Eight miles from Norwich city centre, we find Wroxham village, on the River Bure sitting opposite the village of Hoveton St. John. These two villages collectively are known most often known as just 'Wroxham', and together they are considered the capital of the Norfolk Broads, as they form a community that is the heart of boating holidays amongst the Broads. As a starting point, the Norfolk Broads Information Centre is opposite Hoveton in Wroxham village right by the bridge and is a great place to get information on all aspects of the Norfolk Broads. The area is considered to be a central part of the Broads because of its location, history, and the many businesses catering to visitors in the area. The two villages are joined by Wroxham Bridge and footbridge, which allows both cars and pedestrians to get to and from each village. There is a local legend that Admiral Lord Nelson, first learnt to sail amongst the Broads and in particular near Wroxham. And it is here in Wroxham that the first Norfolk Broad leisure boating company was started in 1878.
Norfolk Broads Direct - Faircraft Loynes
John Loynes hired his first boat out to holiday makers in 1878 and later many others began to follow in his example all across the Broads. By the late 19th century, the Victorians considered boating on the Broads as a recognised leisure activity and all kinds of boats were made available for visitors. Due to this history, some of the largest boatyards are still based at Wroxham. The original Loynes boatyard is now called Norfolk Board Direct, managing the Faircraft Loynes boats, a modern fleet of cruisers, as well as a range of Norfolk holiday lodges, cottages, and apartments. The Faircraft Loynes fleet consists of modern cruisers, ranging from spacious 2 berth craft upto larger 8 berth 44 foot cruisers equipped with 3 seperate showers.
Barnes Brinkcraft have been supplying hire live aboard boats on the Broads for fifty years and even offer selected waterside lodges and cottages along the river. With a fleet of around one hundred cruiser craft ranging from 25 foot with 2 berth or 2 plus 2 berth size upto large 48 foot length 12 berth cruisers. A luxury range of cruisers is available giving customers more modern boats laid out more spaciously with plush furnishings, bow-thrusters, electric winch anchors, ensuite bathrooms and enhanced power showers with seperate shower cubicles. Barnes Brinkcraft also cater for large groups abd special occassions such as hen parties or stag do's, offering a wealth of advise as to the best routes and moorings for your group broads adventure.
Like a number of other bridges in the Broads, passing through Wroxham Bridge requires care and a study of the current water level. The use of a bridge pilot for safe navigation is made obligatory by many of the boat hire yards (so this must be checked if you wish to pass through Wroxham Bridge). The air draught under the bridge at average high tide water is 7'6” or 2.285m with a level change of around 6” or 0.15m. The passing requires boats to make a turn directly after or before passing (dependant on direction of travel), due to a slight angle in the river as it passes through the bridge. Added to this, due to the low headroom and the arched shape of the bridge, it is one of the most difficult bridges to navigate (just beaten in difficulty level by Potter Heigham Bridge), testing even experienced boats people. At busy times, pilots may be engaged with other craft and so boaters will have to moor up and wait until a pilot becomes available. This can mean that this section of the river can become quite busy and full, requiring extra care and navigational skill to manoeuvre near other boats. With the help of the pilot (if required by your boatyard), a slow speed, and by following the boats Bridge Drill, cruisers can safely pass through this bridge.
From the ideal location right by Wroxham Bridge Broads Tours runs four main large passenger boats taking visitors around the area on short cruises on the River Bure. The large two storey boats carry on average around 80 passengers on trips taking in Wroxham Broad and Salhouse Broad lasting around one to two hours. Each of the craft offer refreshments from a bar onboard and commentary as you cruise the River Bure making the trip educational as well as great fun.
Visitors can hire all kinds of boats for their Broads tour from Wroxham boatyards but even if you start your trip in another part of the Broads it is worth visiting this village as there are many attractions such as Bure Valley steam railway, a large Nature Reserve, Wroxham Broad, Salhouse Broad, Hoveton Hall Estate and Wroxham Barns craft centre. There is also a hotel and restaurant, the Hotel Wroxham, many riverside pubs, shops, Cafe/Restaurants, a fishing shop and even a large department store Roys, claiming to be the world's largest village store.
Roys of Wroxham
Roys stores was founded in 1895 when two brothers, Alfred and Arnold Roy, started their first general store in nearby Coltishall. To meet the needs of the growing number of holidaymakers, the brothers opened a branch in Wroxham specifically for tourists to the Broads. The company headquarters eventually moved to Wroxham in the 1930's and became synonymous with the area. During the 1990's, the shops expanded with new shops opening in North Walsham in 1992, Dereham & Sudbury in 1996, Thetford in 1997, and Magdalen Street, Norwich in 2000. The main shop in Wroxham was destroyed by fire in 1995 but was rebuilt and opened improved in 1996.
