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Many visitors on a cottage holiday should explore South Walsham, east of Wroxham, in the heart of the Broads, where Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden offers more than fifty acres of peaceful, watery haven and stunning blooms. Famed for its unique collection of primulas, birds, butterflies and flowers delight whatever the season and traditional woodland practices such as coppicing can be witnessed firsthand. Elsewhere among the Broads, there are some twenty or more individual Nature Reserves to choose from, each with its own unique offering. Some, such as Hoveton Great Broad, can only be reached on water; others, like the Broads Wildlife Centre at Ranworth, pride themselves on being totally free from boat traffic. Some of the larger reserves, such as those at Strumpshaw Fen and Breydon Water, come under the auspices of the RSPB. Barton and Hickling reserves qualify as Broads in their own right. Whilst all offer different species and specialities, be it insects or golden reedbeds, bitterns or plovers, grazing marshes, dykes or woodland walks, all offer a marvellous insight into the delicately balanced ecology of the region. One or two, however, are worthy of particular note. Hickling Broad, near the market town of Stalham, is one of the largest nature reserves, with an excellent Visitor Centre, bird hide, boardwalk trail, picnic area and gift shop. The Water Trail runs twice daily during the summer, offering visitors a guided boat trip to delve into otherwise hidden areas of the reserve, whilst the unique tree tower climbs some sixty feet high above the watery landscape, affording stunning panoramic views over the county’s northern and eastern coastlines. How Hill reserve, near Ludham, also offers exploration of the Broad by boat; the solar-powered ‘Electric Eel’ glides silently through the reedbeds of the dykes to reveal the varied and colourful marshland wildlife that proliferates in this reserve. Here you will also see the raw materials that are still used to thatch the roofs of many of Norfolk’s traditional cottages.
In addition to the Broads, the region offers many other family attractions. Take a trip to the Horsey Wind Pump, close to the Horsey Mere Nature Reserve just inland from the east coast. Owned and restored by the National Trust, this offers the chance to see one of the common sights of the region at close quarters and is the perfect vantage point from which to take your bearings. The Museum of the Broads at Stalham chronicles the history of the region with demonstrations of some of the area’s ancient traditions and skills, whilst the Royal Air Force Air Defense Museum near picturesque Horning, a lovely riverside village with interesting shops, has hands-on exhibitions and demonstrations of air defence and battle management dating from the thirties and forties through to the present day. For a more active day out, burn off some energy at Bewilderwood, a family attraction offering fifty acres of outdoor activities; adventure playgrounds, rope bridges, zip wires, jungle trips and much more fun in the forest. Explore the market towns and traditional villages of the Broads; Acle offers history in some well preserved centuries-old buildings, the church at Ranworth is worth visiting for the views from the top of the steeple; quench your thirst and sample the local ales at the Woodforde’s Ales Brewery in Woodbastwick or enjoy a riverside picnic or a tasty pub lunch in Reedham.
To read part one of this blog on self catering cottage holidays in the Norfolk Broads, please click here.