I don’t think I have ever hidden the fact I love living in Norfolk. I love the quiet rural lifestyle and how lucky we are to have a stunning coastline, plenty of castles and attractions and the Norfolk Broads all on my doorstep.
We have spent a lot of time on the Broads over the years and I can’t think of a time since we’ve had L that we haven’t got a boat out in one form or another.
A couple of weekends ago we were lucky enough to be hosted by Herbert Woods on the fabulous Silver Light 1 for a long weekend of relaxation on the Broads. Boating on the Broads is a perfect family holiday and you can fit a lot into a long weekend.
For me personally I love being out on the water as it seems to be the only place I ever truly relax. The mobile signal on the Norfolk Broads is patchy, but not so bad I panic. I can get any work I need to do urgently done but I’m just disconnected enough that I relax. Plus, when you are out on the water everything slows down, you just have to go with it and I love that.
So why does boating make such a good family break?
Everybody can take turns being in charge of the boat, with a little help even the youngest family members can be captain for a bit. When you are four years old there isn’t much in life that is more exciting.
When you are onboard and travelling, or not, you all get to spend time together. Other when you are asleep you’re all in the same space, whether you are driving, cooking or just relaxing with a book, you are together.
If you fancy a meal out or just want to stop for a drink there are tons of family friendly pubs and cafes on the water’s edge.
There is a lot that can be done on the Broads without the need of a car. We stopped at How Hill to explore, twice actually, which I hadn’t visited since was a child and visited on a school residential trip. We could have easily moored up and walked to BeWilderwood, though on this break we choose not to. Ranworth has a great boardwalk through the nature reserve to the floating wildlife centre.
You can even book a Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) or Kayak Adventure with Herbert Woods. We opted not to as L is a bit too lively for that but it’s something I’d love to go and do with husbs one day and if you had older children it would be amazing. I personally like the sound of the Paddle and Sunset SUP experience. Three hours with a tutor paddling through the broads and watching the sunset, even stopping for a beverage. Perfect.
Our 3 Night Itinerary
Day 1 – Potter Heigham to Ranworth
Picked up boat from Herbert Woods at Potter Heigham at 2pm. Get loaded onto the boat and have a trial run. My tip is to spend as long as you need getting to grips with the boat. This was our second boating holiday with Herbert Woods, but with a three-year break we needed to cover things again. You need to be happy with the boat, it’s stressful if you’re not and the staff are great, so make the most of them.
We travelled from Potter Heigham to Ranworth where we stopped for the night. Ranworth has free moorings and electric hook-ups, the store at Ranworth closes at 5ish, note the ish, buy your electric card from Herbert Woods before you leave, we didn’t and were the shop was closed by the time we arrived. Whilst a power hook up isn’t necessary it does make life easier. A £1 card will easily see you through the evening, night and next morning and you’ll probably be leaving credit for the next person. It also saves your fuel.
We had dinner at the Maltsters and used our Herbert Woods Privilege card to get a free dessert, mmmm.
Day 2 – Ranworth to Sutton Staithe.
In the morning we took a leisurely stroll through Ranworth and explored the beautiful Nature Reserve. We popped into the shop as L needed new batteries for his camera, there were lots of things to ‘picture’. We also grabbed an electric card for Sutton Staithe as though there are electric points there, no where sells the cards.
Then we headed off, a slow meandering day along the River Ant. The sun made an appearance and we slid the roof back, L and I watching the wildlife and seeing how many windmills we could see.
We moored at How Hill for lunch. There are loads of free moorings and it is well worth a stop. We visited the tiny little Toad Cottage museum which L adored, then headed up the hill to explore the gardens. There are lovely gardens round the house itself and also a woodland walk and secret water garden that are all free to look around, though a donation is appreciated. There is also a Nature Reserve you can pay to look around but after all the walking we had already done L was eager to get back on the boat, it was his favourite place to be, he did manage to stop for an ice cream though.
Then we headed onto Sutton Staithe. You get to go past some wonderful properties and see soe lovely sites on the way. The Staithe itself has two areas of free moorings, the first set doesn’t have electric but the second does. There isn’t much mooring there and it is certainly tighter than Ranworth but we managed just fine, especially as a friendly chap helped us moor up. It’s worth noting that wherever you go there is a seemingly endless supply of friendly people who are happy to help.
Day 3 – Sutton Staithe to Womack Staithe
Our third day started with a delicious cooked breakfast at the pub in Sutton. It’s right next to the moorings and whilst a little odd inside and very quiet of a morning we had a great breakfast for £15.00, they kindly didn’t charge us for L who only had a bowl of coco pops.
Well fed and ready to go we headed off. It really is so nice being out on the water, everything is slow and relaxing. There’s a lot to see and I just can’t think of a better way to spend my time.
We stopped at How Hill again for another walk and had an epic game of hide and seek in the gardens, it was a lot of fun! Another ice cream had to be purchased and we planned on heading to Ludham Bridge for lunch but alarm bells started ringing, literally, our engine was overheating! Obviously we panicked but a quick call to Herbert Woods had us in touch with an engineer in minutes and he was at How Hill to meet us in around 20 minutes. He was fabulous.