The main department store is actually located on the Hoveton side of Wroxham Bridge, as is most of the shops, Cafe's and restaurants. As well as the main store the Roys brand own many other concerns within Hoveton, including a Garden Centre, large Food Hall, Roys Toys and a large DIY store. The company has diversified recently with the acquisition of Broadland Motor Company petrol station in Wroxham in 2011, Beccles shop opening in 2012, and the Highway Garden and Leisure centre being bought in 2013. In 2013, the shop also started to provide online shopping for the first time. It is a great achievement that after more than 120 years. The main shop in Wroxham is still meeting the needs of visitors to the Broads offering household goods, clothing, DIY and gardening goods, toys, electricals, and food.
Pubs and Restaurants
The Hotel Wroxham is an ideal place to eat and relax while enjoying the view across the River Bure (as it is located right on the river bank in Hoveton). There are many Cafe's and Fish and Chip style restaurants located on the Hoveton side of the River as well as the Kings Head Hotel pub owned by the Spirit Pub Company, and serving food every day as well as offering accommodation. Another must try restaurant is The Bridge located on the river Bure bank in Wroxham providing meals all day with a menu to suit most tastes, and with seating right overlooking the water this is the ideal Broads restaurant to use while in the area. Also on the Wroxham side of the Bure is The Shed a small pub hidden away amongst the boat sheds on Staitheway Road, offering excellent local beers as well as pub style food along side a warm friendly atmosphere.
Bure Valley Railway
The Bure Valley Railway opened in 1990, starts at Wroxham, and consists of an 18-mile trip through the Norfolk countryside, meandering with the River Bure, besides the Broads, through to Aylsham and back again. It stops at Brampton, Buxton, and Coltishall and there are steam and diesel train services making for a fantastic and unusual day trip.
The first of the two churches in the area, St. Mary's, can be found in Wroxham about one mile south of the bridge. This is the larger of the two churches. About one mile North of Wroxham Bridge is St. Peters church in Hoveton. This dates back to the 1620s and is constructed with red brick and a Norfolk reed roof. The church is very pretty and has many hatchments from the 18th and 19th century.
Hoveton Hall Gardens
Hoveton Hall Estate is very popular for people visiting Wroxham and includes Hoveton Hall Gardens; this is a 15-acre garden with a mixture of informal and formal planting. The gardens include a large lake, flowing streams, an old traditional reconstructed greenhouse, kitchen gardens, Cafe, a walled garden and much more to explore.
Not far from St. Peters church is Wroxham Barns, which is a very popular working craft centre with many different traditional shops and coffee shops. There are various studios including pottery, children's clothes, stained glass, a jewellery manufacturing studio, traditional sweet and fudge shop and a Norfolk Cider shop. These craftspeople will demonstrate their work, undertake private commissions, and sell their unique products. There is also a petting farm for children and a country food shop with an accompanying restaurant, coffee shop and cafe.
Nearby just out of the village is Wroxham Broad, which is mainly accessed via boat although there is a private road, which takes visitors to a small car park from where they can take a short walk to the Broad and a picnic area. Further down the private road you will reach the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club, a members club with its clubhouse located on Wroxham Broad. All the moorings outside the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club are private and for members only, so hire boats cannot moor at the Yacht Club. The only mooring available here is on the island that seperates the broad from the River Bure, where there are free public moorings on the island on the main River Bure. The lack of road access to this Broad has helped to maintain the natural beauty of the area, which becomes clear to visitors as they see the beautiful and stunning flora and fauna around this Broad. It is because of the abundance of growth that the area is difficult to explore on foot and is best seen by boat; either by one of the Broads Tours cruises, hiring canoes, or by hiring a day boat from one of the many boatyards in the village.
Great Hoveton Broad
Great Hoveton Broad is not accessable by hire boat but has public moorings on the north side of the River Bure and a regular ferry from Salhouse Broad on the opposite side of the river. A laid out nature trail takes visitors through pathways through the nature reserve around the broad taking in all the best viewing points and showing walkers the best of the Norfolk Broads wildlife.
On the opposite side of the river to Great Hoveton Broad you will find Salhouse Broad, a popular Broad with fishermen and pleasure boaters alike. For a small fee you can moor here in the broad where there are toilet and drinking water facilities and the ferry over to the Great Hoveton Nature Trail, as well as there being mooring available near the opening to the broad.
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