Sitting at about 15 miles North East of Norwich, Stalham is a market town within the Northern part of the Norfolk Broads. The name is said to mean "settlement by the river" and it is located on the River Ant, set amongst dykes, windmills, and reed beds. It is one of the best starting points for a Norfolk Broads holiday trip as it provides easy access to the Broads and is home to one of the biggest boatyards on the Broads. The area is also popular with holiday makers visiting for the day as day boats can be hired for a casual meander along the River Ant or a days fishing and it is very close to the coast and local beaches. The town is only four miles from the nearest sandy beach and the River Ant flows downstream towards Ludham Bridge, Barton Broad and How Hill through some of the Broads impressive nature reserves.
It has a small population of around two to three thousand people and covers less than three square miles. During the middle ages, the town was a well-known centre for basket weaving and it supplied much of the fishing fleets of Great Yarmouth with Herring baskets and other equipment. It was also a booming agricultural centre at one point, before the mechanisation of agricultural produce. The fishing and agricultural goods were dispatched from Stalham staithe riverside wharf where Richardsons boatyard is now located. The Staithe is now the point from where leisure boats are launched and it provides an easy access point to the waterways of the Norfolk Broads for pleasure sailors. Given its proximity to the Norfolk Broads, Stalham town is mainly now used as a base for tourists and holidaymakers; with people heading to the waters for live aboard leisure boating in the summer, and for Pike fishing during the winter.
As a base to explore the Broads this is the ideal area to launch your Broads adventure, as there are two main boatyards within the town. The boatyards provide boats for day hire and live aboard rental but also repair and moor privately owned boats on long-term moorings and offer dry dock storage over the winter season. The two main boatyards located on Stalham Staithe are Richardsons and Moonfleet Marine.
Richardsons Boat Holidays Marina is a family run business located on Stalham Staithe, that was started during World War 2 and it used to be based in Oulton Broad. As the business grew during the fifties, the family relocated to Stalham Staithe and it has since become one of the biggest boatyards operating on the Norfolk Broads. They currently have around three hundred various hire boats and broads cruisers available for rental. This provides visitors with ample choice of self-driven boats to choose from for their live aboard broads cruiser holidays. All of the boatyards provide you with safety equipment, training and all the information you will need for hiring a boat when you arrive to start your boating experience. Richardsons Boatyard give all customers a training session and accompanied test drive on the craft before you set off on your own, so don't worry if you haven't sailed before. They will provide the most suitable boat for your experience and can provide the best advice on river routes for the particular requirements of your personal boating holiday.
Moonfleet Marine are also located on the Staithe near the Museum of the Broads, Moonfleet are part of the Richardsons Holiday Group. They mainly concentrate on providing boat building and repair services as well as running an impressive day boat fleet of either electric or diesel powered craft that comfortably fit upto 6 persons. Moonfleet also rent Broads based cottages and house boats for holidays, supply private moorings and offer a boat selling brokerage service.
For visitors who wish to explore the whole town, some circular walks pass through most of the main parts of town and the boatyards. There are free moorings for pleasure craft on the Staithe and fresh water top-up and pump-out facilities at the boatyards (subject to boatyard fees). The town used to boast a weekly market (that has been in the area for over a hundred years) but this has unfortunately now closed. The Town Hall hosts a twice a month farmers market that is held on alternative Saturdays (1st and 3rd Saturday - correct during 2016). Visitors can also browse the typical High Street shops and cafes, there is a Tesco Superstore (which is useful to stock up on supplies for boaters) and a petrol station as well as a number of other facilities. The Tesco superstore was opened in 2002 to the dismay of local traders fearing for their livelihood, but it is now a very popular spot for tourists to stock up for their boating holiday and for this reason, it can get very busy during peak season.
A number of nearby farms and nurseries sell fresh farm produce and some allow visitors to "pick your own" fruit and berries during the summer months. There is also a 15th century church, St. Mary, which is popular amongst tourists as a quiet and peaceful spot and is well known for the ornate font displayed as you enter the church. The church is located in its own grounds and it has some beautiful stained glass windows as well as the Victorian entrance archway and the ornately carved panelled stone font.
Opposite the church is the Maids Head Inn, a medieval Inn that was used during the construction of the church to house the builders of the church (now closed as an Inn but re-opened trading as an Antiques Shop). The Old Fire Station has recently been restored; having been built in 1833, it is a grade II listed building and is said to be the one of the oldest fire stations in England. The firehouse now has a small museum, which is open during summer months with a good collection of historical fire brigade memorabilia, included in this collection is an original horse drawn pump engine.
Harnser Stalham - located just a short walk from Stalham Staithe the Harnser is on The Green and serves an excellent selection of food. Popular with locals, pleasure boaters and land based visitors this pub is a must if you are mooring nearby overnight.