Obviously we worried that it was something we did, should we have noticed something, had we forgotten some vital step. But he put our minds at rest and explained that some the ares we had been in had recently been dredged and there was a lot of silt about which had got places it shouldn’t have done and stopped water getting to the engine to cool it. He was just happy we had managed to limp back to How Hill and moor so he could actually reach us! I made us lunch and after an hour or so we were back up and running.
From a review point of view I was pleased something had gone wrong, weird I know, but I can now, hand on my heart say that if you do get into trouble you will be treated brilliantly. They’ll look after you, make sure you are safe and ultimately they will fix the problem. All whilst putting your mind at rest.
So with a boat that was up and running and lunch eaten we didn’t stop at Ludham Bridge, instead we stopped, as we always do, at possibly my favourite spot on the Broads. St Benet’s Abbey . I don’t know what it is about his place but it is magical, only a short walk, not a long stop at all but perfect nonetheless.
We then headed to Womack Staithe, whilst there are free moorings along the Staithe we headed right to the end and moored up. It’s £3 for the night there and no electric but there is a very well stocked shop and you can enjoy some lovely walks there as well, though L was just happy to run in circles round a bench and feed the ducks.
We choose Womack as it was close to Herbert Woods and meant we would easily get the boat back for 9am but without actually staying in the Boatyard. It made the break feel longer.
Day 4 – Womack Staithe to Potter Heigham.
We woke and after some tears and a lot of persuading we managed to get L dressed. He was devastated his holiday had come to an end. He asked if we could stay on the boat forever. When I explained that wasn’t possible he asked if we could put the boat on the car and take it home. Again I had to explain that wouldn’t work, mainly as the car would fit inside the boat. We settled on a deal that we would have another boat holiday at some point or at least hire a picnic boat for the day.
We packed and headed back to the boatyard. As we were unloading the boat the guys were busy calculating how much fuel we had used, about £32, and checking the boat back in. Then it was time to go.
A quick stop at McD’s for breakfast and we home by 11am and husb went to work for the afternoon, if you’re in Norfolk that for me is another massive plus to the holiday. Home in under an hour. Lush.
Why Herbert Woods?
They are the right side of the Potter Heigham bridge to allow you to really explore the broads, you are limited if you hire from Martham or that area to where you can get to, as with the big boats, unless the tide is really low, even the bridge pilots won’t get you through.
I have their quality, cleanliness and the helpfulness of the staff to better than from other companies we have used.
The little touches are second to none. L gets a kids pack with pencils and a sharpener and an activity book to complete, there’s a list of the Herbert Woods boats to spot, nature tasks and even a captain’s log to complete. He even gets a certificate afterwards.
As adults you will get a little key chain torch, perfect if you’ve forgotten one and a pen so you can help complete the kids book. Plus a brilliant map of the broads, something we have used so much and I was really glad to get a new one.
There is also a discount card and booklet for places all over the Broads that is valid for the length of your stay. Even little things like Salt and Pepper on board and a first aid kit are so helpful.
It needs mentioning again but the friendliness and professionalism of the staff is superb.
Electric cards can be bought from Herbert Woods. Buy one for each night of your stay, unless you know full well you will be mooring somewhere without power. Even if you end up doing that you will have only lost £1 and that’s worth it.
Our boat, Silver Light 1, is one of Herbert Woods’ mid range boats and it was more than enough for us. Two double bedrooms, two bathrooms a kitchen, nice sized living space, TVs, Radio, Drinking water and FreeSat.
Prices for a short break (Friday to Monday) start from £512 and for longer breaks £730 (off peak prices).
I would actually recommend an off peak break if you can make it work, sure the evenings were chilly, but we had packed blankets and a hot water bottle so that was fine. Plus it’s easier to warm up than cool down and I reckon those boats could get hot. Mainly, though, the water and the moorings were quieter which if you are a bit unsure is a very good thing.
Things I’m really glad I bought were fluffy socks and slippers, just made it nicer than wearing shoes all the time. Blankets were handy for curling up watching TV in the evening. Plenty of food, drinks and snacks. L went through a ridiculous amount of fruit because we were on the boat a lot.
Things I wish I had packed were more tonic water, I underestimated my gin drinking capabilities, hot chocolate would have been nice as would a chocolate bar or something treaty for the evening. Warmer PJs.
Generally though I think I got it pretty spot on, if you are thinking about boating holiday and would find a packing checklist useful just let me know or check the handy list on the Herbert Woods website.
You can find out more at www.herbertwoods.co.uk or call them on 0800 144 4472.
Disclosure – Herbert Woods kindly hosted us on this break. We paid for the fuel and insurance costs only. All day trips, meals out and other places mentioned were at our own expense. All opinions are my own honest opinions and I highly recommend a holiday with Herbert Woods.