firstly, we pass Dydall’s Drainage Mill.
The amount of lilies across the River Bure was incredible and when the light hit them right they just looked amazing, a joy to pass through.
This direction seemed a lot busier than the other way and we learnt that Honing, the next village we came to is the other busy place visitors rent boats from, with a few smaller, faster boats passing us adding to our unbalance in the canoe. Today was so hot, it seemed the perfect weather for stopping at a few pubs along this stretch of river, starting with the Ferry Inn (non-alcoholic at this time in the morning of course!) Once refreshed we continued through to the Malthouse Broad. There is a second broad just off of here, Ranworth Broad, which is a nature reserve. You are allowed to tie up here to go and have a look around, but dogs are not allowed so we turned back to head in the Malthouse. On our way to mooring up a sail boat with 3 young boys and dad teaching them to sail lost on
e of their hats in the breeze; which we managed to rescue for them. It was a little choppier on this section as it was a larger open area of water. A nice little village to stop of in, a church, tea rooms, visitors centre, shop and The Maltsters pub. We headed over to the pub for some cheesy chips and a refreshing drink. As it was so hot we stopped at the shop to see if we could pick up some hats (neither of us really wear them!) So with silly hats in tow we set back out to the river. A very loud group of lads had a speed boat out which nicely filled our canoe up as they raced past us.
On the way out of Malthouse broad we were greeted by a very large and beautiful Southern Comfort Paddle Steamer.
Our third and final pub awaited back in Honing, The Swan Inn; this seemed a really lovely pub but a little expensive – pork scratching; fresh/warm and not many for £3.95! but it was a nice end to the day.
This route seemed a lot busier than towards Wroxham and not really anywhere quiet to stop off for lunch, etc. but a great stretch for pub stopping and does have St. Benet’s Abbey a little further along after the joining with River Ant. (We thought we were going to do that bit another day but never got round to it)
As it was a lovely evening and Inca didn’t want to leave the water’s edge. We decided to cook down there and gorged on smoked chicken and chorizo pasta.
A lot of dog walkers come down for the dogs to have a play which was lovely to get some local knowledge of the surrounding area and they were all really interested in our plans.
As the sun was setting Ant took the canoe out for a solo paddle around Salhouse Broad, I followed shortly afterwards. The water is very calm and by this point all the boats were already moored up ready for the evening, so it was lovely to slowly paddle around and get used to the canoe a bit more.
Was a move day for us. This was probably the hottest day of the holiday so it would be good for Inca to be out of the sun for mid-day. We had heard that parts of the River Ant could be quite quiet, especially near the top end and the joining canal as motorized boats didn’t really head up that way. Therefore, after a few trips up the 0.5 mile to the car we headed for the Dog Inn at Ludham; which has a camping field next to the pub for £10 per night and 24-hour access to the pubs toilet, again very basic but we had the field all to ourselves.
Around 3.30pm, once the tent was up and the heat had reduced (if only a little!) we headed over to Wayford Bridge to launch the canoe. They charged £5, as we were a 16ft canoe, (normally £3 I believe) to be paid to the boat hire building located there. From the launch junction taking a left and left again up towards Dilham, we carried on to the end of this stretch of river coming to a dead-end so turned around again. It was lovely and quiet, with only passing a father and son kayaking. Half way back down we moored at a bit of a clearing for a beer and enjoy the stillness.
The amount of wildlife we saw along the bit of the River Ant was amazing; heron, fish, family of swans, tons of the little dragon/damson flies and even a couple of grass snakes swimming in the water.
Getting back to the little junction we went left up North Walsham and Dilham Canal (disused), here you could see where nature was taking the canal back. This section does get quite narrow at times and motorized boats shouldn’t use it. It was lovely and calming along this bit with very little noise (other than the swans hissing at Inca as she passed!).
We got as far as Tonnage Bridge, passing under for a little bit before turning back around and heading back to the launch point. A great little trip if you want a more peaceful and relaxed experience on the broads.
The clouds started to turn black as we were traveling back to the campsite, but decided we would still be the avid campers and carry on cooking; Chicken curry (with another vacuum packed chicken breast) and home-made bannock bread. The thunderstorm finally hit, everything but the cooking went into the tent! Donned in our rain coats and a glass of wine in hand the cooking was finished, we were lucky that the main part of the thunderstorm was actually a little further away and we really only got the rain. A barn owl takes its flight over the next field, beautiful to watch, missed it with the camera this time though (hopefully tomorrow) Dinner was ready and the rain actually stopped for us to eat outside – in the dark mind – but the sky has turned a beautiful pink and orange display, while Inca takes herself to bed.
