Barton Broad is the second largest of the Norfolk Broads, is managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. It is connected and navigated with other broads by the River Ant, and is designated as a site of scientific interest.
Of course, it’s somewhere of interest to us too!. There’s plenty to see for anyone with a passing interest in nature, with species such as common terns, otters, kingfishers and herons amongst the inhabitants of Barton Broad. The surrounding fen area is also home to a number of rare plants and invertebrates.
Because of the size of the broad it is easily spotted on a map of Norfolk, and as I scanned the map looking for somewhere for a family walk I noticed this expanse of water and wondered how we could possibly walk around it. I start by stating you can’t actually walk around the broad. There are only a couple of ways to access Barton Broad; One is by boat, or the second is to take a walk along the Barton Broad Boardwalk. This is short walk, coming in at under 1.5 miles a round walk from the main car park.
Like most destinations to visit, unless you live somewhere where there is a great walk on your your doorstep, it’s likely that you’ll have to drive. Indeed, with most walks you’ll find your starting point is that car park, and this walk to Barton Broad is no different. The main car park is located on Long Road, between the villages of Neatishead and Irstead, about 0.7 miles walk to the wooden boardwalk at Barton Broads. There is also a There is a disabled car park with 3 – 4 spaces closer to the boardwalk.
Note to future self – Study the map and work out the route in future! It turns out that there was an alternative route which involved less road-walking than the route I took my family on, and it was slightly shorter! That said, we would’ve missed out on seeing one part of the broad that isn’t on the more direct route. If you want the route I didn’t take, at the car park entrance there is a footpath on the left. This footpath is sign-posted “boardwalk”. Follow the footpath. It will bear left and follow the field boundary, and bring you on to Irstead Road, at which point it’s just another 1/4 mile to the boardwalk entrance.
Not sure how we missed this footpath. Instead, we came out of the car park entrance and turned right on to Long Road, and went up to the junction with Irstead Road. A few more strides and we noticed a gravel path leading off to the left that had tempting glimpses of water through the trees. After a short walk we found ourselves at Gay’s Staithe, which lies on the western arm of Barton Broad.
Here a few boats were moored up, with a few people either on the boats or canoeing in Limekiln Dyke. I try not to get other people in photos, and unfortunately I couldn’t do so on this occasion, so this is the only photo I took at Gay’s Staithe. I’ll try to get one next time as I know it’ll help you decide if you want to add this small addition to your walk.
After this short diversion we were back on the road, heading towards the boardwalk. Even along the road I spotted something to photograph. Here’s a close-up picture of a common green bottle fly on a branch.
As you walk along Irstead Road keep an eye out for the entrance to the boardwalk, below. Although it’s pretty obvious when you reach it I guess if you were busy chatting you walk by.
As you can see from the photo below, the boardwalk is elevated above the marsh water of Barton Broad. Does anyone else want to sing “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters whenever they mention a boardwalk? Can’t believe one of my friends actually owns the Bruce Willis version on 12″ vinyl. Anyway, I digress…
As you walk amble along the boardwalk keep an eye out to see what kinds of plants are growing in the wetland, as this helpful sign shows.
Yellow Iris (thanks, helpful sign!) with a pollinating bee.
Below, a different bee, probably.
About half way round Barton Broad Boardwalk there is a gap in the alder carr woodland, the foliage parts to reveal a viewing platform that provides an fantastic expansive view of Barton Broad. There are a couple of wooden benches on this raised platform; This is a great place to stop for a few moments and take in the scenery and see what inhabitants of the broad that you can see.
A few boats bobbing along on a rather choppy Barton Broad. It was quite a windy day when we went and you can certainly feel a good breeze coming off the broad when standing on the viewing platform.
The boardwalk is circular with two entrances to it, so you can either walk all the way round through to where you first entered, or take a different path out, come out via the small disabled car park and rejoin Irstead Road a bit further along. Though it would’ve been equally nice to continue around the boardwalk to complete the circuit, we opted for the latter, and then decided rather than just walk back along the route we had come we would make our walk longer!. Yep, we decided to walk towards Irstead Staithe, and then return to the car park on Long Road by walking down Shoals Road (which I think might turn in to Water Lane as confusingly on Google maps it has the whole road as Water Lane). This route gave us some nice views across the countryside too, but we’re walking along roads all the time so we had to stay alert.
Here’s a few more photos from our walk back.
It was certainly a very enjoyable walk and one that would be taking again. As ever, the Norfolk Broads doesn’t disappoint, and Norfolk Wildlife Trust have done a fantastic job recuperating the broad and with their continuous management we know this area is in good hands.
FACILITIES – There is a toilet block at the main car park
DOGS – Dogs are not allowed on the Barton Broad Board Walk.
SAFETY – There is some walking along roads, so be wary with kids. The same applies when walking on the boardwalk near Barton Broad.
WHEELCHAIRS – NWT say the boardwalks are accessible for wheelchairs.
CLOBBER – It’s a short flat walk, so normal comfortable footwear should be okay. Keep in mind when selecting footwear that boardwalks can get slippery when wet (i.e. flip flops not a good idea!).
DISTANCE AND DURATION – Our total walk was approx 2.5 miles, but there are shorter or longer versions. You should allow at least an hour.
By my calculations you could reduce the walk to under 1.4 miles. One way to make your walk longer would be to walk around the boardwalk trail a few times. Each circuit of the boardwalk is approximately 0.3 miles (excluding the brief walk to the viewing platform).
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