River Trip to Coltshall
A dog, a boat, a cooler full of drinks and two girls, what more do you need for a day spent exploring the more upper reaches of the River Bure on the Norfolk Broads in Norfolk. The rivers, creeks and broads harbour a myriad of flora and fauna that can best be seen from the quiet confines of a small boat drifting along the edges of the reeds and trees - at least we were quiet, would have liked to said the same thing of the very excited dog!
Growing up on the rivers and broads, I am familiar with the main river passages, however the trip from Wroxham to Coltishall I have only done once in my living memory. So during a lovely bright late summers day and with the company of a good friend, I decided to leap in my small dinghy and and motor up river towards Coltishall and see just how far we could get, ably assisted of course by my four-legged 'ships mate'.
Wroxham is a tourist hot spot, very built up and busy so when we headed north up the River Bure we only had to go about 200 yards beyond Wroxham bridge to be quietly immersed in wildlife and the pure beauty that you can only experience when you’re on the Norfolk Broads...
...somewhat akin to being in the Everglades - minus the extreme heat and humidity! I know that sounds ridiculous but as the river narrows, the tall overhanging trees with thick roots emerging gracefully out of the water remind me of mangroves, creating a semi-submerged kingdom for water creatures, mammals and fish alike.
If you’re really lucky you can watch and laugh at the cheeky otter hunting among the root tunnels or spot the telltale signs of a pike lying in wait for its prey.
The bird song is constant and beautiful, made even more so when you see a flash of blue streak into your vision before its gone. If your quick enough to see it then you're a ninja, but more often than not the little blue creature will perch with a fish in its beak on a delicate branch hanging over the water, this star of the broads is a Kingfisher. Once a rarity along the rivers, more and more have been spotted each year. The herons too, are now a common sight along the river and completely dismissive to your presence.
Fifty years ago the water was crystal clear, then the tourist industry started to grow rapidly on the broads, with more boats both private and hire combining with more intensive farming, contaminants washed into the waterways, which I suppose led to the water losing quality and in turn, wildlife declining. Now thanks to the efforts of conservationists and supporters of the broads, the waterways are becoming clear again with fragile plants such as lilies beginning to grow and take over and the return of iconic wildlife such as the otter, the elusive bittern and the kingfishers.
As we glided along the River Bure, the light shimmered across the surface, guiding us through the trees that entwined overhead. Not only did we travel along the main river but also poked our noses into some of the little waterways that branch off and meet up later along the river.
Our first stop was Belaugh, a small but very pretty village that nestles right alongside the river in the Bure Valley. After a short break for the dog to stretch her legs and by the way, the Belaugh Church is definitely worth a visit, we meandered on through the countryside and eventually Coltishall hove into view.
This is a beautiful village with a little marina surrounded by lovely waterside properties which gaze across the river to where Highland cattle graze the waterside meadows and cool their legs in the river - their large very sharp horns shout out for a cautious approach however!
We were very glad to finds several pubs in the village, including the The Rising Star and The Kings Head, which sit on the edge of the village green. This picture perfect village is not only one of the most sought after locations in Broadland to live in but it also boasts a gorgeous selection of holiday and rental homes for that perfect get away.
Most of the larger hire boats cannot go any further than the moorings on the village green, but as we were in a small boat we continued up the river past The Norfolk Mead Hotel to the weir where the navigable river ends. It used to be that the trading wherries could navigate as far as Aylsham but this is no longer possible, but perhaps a canoe might make it through - that might be my next adventure this summer!
To return to this one, Dayboats can moor up at the weir so we did and followed a well trod path through the marshes to the village where we found some lovely shops selling everything from local produce to antiques.
All in all, our trip took us around two and a half hours to arrive in Coltishall. We had a lovely lazy lunch sitting outside the pub people watching and then we got to do the whole thing in reverse which took slightly less time but was just as enjoyable.
I can thoroughly recommend this trip to anyone who fancies a day out on a quiet river spotting the wildlife, with a lovely lunch and a glass of wine or two as their end reward!
I am very pleased to report that we got home in fine shape and no ducks begging for bread lost their lives during our trip, although the dog got her teeth close to them on occasion!