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Upper Thurne

The Upper Thurne is a remarkable wilderness that’s protected from heavy boat traffic by Potter Heigham’s low bridge that has stood guard for hundreds of years.  The Site of Special Scientific Interest is a paradise for wildlife and holds a significant percentage of the UK’s population of common cranes as well as bitterns, marsh harriers, bearded tits and Cetti’s warblers.

Two of the most magical places to visit are Hickling Broad, which is the largest of all the broads, and Horsey Mere which has an iconic windmill at the far end and is a short walk from a sandy beach with a vast colony of seals!

Speak to the bridge pilot at Potter Heigham to see if your cruiser has sufficient clearance to pass under the bridge depending on the tide (see Potter Heigham). If you have insufficient clearance you can hire a day boat or canoe to continue under the bridge. We recommend visiting Horsey Mere first and continuing to Hickling Broad.

Horsey Mere

Managed by the National Trust and Buxton family, Horsey Mere is a broad and estate that is internationally important for its diverse Broadland landscape studded with mills and its coastal habitat with an amazing colony of seals.

Moor at Horsey Staithe next to Horsey Windpump, an iconic grade 11 listed mill, which was acquired by the National Trust in 1948.  They later restored and opened it to the public. While the mill is temporarily closed for maintenance it remains a wonderful sight.

A little National Trust thatched tea room and shop next to the mill is the perfect place to grab a drink, light refreshments or an ice cream.

What makes Horsey Estate really special is its close proximity to the sea. There are a number of circular walks including a path to Brograve Mill, with great views across Horsey Mere, and to the beach at Horsey Gap.

The wild sandy beach is undoubtedly Horsey’s star attraction due its large colony of common and grey seals. During the breeding season in December and January thousands of grey seals haul up on the beach with their adorable little pups. Fortunately, you can usually see seals swimming close to the beach at any time of year. If you are short on time, take the more direct 2.3km path from Horsey Windpump across the grazing marshes to the beach.

Mooring

Horsey Windpump
Mooring fee payable to the bailiff. Boat refuse, toilets and showers available.

Eating 

Horsey shop and tea room
Light refreshments, ice creams and gifts. Located next to Horsey Windpump.

Poppylands
Unique Second World War themed cafe on Waxham Road near Horsey Gap car park. Serves lunches, cream teas and a Sunday carvery.  Has an ‘old fashioned’ shop upstairs. 01493 393393.

Nelson Head
Traditional pub with a beer garden serving fresh local food and a very wide range of ales and ciders.  Located on the Street, Horsey – half way between Horsey Windpump and beach. 01493 393378.

Hickling Broad 

Hickling Broad National Nature Reserve and RAMSAR site is the largest of all the broads and is surrounded by the biggest reed bed in England.  This magical place was recently purchased by Norfolk Wildlife Trust who have an excellent visitor centre.  The broad is home to rare birdlife ranging from marsh harriers to bitterns and cranes as well as Norfolk hawker dragonflies and swallowtail butterflies that only live on the Broads.  Wild ponies, which were introduced from Eastern Europe to feed on invasive scrub, roam the surrounding fen.

While cruising on the broad you may spot Hickling Broad Sailing Club racing.  Do not be tempted to follow the dinghies outside the marked channels as the broad is very shallow and weedy!

The best place to moor is Pleasure Boat Dyke which is available to patrons of the Pleasure Boat Inn. Yaar Brew microbrewery is located next to the pub, where you can try their beers.  At the bottom of the dyke is an artificial sandy beach which is a great spot to sit and admire the view.  Not far from here the Broad’s biggest pike was caught in 2010 – weighing a whopping 42lb 8oz!

Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Visitor Centre is a 30 minute walk from Pleasure Boat Dyke via footpaths. The centre has a network of trails that snake through wonderful fen habitat to bird hides and a viewing area at Stubb Mill.  In summer the Norfolk Wildlife Trust run guided wildlife boat trips to two bird hides and a tree tower with a magnificent panoramic view.

You can also walk along the Weavers Way long distance footpath from Pleasure Boat Dyke to Catfield and then continue along the south side of Hickling Broad and Heigham Sound.

Moorings

Pleasure Boat Dyke
Free overnight mooring if you eat in the Pleasure Boat Inn.

Deep Go Dyke
Remote mooring for 11 boats in Deep Go Dyke close to the entrance to Hickling Broad.

Catfield Staithe
Mooring for just three boats accessed by a narrow dyke leading from a remote south west corner of the broad.

Eating out

The Pleasure Boat Inn
Family friendly pub and restaurant with a waterside beer garden. Serves pub food and real ales. Live music.  01692 598870.