Discover the Norfolk Broads
A guide to 12 great days out in the unique environment of the Norfolk Broads compiled by people who live there

Discover the Norfolk Broads - A guide to 12 great days out in the unique environment of the Norfolk Broads compiled by people who live there

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Where are the
Norfolk Broads?
Day Two: Walk / Wildlife watching – Ranworth & Fairhaven Gardens / Hidden heart of the Norfolk Broads

If the Norfolk Broads can be described as having a spiritual heart, then the village of Ranworth is surely it. With its imposing church looking down on the village from the hill, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Broads’, the village showcases the true essence of the area from a variety of viewpoints. Our suggestions will take you around this lovely village on foot, including the church and its many delights; the floating visitor centre managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust; a short ferry ride back to the staithe; lunch at a local pub; followed by an afternoon visit to Fairhaven Garden Trust, a unique, sustainably managed Broadland garden, with its own tearoom.

Start: Ranworth Staithe, off the B1140 between Acle and Wroxham
Ordnance Survey Explorer map OL40; grid reference TG360146
SatNav postcode NR13 6HY

Cost Guide: ££££

Our recommended itinerary is as follows:

•   Drive to Ranworth village car park, situated on a minor road off the B1140 between Acle and Wroxham

•   Spend a fascinating day exploring the village on foot, starting with a walk up the hill to the church. Facing away from the staithe, turn right along the boardwalk. When this ends, cross the lane and use the off-road footpath up the hill to St. Helen’s church

•   Open every day, and known as the ‘Cathedral of the Broads’, the church is a national treasure, and is worth more than a passing visit. Set in the midst of quiet country lanes, this place is one of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of the Norfolk Broads

•   The church is home to the most complete and best preserved painted screen in Britain, together with a beautifully illuminated antiphoner, or service book, dating from the fifteenth century. Lost in the sixteenth century, it was rediscovered and bought for the parish in 1912

•   Although not for everyone, your visit may be enhanced by climbing the famous tower, which provides panoramic views of Broadland. For a suggested donation of £2 per person, 89 spiral stone steps, 2 ladders through the bell tower and 1 trap-door onto the church roof await you, but the views are magnificent and worth the effort!

•   Back on the ground, don’t forget the tea room behind the church, serving hot and cold drinks and refreshments, with a delightful aromatic garden and terrace overlooking the Broad

•   On leaving the church by the front gate, turn right and immediately right again, walking down the hill, follow the lane until you see the sign for the visitor centre on the left. Follow the boardwalk trail through the woodland, literally out onto the Broad to the floating visitor centre

•   As you follow the boardwalk, you will see the landscape change from woodland to reedbeds and then to open water, illustrating the natural processes at work, albeit in reverse, that left unmanaged by man would see the Norfolk Broads revert to oak woodland over a period of around 25 years

•   Entry to the visitor centre is free, and it contains an exhibition on the creation and development of the Norfolk Broads, together with a viewing gallery overlooking Ranworth Broad with its varied birdlife

•   For your return trip to the staithe, why not wait for the electric powered boat, Helen of Ranworth, to take you on the short journey by water through Malthouse Broad back to the moorings. There is a small charge for the ferry. This is a popular destination for holiday craft and the contrast between this Broad and Ranworth, closed to boat traffic, will be immediately apparent

•   For lunch, we recommend you make your way to the Ship Inn at South Walsham, turning left out of the staithe car park and following the lane back to the T-junction before turning left. The pub will be found on the right hand side

•   More than a village local, the Ship has a restaurant feel and serves a varied selection of freshly cooked dishes together with local real ales. For a lower cost option, the café and tearoom at Fairhaven Gardens serves a good range of hot meals and snacks in addition to baguettes and paninis with a good range of vegetarian options

•   Feeling refreshed after lunch, spend a pleasant afternoon exploring Fairhaven Gardens, located just off the road heading back towards Acle (turn right out of the pub car park, and take the first left turning). This is one of the three gardens we recommend around Broadland, each having very different, but equally enchanting characteristics

•   Organic and sustainably tended using traditional gardening and woodland management techniques, there are over 3 miles of wonderful woodland walks, a children’s nature trail, and with the waterways of the Norfolk Broads never far away, superb views across the private Fairhaven Broad. Boat trips run from April to October and why not try the newly refurbished tea room and restaurant for that afternoon tea and cake!