Sutton Staithe Hotel - on Sutton Staithe overlooking the water this hotel and restaurant has nearby free moorings and welcomes all visitors. Booking for a meal is advisable during busy periods but the great selection and quality is worth it, also try the ample portions of the Sunday Roast here. As well as the restaurant the Sutton Staithe Hotel has fourteen en-suite rooms available if you are not staying on a boat overnight, including large family size rooms.
The Swan Inn - this pub is located on the main High Street in Stalham which is just a few minutes walk from Stalham Staithe and the boatyards. Well known for an excellent menu and a friendly welcome for all, offering an outdoor walled garden area for dining in the summer and a dedicated Coffee bar area for lunchtime Coffees, Teas and snacks which transforms into an intimate Wine Bar in the evening.
The Grebe Pub - situated near The Swan along the High Street on the corner of Bank Street this pub is popular with the locals and always has a good selection of real ales available. The Grebe hosts live bands and other music bookings most weekends and most football matches and sports fixtures are shown here when playing.
Wayford Bridge Inn - located to the West this pub is a little too far to walk to from Stalham and maybe better suited whilst visiting or mooring at Wayford Bridge. The pub has fifteen rooms available with bed and breakfast on offer as well as serving reasonably priced meals with views over the River Ant, as well as having a pleasant patio area and gardens.
Stalham Cafes - on the High Street there are a couple of Cafes to choose from and Richardsons boatyard has a burger van located in the car park area serving food and drinks during the peak season on busy mornings.
Stalham is also home to the Museum of the Broads, which is an excellent starting point to find out the history of the waterways for any Broad's holiday. Located just along Staithe Road past Richardsons the museum sits right on the bank of the river and occupies various buildings and boat sheds. It is open from late March until the end of October every year, hosting regular events, open days and special exhibitions. The Museum also provides visitors with an opportunity to go for a leisure trip aboard a small steam launch, the Falcon. There is a small museum shop that sells souvenirs, books and information about the Broads, and refreshments.
This museum focuses specifically on the history of the impact that human behaviour has had on the local environment and the Norfolk wildlife. The exhibitions detail how the Norfolk Broads became one of the most unique landscapes in England. They show curations demonstrating how the Broads were developed through the medieval practice of digging peat bogs for fuel. This left many large holes and bogs in the landscape that quickly filled with water, this is what we see these today as the shallow lakes of the Broads, along with the linked rivers that wind their way through the landscape. They were originally used as river ways for trading but they have since become a haven for wildlife and for recreational sailing.
The museum is made up of different buildings; each with unique themes and an outside yard for larger exhibits and it provides visitors with details of how the Broads have been used over the years. Part of the museum is based in a large shed that was once a base for storing timber, farm produce, and coal before it was transported throughout the Broads. The goods were transported on wherry boats, an old type of transport boat that were designed specifically for the Broads, and the museum has a replica wherry in full size on display. Visitors can also see full size replicas of a boat master's living and sleeping quarters and there is also an exhibition on the lifestyle of the traditional marshman. These were farmers who worked amongst the marshes collecting marsh debris for animal bedding, harvested sedge, and reeds for thatching, and gathered hay to use as cattle and horse feed. The building also has windmill displays and working boats such as punts for visitors to look at.
In the discovery section of the museum, there is a great video explaining the origins of the Broads and it includes the history and traditions of the area. There are some fun activities for children including quiz sheets, painting, and some knot tying exercises. There is also a good sample of tapestries from the area as well as locally painted pictures and art.
In the presentation area of the museum, there is a 20lb stuffed Pike on display in a cabinet that was caught in 1955. According to legend, this fish was caught by a boy aged only 6 years old on the Broads in 1955. This area has another section of activities for children including a practice boat steering wheel for children to learn the difference between port and starboard.
The boat shed building shows examples of how the waterways became a crucial part of life for many people within the Broadlands. There are many boats on display including full size restored boats, scale replicas, a section on boat engines, and various examples of model boats. The outside yard and the large Boat Building has larger boats on display including a weed cutter boat, a Broads sailing cruiser, a provision boat run by Curtis stores, and a Broads racing yacht.
Sutton is located to the South of Stalham and at the end of Sutton Broad. If you are travelling North to Stalham by boat Sutton Broad is a right fork before you enter Stalham Dyke. The quiet village of Sutton is on the other soide of the A149 to the Staithe and consists of some beautiful cottages and a quaint village green with a pond. The area is home to the tallest Corn Mill that is still standing within the United Kingdom, nine storeys high, dating from 1789 with an unfortunate past consisting of a fire and no less than two lightening strikes during its history.
The Broad winds through a wooded area that is an RSPB reserve to reach Sutton Staithe at the Eastern end where there is public mooring available as well as electricity points, fresh water and boat pump-out facilities at Sutton Staithe Boatyard (boatyard charges apply). The Sutton Staithe Hotel is an excellent choice for food and booking is recommended, with moorings right in front of the hotel and an excellent choice of local beers. If you are visiting the area by car rather than boat the hotel has fourteen rooms available for overnight guests at very reasonable prices.
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