UK. Canoe camping on The Broads becomes a reality

Thursday, 14 August 2008
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A vision of paddling your own canoe into a Broads sunset and camping overnight in the great outdoors has finally become reality.

Two members of the Broads Canoe Hire Network Association have launched camping canoe trails this season and the seven other centres are set to go live next year.

Tony Urwin, of Bank Dayboats at Wayford Bridge, chairman of the network, said there had been a huge demand for canoe camping. Since they tested the water this year 16 parties had taken canoes for two or three day expeditions. One party towed two canoes behind filled with rations while others headed for accommodation near riverside pubs, and another had embarked on a 50km charity paddle from Wayford Bridge to Hickling.

A vision of paddling your own canoe into a Broads sunset and camping overnight in the great outdoors has finally become reality.

Two members of the Broads Canoe Hire Network Association have launched camping canoe trails this season and the seven other centres are set to go live next year.

Tony Urwin, of Bank Dayboats at Wayford Bridge, chairman of the network, said there had been a huge demand for canoe camping. Since they tested the water this year 16 parties had taken canoes for two or three day expeditions. One party towed two canoes behind filled with rations while others headed for accommodation near riverside pubs, and another had embarked on a 50km charity paddle from Wayford Bridge to Hickling.

Canoeists can head for existing camp sites such as at Oby and Clippesby Hall, or camp rough at beautiful Salhouse Broad or on river banks where the permission of the landowners has already been sought. For a one way expedition the hirer will collect the canoe for a small extra fee.

Canoeing on the Broads has proved "a massive success" with 250,000 people paddling the quiet waters of the Broads since the network began six years ago in canoes part funded by the Broads Authority's Sustainable Development Fund, LEADER + and Community Chest.

"Canoeing is such a wonderful way to enjoy the tranquility and wildness of the Broads and get close to the wildlife," said Tony. "The canoe trails offer a real chance to get back to nature. It's a great way to reach the quiet, hidden parts other boats can't reach."

"In a canoe you will hear an otter before you even see it. Then you can sit quietly and wait to see it. In a big boat you wouldn't hear it and you'd miss it. People come back much happier in a canoe than in a day boat  because they are all active and they can get closer to the wildlife. They just love it."

Bank Dayboats also offers evening guided trips -a great way to unwind after a day in the office- every evening except Sunday. The trips have proved popular not just with individuals but professional clubs and organisations such as Rotary and Round Table.

"Canoeing is a quick way to unwind after work," says Tony. "It's magic. Within five minutes you are in a different world."

The 2-3 hour expeditions either head up to the clear waters of the North Walsham and Dilham canal where bigger boats can't go or down to Barton Broad. They are accompanied by a qualified instructor who will point out the wildlife. Canoeists may see otters, kingfishers, marsh harriers, owls and may hear, and even see, a bittern.

"My customers have seen bitterns, but I only ever hear them," said Tony ruefully, a converted power boat racing driver. "Canoeing is my favourite pastime now. I take the camera and just go as often as I can."

The canoe hire network, the brainchild of the Broads Authority, started with six centres throughout the northern and southern rivers and has grown to nine this year. Two new outlets, Whispering Reeds at Hickling and Martham Boats has extended the opportunity to canoe on the beautiful and wild Upper Thurne.

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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