There’s no doubt about it, even when travelling in our home on wheels it’s not easy to keep us away from watery places and boats – preferably lots of them!
So it was that we travelled from Burnham-on-Crouch, one of Britain’s top yachting spots, to a place where there are more navigable waterways than in the whole of Venice – the beautiful Broads.
The Broads National Park spreads across 303 square kilometres (117 sq miles), mostly in the county of Norfolk but partly in Suffolk too. Made up of seven rivers and 63 broads (lakes), the Broads has over 200 kilometres (120 miles) of navigable waterways.
Two books from the beloved children’s series “Swallows and Amazons” were set in the Norfolk Broads. As children we had both fallen in love with the idea of sailing and living aboard boats from reading these wonderful books so it was somewhat of a pilgrimage to visit this area.
A tour round The Broads Museum was an excellent way to really get to know all about the origins and history of this intriguing place.
Here we learnt that until the 1960s it was thought that the Broads were a natural feature of the landscape but the botanist and ecologist Dr Joyce Lambert proved that they were actually man made!
Apparently she proved that in the Middle Ages the local monasteries excavated the peatlands as a business, selling the peat as fuel to the people of Norwich and Great Yarmouth. Then the sea levels began to rise, and the pits began to flood, creating the lakes, or broads, of today.
Despite the construction of windpumps and dykes, the flooding continued and resulted in the typical Broads landscape of today, with its, grazing marshes, reed beds and wet woodland.
The museum also contained many different types of craft that have plyed the waterways of the Broads over hundreds of years. As well as actual boats there were many model craft, marsh working tools, boat plans, paintings, books, photographs, postcards, wildlife, and social history items and memorabilia. It was fascinating!
That night we stayed in the car park of a delightful Norfolk pub and enjoyed a drink watching the sun go down.
Our next destination was a National Trust “Stately Home” called Blickling Hall. The current house was built in 1616 but it is thought that one of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn , was born in 1501 in the house previously on this site.
The publicity for Blickling alleges that “You’ll never forget your first sight of Blickling” and for us at least that’s probably true. As we walked through the gates we were very impressed by the breathtaking mansion flanked by ornate out buildings and startlingly green lawns.
As we stepped through the impressive entrance we admired the grand staircase with stained glass windows on the landing and massive portraits of former Lords of the Manor and their families.
There was much to see in just a few hours.
One of the nice features of this particular stately home was that there were actors scattered throughout who were dressed in period costumes and would explain “in character” about the life and history of the house. It was a great way of making history come alive, especially for children.
The House has been run by the National Trust since the 1940s and it is beautiful restored and meticulously cared for.
The library contains one of the most historically significant collections of manuscripts and books in England. It holds the National Trust’s biggest library collection with examples of early Continental printing, magnificent illustrated volumes, and many books with superb bindings.
The gardens were outstanding with a lovely formal section designed and constructed in the 1930s and acres of woods and pasture.