Big skies, mystical marshes, winding waterways, and a ton of wildlife: the wondrous, expansive landscapes of Norfolk and Suffolk are a joy – and a challenge
There are a handful of Slow Ways routes that cross the Broads that still need to be walked and reviewed. These include routes from Loddon, Bungay, Acle, Beccles and Great Yarmouth. Interested in ticking these off this summer? Great!
Before you set off, it’s a good idea to prepare! Having recently returned from an excursion to Norfolk, I’ve compiled a short list of tips for walking on the Broads. From using insect repellent to checking bus times, here are some things that I didn’t do, but wish I had (as readers of this confessional article won’t be surprised to hear!).
Use insect repellent
There are so many strange and beautiful insects on the Broads and many of these insects like to bite people. On my walk I got bitten so many times and in so many places. I got bitten on my face and on my arms. At one point, every time I looked down there was an insect biting into my skin. It got quite tiring flicking them off and freaking out every now and again at the thought that I might contract Lyme disease from a stray tick bite. Not fun! Use insect repellent!
Wear a hat and use sunscreen
This one’s quite obvious, but something I often forget to do. Much of the Broads are unshaded so it’s useful to wear sunscreen and a hat. Wearing a hat will also keep insects from getting into your hair. There were times I felt my scalp crawl – yeesh.
Check bus times
One of the great joys of Slow Ways is not walking in circles. But in remote places you do need to research how you’ll get back from your end point. Many of the Broads routes end in places that aren’t very well served by public transport, so be prepared! Check bus times and train times. It’s also worth jotting down the phone numbers of a few local taxi companies just in case you end up stranded.
Wear sturdy boots (or use a walking pole)
Wear sturdy boots with ankle support. The ground is uneven, and on many stretches there are big holes and cracks in the earth. It’s important to pay attention and look where you’re walking so you don’t trip over and pull a muscle or worse, sprain an ankle. It might also be worth using a walking pole to take the pressure off your knees and ankles. Ironically, after going on countless walks over the hilly South Downs for the last few months, the idea of walking on flat ground appealed to me. More fool me.
Prepare for road walking (and stay alert!)
Call me crazy but I’ve never felt that comfortable walking on roads, from spacial awareness problems to getting easily distracted, for me personally, roads are not the best places to walk. Fortunately, most of the country roads I walked on were very quiet (apart from the odd boy racer/ wayward truck driver).
It’s best to stay alert when walking on roads, don’t listen to music and try to pass through quickly. It’s also worth wearing bright colours – fluorescent yellow/green is the most visible in the daytime, and fluorescent orange/red at dusk, but any bright colour is better than nothing. Walk on the side of the road, on the side of oncoming traffic (the right in the UK) to give yourself the best chance of seeing vehicles coming at you. They have the best chance of seeing you too, and you can wave your arms about and make eye contact, and if all else fails leap into the hedge.
I passed by a lot of roadkill (squashed pheasants, hares, pigeons and even a strange monster-like creature) that acted as reminders of the danger of road walking, and kept my mind on the task.
Enjoy it! Enjoy the views, the big skies and magical wetlands, the rivers, boats, windmills, hidden joys, and the quietude. I spent so much of my long walk through the Broads worrying about reaching my destination that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have if I’d just let go a little. And there is SO much to enjoy – the routes through the Broads are wildlife rich, remote, and rather special. I’m definately looking forward to returning and further exploring these wild and watery landscapes (preferrably having doused myself with insect repellent.)