Last weekend we decided to go messing about on the water.
The Norfolk Broads are some of the most beautiful waterways in the country and I’ve always wanted to hire a boat and take Arthur out and about. So when Herbert Woods gave us the opportunity to come along and review one of their picnic boats – I said a very quick and excited Yes!
I wasn’t holding out much hope for the weather so when the sun peeked enticingly out from the clouds on Saturday morning it was the icing on the cake.
We arrived about 9.30am and after a quick tour of the boat and a rundown of dos and don’t from the lovely staff we set sail – well, actually we started the engine but you get the point. Jonathan had already assigned himself as captain so my friend and I happily let him take the helm while we organised the boat and four children.
It was genuinely one of the loveliest days I’ve had in a long time. The boat had everything we needed, including a small fridge, gas hob, hot and cold running water – even cutlery, plates and glasses. There was something rather enjoyable about boiling the old-fashioned whistling kettle while bobbing along the broads – a little home from home.
The boat is designed to take 10 people but I found three adults and four very active children was plenty. The children had a fantastic time, the sun dancing on the water, the windmills they’d only really seen from the roads and the sailing boats passing swiftly and silently by which, in our imagination, we turned into pirate ships.
There are so many wonderful places to stop and we chose first to stop at Thurne, a little village which took just under an hour to get to. We had a wander around and the children found a playgroud to run off some steam. They bought postcards in the village shop and we wandered back to our boat. The relaxed sense of freedom and discovery was just perfect.
I loved watching the riverside cabins and houses and deciding which one I’d like to stay in – you really do get a difference perspective on the water and it was a chance to take in sights I’d never seen, or only seen from afar. There were a few boats out and about but with a five-mile-an-our speed limit, it never felt frantic or rushed.
Next we headed to Ranworth Broad where we stopped for a picnic and had another lovely walk. The children played in the grass, collected sticks and basically reverted back to the kind of childhood moments straight from the pages of Swallows and Amazons. It was busy on the Broad and we spent a long time just watching the boats and enjoying the atmosphere. I went to the local shop to buy some drinks and found out the new princess had been born – it was all happening that day!
On board Arthur and his buddy Leo loved sitting with Jonathan and helping him drive while the girls where happy to draw and play and watch the watery world from the windows. They also loved taking it in turns to sit on the back of the boat where the sun was warm and we could get close to the water. There was also endless fun waving at passing boats and everyone waved back too – now you wouldn’t get that in a car!
We didn’t need it but the boat also had heating and the windows opened fully and closed easily if you felt the chill.
We headed up to Horning where it was very busy as there was a boat show on, we trundled along taking in the atmosphere then turned around to see what else we could discover. Our last stop was Benet Abbey ruins which I’d never even heard of before. More adventures and discoveries as the children all ran around, climbing hills and discovering new places to hide. We even came across a hen party hauled up in part of the old ruins – The Norfolk Broads really do appeal to everyone!
We got back just before 5 (you get the boat 9-5) and after a quick check by staff we were back at the car. Herbert Woods also give you parking permits for the carpark which is literally next door to the boats. It really was a glorious day, relaxing, interesting, exciting and something I’d do again in a heartbeat. The children loved the adventure and, while it’s not cheap, I would whole-heartedly recommend this for a special family day out.