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The Norfolk Broads is a collection of rivers, lakes, nature reserves, marshes and bird sanctuaries in the eastern part of East Anglia, and a phenomenon that is largely of man’s own creation. The digging of peat to provide fuel was a major industry for more than two centuries in the middle ages, but over-digging eventually led to water seeping through and swamping the low-lying land. Nowadays, many people choose to discover the unique, tranquil charm of this region by boat, but there are plenty of interesting towns and villages in the Broads area, and those choosing a holiday cottage stay locally can still enjoy the miles of unspoilt, lock-free waterways, as many barges and boats can be rented by the day or the afternoon. The scenery changes little throughout the region, but the ecology of the area is unique, and for a slow pace of life and ‘get away from it all’ sensation, the Broads is a captivating part of the country.
Wroxham, to the west, and Potter Heigham, further east, are the two main centres for discovering the region. They provide good access to the waterways and craft to hire, as well as local services and tourist attractions. For those whose preference is for dry land rather than water, then the flat landscape of the fens and marshes make the region ideal for effortless discovery on foot or two wheels. Ramble or cycle through waterside nature reserves, past the ancient windmills that dot the landscape and tranquil moorings that punctuate the rivers. Many villages in the region have their own walking and cycling guides to help visitors get close to heart of the region without need to use the car.
Wroxham is a busy town in season, servicing the many tourists who come for a boating holiday on the Broads. Here you’ll find all the services you need, many of them under one roof at Roy’s, the self-styled ‘world’s largest village store’. Borne out of the tourist boom on the Broads at the turn of the century and the need for outlying villages to receive goods and services year round, Roy’s has become a visitor attraction in its own right, with a restaurant and café, picnic areas in the riverside park, but its main business is a one-stop shop selling everything from food to flowers to phones. Nearby Hoveton Gardens offers a more tranquil experience to the north of Wroxham, with superb themed gardens such as the Clematis Garden and Spider Garden, the Water Garden and Lake with its kingfisher population, Woodland Walk and nature trails for children. It’s not just the many bird watching reserves in the area that attract some rare species; osprey and red kite have been regularly spotted in the woodland areas. The Bure Valley Railway is a must for train enthusiasts, with fifteen miles of steam and diesel heritage rides connecting Wroxham with Aylesham and calling in at a number of rural villages, such as Buxton with its famous watermill, en route. Cyclists and walkers can enjoy the path that runs alongside the railway, a journey of some nine miles or so, or can link up with the train if the whole distance is too much to tackle in a day. Boat or bike hire by the day can be readily arranged in Wroxham. Nearby Wroxham Barns offers a different type of family experience, including shopping, crafts, a junior farm and fun fair. The retail centre offers locally- sourced food and non-food items, there are craft galleries and workshops where traditional practises such as cider pressing, wood-turning and pottery making are demonstrated. The junior farm has hands-on feeding sessions, and there is also a fun fair with a host of rides and adventure play opportunities.
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