Photograph by Chris Herring, Photolibrary
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Ice covers Herringfleet Windmill, a 19th-century smock mill restored to working order.

Photograph by Chris Herring, Photolibrary

The Broads, England

Name: The Broads
Location: England
Date Established: 1989
Size: 117 square miles (303 square kilometers)

Did You Know?

Largest Wetland The Broads includes Great Britain’s largest protected wetland and a sprawling inland waterway where six free-flowing rivers wander 125 miles (200 kilometers) through a landscape soaked with lakes, fens, and marshes. The fens—boggy peatland rich with reeds and rushes—are home to more than 250 plant species, including the rare fen orchid. The Broads’ grazing marshes are home to waterfowls and wading birds, while the Breydon Water estuary is a popular stop for important flocks of migratory birds.

Man-Made The Broads’ landscape is actually man-made in large part as a byproduct of some two centuries of excavation. In the 12th century, with most of east Norfolk’s woodlands cut, area inhabitants began to dig enormous pits and extract peat as a primary fuel source. The diggings slowly filled with water and eventually became an enormous wetland.

Boating for Beginners The wide shallow waterways of the Broads are ideal for boaters from sailors to canoeists. The park is a particularly fine place for beginners to learn in a safe yet scenic environment. Guided tour boat trips are also available, and visitors can sail on one of the legendary Norfolk wherries, which once made commerce move in the region.

Medieval Sanctuaries More than 150 medieval churches still stand in the Broads. Because of a local absence of suitable building stones, many of these striking sanctuaries were constructed of flint.

Broad Nature Mammals in the Broads include mice and water shrews as well as larger animals such as otters. Many plants growing here, like stoneworts, are unique to the Broads; others are invasive species, like Himalayan balsam, which threaten to tip the local ecosystem off balance.

How to Get There

Trains and buses service the historic and nearby city of Norwich, under two hours from London, as well as many smaller stations within the Broads proper. Norwich also boasts an international airport with global connections through Manchester, Amsterdam, and Paris.

When to Visit

There is always something going on in the Broads, so be sure to check out the park’s Calendar of Events. Wildlife watchers will find more variety and activity in the spring and summer months but plenty of animals call the Broads home year-round.

How to Visit

The charming Broads landscape includes villages, extensive bike trails, and some 190 miles (300 kilometers) of footpaths. But water is at the heart of this park. Whether by kayak, guided tour, or wherries, be sure to experience the Broads by boat.