A stroll around Whitlingham Broad

By James Emerson 'Champion of Norfolk on a budget'

Lake Windermere, Rutland Water, Whitlingham Broad, the three great watery playgrounds of England. Whitlingham what I hear you cry??! This hidden Norfolk gem is located just south of the fine city of Norwich. Originally gravel pits, it was transformed into a country park in the early 90's. During the 'naturefication'(sorry!!) of the site ancient chalk workings were discovered, along with evidence of Palaeolithic and Neolithic flint knapping.

Amazingly, the park is only 2 miles away from the city centre. Thus it is possible, as I did, to walk directly to the site, however, an easier option is to drive over the bridge into Trowse and take a left onto Whitlingham lane. There is free street parking just before you reach the park entrance, however, the upkeep of the area relies on income from the car park so follow your conscience! Charges are £1.20 per hour,£6 all day.

One of the first things you'll notice are the remains of Trowse Newton Hall. An intact archway beckons you into the area where the ground old hall, visited regularly by Edward III and destroyed in the Norwich food riots in 1766, once stood. From here you enter the path that takes you around the Great Broad itself.

Immediately you are hit with both the scale of birdlife on show and,if that's not your thing, fantastic views over to the city. On my visit I found various species of Wagtail, Duck, Goose and Tits along with Great Crested Grebes, Swans, Heron, Egret and, the strangest of spectacles, hundreds of Cormorants(usually found by the sea of course) roosting on an island in the middle of the lake!! From the bank they could've been mistaken for a congregation of brooding Vultures. They're not, but you could always pretend when showing your photographs to(gullible) friends!!

The walk itself is a 45 minute march or 75 minute leisurely stroll. There are also a few additional routes around the Little Broad and in the woodland high above the water. The steep banks in the deciduous woods tell a story, this area was once full of chalk mines & quarries, look closely and you'll find old kilns scattered around(now the home to bats). Nature has long since reclaimed the area, save for the cute boat themed play park, although sometimes the cheep cheep's can get lost amongst the hum of the nearby Southern Bypass, reminding you once again how close you are to an urban environment.

Back onto the main footpath around the Great Broad look out for signs of mammal life, I  found evidence of Hare, Deer, Rabbits and Otters. From time to time, the wildlife gets scared off by one of the many passing trains crossing the railway bridge (scene of Norfolk's deadliest rail disaster when 27 people died in 1874) on the far side of the broad. The track runs parallel to the River Bure on its way to Sheringham, Cromer, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

Nearly back to where we started now and the Watersports Centre appears. Various aqua based activities are offered here, not for me though, not on a cold October afternoon anyway! Finally back to the car park where the visitor centre was, errr, visited and coffee & cake consumed in the cafe

What better way to finish?!