Move across to the pub for a quick night cap, where Inca makes herself known!!! Just as the pub quiz was ending (Wednesday evenings if you are up that way) but we do take part in Play Your Cards Right/Higher or Lower – which we failed at terribly.
It was a slow morning as I sit and enjoy the morning bird song.
We headed to the launch point just down the road at Ludham Bridge; free parking and launch, spoke to a lovely man who said this is what the area should be used for as they have a low launching point but have placed that right next to the boats water filling point. Therefore, you might have to fight your way a little, but they shouldn’t be there for long and then you can set off.
Heading up the River Ant, passing Neave’s Drainage Mill, Turf Fen Drainage Mill, Boardman’s Drainage Mill and finally Clayrack Drainage Mill. It was a little busy, with both boats and people visiting for the array of mills. We stopped at Irstead Mooring where Inca could have a cool down swim, a fish off the side beside a lovely little church and grassy area.
The aim was to attempt more of the open space of the broads so carrying on through Barton Broad, sticking to the edge as it was very windy and was our first time on a mass of open water this size! It was tough going at times due to the head wind but as the boats went through the middle at the deepest parts of the broad we could take our time around the shallow edge. Completing the broad and back onto the River Ant at the other side we moored up at a beautiful clearing, where we had lunch and caught another couple of little fish.
We turned back at this point and made a non-stop journey all the way back to the launch point at Ludham Bridge.
Back at the campsite we made home-made pizza and wedges for tea, while Inca gets some fresh chicken from the shops so she was extremely happy! (she’s normally raw fed but had had dehydrated food throughout this trip as it’s lighter and easier to carry) The barn owl makes an appearance again and this time got some pictures.
Pack up camp and head the hour drive north to Stiffkey; Highsands Campsite, the woman behind the desk was a little stand offish at first saying they didn’t have anything as fully booked but eventually said that they did have one but it wasn’t ready till 1pm – no one was on the pitch she had assigned… anyway as it was low tide (high tides advertised on the hut as 9am and 9pm) out on the salt marshes we let Inca have a quick run around. Ant spoke to a guy who was just leaving and said he’d taken his canoe out that morning and was really fun to go around the canals in the marshes.
We headed into the little village to the Red Lion for some lunch, it was nice but very expensive – Burger and chips for £13ish – but at least we didn’t have to do the washing up this time. We were also invaded by a party that was happening! The village also has a shop a little further down the road if you are in need of any supplies.
At about 6.30pm we decided to get the canoe ready to take out, but it was still a little early for high tide, the water was just about ankle-deep. A little too keen you might say. So we walked it down to a bit that was deeper, Inca even helped with pulling it along!
We would advise between about 2 hours before and 2 hours after high tide times would probably be best time to paddle this area.
We finally got enough water to do some paddling, still getting stuck on one section where it wasn’t quite as deep as the rest. Making it to the mouth into the sea, we went a short way (and I mean short!) before turning back into the salt marshes and exploring these a little more. I think we need a bit more experience before we attempt any sea canoeing. With the sun setting we paddled around the different creeks. We were the only people out on the saltmarsh, it was so peaceful.
Back at the tent about 9.30/10pm and finally get our first shower of the holiday! Feeling a lot more refreshed and sitting by lamplight with yesterday’s pizza, crisps and a pot noodle we enjoy our last night of this truly amazing holiday!
Again it was yet another beautiful day cooking up some sausage, chopped tomatoes, beans, spring onions, egg and a bit of chilli for breakfast. We thought we’d skip on the canoeing this morning and just head back to the water to give Inca a walk, run and swim before we make the journey back home. Inca would only play at the water’s edge before the holiday but by the end she was launching herself of the side and swimming such a long way out to collect her stick. There were a few people on paddle boards, canoes and kayaks as the tide was just turning back out.
On the way back home we stopped in at Cookie’s Crab Shop having the special lobster delight for £10.95. Amazing value, served quickly and very yummy! It was busy with a lot of tables booked so don’t be surprised if they can’t seat you.