To a 'townie', the idea of travelling anywhere at 4mph is pure hell and utterly pointless – but for us, sailing our little boat on the Broads at Wroxham was a revelation… and a lesson in relaxation
Now that world travel has become more affordable for everyone, it is quite a sobering thought to reach 50 and realise that there are still many parts of your own country that you have never visited. So it was that my wife Rose and I found ourselves heading towards Norwich one Friday evening to visit the Norfolk Broads for the first time and get a taster of what it was like.
We based ourselves in Wroxham at the Wroxham Hotel (www.arlingtonhotelgroup.co.uk), and what a fantastic choice it was. We booked 2 nights bed and breakfast at £98.00 a night for a room with balcony and river view, and what a view, 5 yards from the river with boats, ducks and swans all floating right by us. Within minutes of dumping our stuff in the room we were downstairs on the fantastic terrace enjoying an evening drink and watching the world go by. People watching is a great way to pass your time and there is something fascinating about watching a complete novice sailing into a busy area and realising that he doesn't have any brakes on his boat and he has completely forgotten that you can put them in reverse in order to slow down. People watching gives you an appetite and the hotel does a daily carvery for the ridiculous price of £4.95, which was fantastic value.
On Saturday morning I threw open the balcony doors to see a perfectly calm river before me with a few ducks sunning themselves on the opposite bank (if you want to feed the ducks the local supermarket sells bags of duck bread for 50p). We had an hour to kill before breakfast so we went off along the river to explore and take photos as it really is beautiful.
After a huge full english we were off in the car and exploring the local area. The next village along the river is Horning, a pretty village with numerous mooring points for all the boats. There are 2 pubs here right on the river, The Swan and The New Inn. The Swan seems to be the most popular in all of the guide books but we actually preferred the New Inn as it had its own car park and we felt the garden area was much nicer and closer to the river. There is a steamer boat based at Horning called the Mississippi Steamer which makes regular trips up and down the river and is well worth a visit.
In the afternoon we had pre-booked a river trip on one of the many tour boats based in Wroxham. The price was £7.00 pp and for that you get an hour and a half long trip with commentary and refreshments on board (www.broads.co.uk). It was a surprise to discover that the Broads are actually man made and are the result of people diigging for peat hundreds of years ago. As the sea levels rose the water came in and the rivers and lakes that have made the area famous today were formed. The boat trip takes you past beautiful houses all fronting on to the river, all with their own private moorings and it really is nice to dream that one day you could afford a place like that.
If the boat tour taught us anything, it was that the only way to see the Braods properly is by boat and so on Sunday morning we decided we were going sailing. There is a company called M C Marine Leisure (01603 783051) based right in front of the hotel who hire motor driven dayboats by the hour which is a great way to find out if you are going to like it. The lads who owned the company were very friendly and gave us full tuition before they sent us on our way. To a "townie" the idesa of travelling anywhere at 4mph is pure hell and utterly pointless, but to us, sailing our little boat on the Broads in Wroxham, it was an utter revelation of how to relax. It has to be said that day boats are not complicated. They have a steering wheel and a throttle to send you forwards or backwards at whatever speed you want to go, and because we had set off early we had the river to ourselves so that we were able to experience the sheer beauty of this country of ours. The water in front of us was absolutely still and the reflections of the trees were perfectly mirrored on the ripple free surface so that it looked like the picture from the front of a chocolate box. There was a view around every bend in the river and at one point we passed within 4 feet of a heron siting on a log sunning itself in the early morning warmth.
All too soon our taster weekend came to an end, but it really has whetted our appetites to go back and hire a bigger boat for a week or two to enable us to see more of this beautiful area.
Would we recommend it - you bet!