Enjoy the natural Broads

There's no better place than the Broads to get up close to some of England's best loved and most spectacular wildlife. The Broads boast booming Bitterns, playful otters and darting Kingfishers, native white waterlilies and rare fen orchids, and this is the only place to see one of Britain's largest, rarest and most beautiful butterflies, the Swallowtail. The reeds are filled with birdsong, while overhead, marsh harriers and barn owls quarter the skies. It's the only place in the UK where Cranes breed in the wild.

Spring and autumn bring hosts of migrant birds, and huge flocks of waders and waterfowl spend the winter here – meaning any time of year is perfect for bird-watching.

Twenty-five species of freshwater fish, including eels, are found in the Broads, making it also a popular place for fishing.

An internationally important wetland, the Broads is a member of the National Park family, and includes some of Europe's most special nature reserves, with no fewer than 28 Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Some broads are tidal and the nearly two thousand acres of water vary in their levels of salinity and acidity, creating a diverse range of habitats.

Over time the Broads are silting up, with expanses of reed beds traditionally cut for thatch trapping sediment. Alder carrs have formed, bordered by fens and reclaimed grazing land.

At How Hill Nature Reserve in Ludham you can enjoy the Broads countryside either on foot, by following the footpaths or nature trail, or by boat. Either way you are sure to spot some outstanding wildlife in this unspoilt and peaceful corner of Norfolk.

The floating Broads Wildlife Centre at Ranworth Broad is run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. You can park at Ranworth village and walk along the interpretive boardwalk, which provides lots of information about the various habitats you pass through, or take the electric ferryboat. Ranworth is a spectacular location for birdwatching with cettis warbler, common tern, great crested grebe, redpoll, siskin, winter wildfowl and cormorants just a few of the species you can hope to see.

Track down the common alder at Ranworth. The tree thrives in damp soil like the carr woodland here, a stage of vegetation midway between fen and drier woodland, derived from the Old Norse word kjarr, meaning a swamp.

The RSPB's reserve at Strumpshaw Fen is in the heart of the Norfolk Broads. A number of nature trails lead you through the varied habitats, including reedbeds and woodland and in the summer Strumpshaw is the perfect place to enjoy Broadland meadow flowers.

Wild Broads by Norfolk Wildlife Trust

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