•   A varied programme of events runs throughout the year, from guided walks, to live music and even murder mystery evenings, and Louise and her colleagues are friendly, knowledgeable and always happy to talk about the garden! For more information on the Gardens and events programme, telephone 01603 270449 or see the website at

Useful Norfolk Broads Contacts

Below you will find suggestions for accommodation, activities, attractions, food & drink and shopping.  All useful contacts while visiting the Norfolk Broads.




Food and Drink


Norfolk Broads & Coastal Holidays

Privately owned self catering caravans in Hemsby and Caister on Sea. High standard accommodation on nice sites, they offer an ideal base from which to explore Norfolk Coast and Broads. Available weekly or for short breaks.

Wherrymans Way

You can walk the whole route or explore parts by cycle, train and river bus. Alternatively you can walk one of the ten circular walks enroute. Look out for the unique waymarkers, which include figures, sculpture, information panels and audio points.

Horsey Windpump

Fully restored historic drainage windpump. Only National Trust property in the Norfolk Broads that is open regularly. Striking views across the Norfolk Broads and to the coast. Internationally important estate for wildlife. Premier birdwatching area.

Norfolk Mead Hotel, The

Built in 1740, the Norfolk Mead, formally a merchants house, is set in 8 tranquil riverside acres on the river Bure. Just 7 miles from the city of Norwich and 10 miles from the coast. An ideal location for a weekend or longer break.

Linda H. Matthews Artist

Working artists studio & gallery, in the beautiful northern broads. Paintings & gifts from Lindas work. Also offering structured painting courses and private tuition, for individuals & groups, with an experienced tutor & art materials for sale

Day One Day boat trip Wroxham to Coltishall – £££££
Day Two Walk / Wildlife watching Ranworth & Fairhaven Gardens – ££££
Day Three Walk / Seal watching Horsey Mere and Beach – £/££ - YF
Day Four Guided boat trip / Wildlife watching Hickling Broad & Sutton - ££££
Day Five Canoe trip Wayford Bridge to Neatishead, via Barton Broad – £££ - YF
Day Six Cycle ride and Picnic Clippesby to How Hill – £/£££ - YF
Day Seven Day boat trip Ludham Bridge to Neatishead via How Hill – £££££
Day Eight Walk / Wildlife watching Salhouse & Cockshoot Broads – ££
Day Nine Canoe trip Martham to Horsey – £££
Day Ten Learn to Sail from Hunter’s Yard at Ludham - £££££
Day Eleven Walk / Boat trip Barton & Alderfen Broads – £/££ - YF
Day Twelve Cycle ride Discover the Norfolk Broads in a Day - £/££
YF - Young Family option available

A cost guide is included for each day out, ranging from lower cost (£: free or up to £15) to higher cost (£££££: £80 up to £100). These costs are based on a family of 4
undertaking all the activities suggested and are accurate as at the date of publication.

"the Norfolk Broads consist
of over 120 miles of
lock-free navigable
waterways, the
largest such area
in Britain"

Wildlife Fact File
Papilio machaon britannicus

Perhaps the most elegant of British butterflies, they are completely dependant on the survival of one plant, milk parsley. A relic of the last ice age, surviving only on isolated ice-free pockets of Broadland as conditions deteriorated after a warm period. They can be seen in late May, June and July at Ranworth.

"Left unmanaged,
the Norfolk Broads would
revert to oak
woodland over a
period of around
25 years"

1. St. Helen’s church at Ranworth is open every day, and the tearoom is open from 10.30am to 4.30pm Mondays to Fridays; from 2pm to 5pm at weekends, and is only open at weekends from November to March.
2. The boardwalk at Ranworth is open all year and is suitable for disabled access, while the Visitor Centre opens April to October from 10am to 5pm. Dogs are not allowed. For more information see the Norfolk Wildlife Trust website
3. The Ship Inn opens at 11am, and serves food from 12 ‘til 2pm Monday to Saturday, and all day on Sunday. It is possible to book a table by telephoning the pub on 01603 270049. For more information see their website at www.theshipsouth
4. There are public lavatories located at Ranworth Broad, and customer toilets at Ranworth church tearooms, the Ship Inn, and Fairhaven Gardens. There are no toilet facilities at Ranworth Broad Visitor Centre.
5. Fairhaven Garden, including the café/tearoom, is open all year (except Christmas Day) from 10am to 5pm (or dusk) and most of the garden is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. Dogs are welcome on a lead.

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Where are the
Norfolk Broads?

Discover the Norfolk Broads - A guide to 12 great days out in the unique environment of the Norfolk Broads compiled by people who live there