Ranworth Broad, Norfolk

by Jan

One of our favourite places to moor in the Norfolk Broads was at the pretty village of Ranworth.  In fact, we moored at Maltsters Broad, from which we could walk to the private Ranworth Broad and enjoy all the facilities at Ranworth village.

Ranworth is located on the River Bure, north-east of Norwich in Norfolk.

The Maltsters Inn, Ranworth

Maltsters Pub at Ranworth Broad, Norfolk, UK

One of the best reasons to stop at Ranworth is for the Maltsters Inn.  This lively pub is just a short walk from the staithe and serves food all day.  They have ample outdoor seating in front of the pub.

The pub garden is also home to a pizza shack, which serves tasty made-to-order pizzas from its wood oven.  You can pick your own toppings and let them know where you’ll be for a super-efficient delivery.

NWT Ranworth Broad

Views over Ranworth Broad, Norfolk, UK

Another great reason to moor at Malthouse broad is for a visit to the NWT Ranworth Broad.  The Norfolk Wildlife Trusts manages Ranworth Broad within its wildlife reserve.  The aim of the reserve is to recreate new areas of wetland as part of a conservation effort to protect the habitat and wildlife of the Broads.

Ranworth Broad itself is private and not open to boat traffic.  However, there’s plenty of mooring at Maltsters and from here it is just a short walk to Ranworth Nature Reserve.  If you are coming by car, there is a small car park in front of the pub.

A walk to Ranworth Broad Nature Reserve

Boardwalk at Ranworth Nature Reserve, Norfolk, UK

From Malthouse Broad (or the car park in village) follow the footpath to the right. At the corner, take a right turning and follow the road for a very short way until you reach the entrance to Ranworth Broads.

From here you will be walking on boardwalks that lead to the Visitor Centre.  The boardwalks follow through a mixture of wet woodland and marshland scenery.  Information boards along the route provide a brief history to the Broads and the importance of the wetland areas for wildlife.

Historically, the reedbeds were provided reeds for thatching roofs.  However, there was a decline in the number of reedbeds as the thatching industry declined.  Nowadays, the work of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust is to conserve and protect the wetland environment.

Boat in foreground looking out over mirrored Ranworth Broad Nature Reserve, Norfolk, UK

Despite the natural look of the Norfolk Broads, the area is actually man-made.  It was created in Medieval times when people would dig out the peat by hand.  The area was later flooded, creating the UK’s largest protected wetland.  Although the vast landscape of reedbeds may look monotonous, over 250 different kinds of plants now grow in the Broads.

Today, the marshlands along the Norfolk Broads provide a unique habitat and haven for wildlife.  The lack of boat traffic at Ranworth Broad has allowed the wildlife to flourish here.  Many unique species breed here, and you can spot a lot of rare birds, including the bittern.

If you visit in summer, look out for the Swallowtail, Britain’s largest butterfly.  This rare breed of butterfly can only live in East Anglia.  It relies on finding and laying its eggs on milk parsley, a rare fen plant found locally.  We tried our best, but didn’t spot any.

Another rare species endemic to the wetland marshes of the broads is a brown dragonfly, the Norfolk Hawker.

Legend claims that the ghost of a 12th century monk rows his boat on Ranworth Broad in the morning mist!

The Visitor Centre at Ranworth Broad nature reserve

Thatched building at Ranworth Nature Reserve Center, Norfolk Broads, Norfolk, UK

The thatched Visitor Centre floats on the edge of Ranworth Broad.  Admission is free, but donations are welcome.  Outside the centre is a viewpoint, for a panoramic view across the tranquil water.  The centre shuts at 5pm, but you can still visit the reserve under dusk.

We made a return visit one evening, and the vista at dusk was stunning.  You should remember your insect repellent though!

The Visitor centre does offer guided wildlife boat trips across Ranworth Broad, which will help you identify the wildlife.

From the Visitor Centre you can continue a circular walk to Ranworth Church.  Alternatively, you can retrace your steps back to Malthouse Broad.

St Helen's Church - The Cathedral of the Broads

Cathedral of the Broads, Ranworth, Norfolk, UK

Known as “Cathedral of the Broads” St Helen’s Church is a pretty, 14th Century building, notable for its medieval paintings.  Apparently, the views from the top of the tower are stunning.  Unfortunately, when we visited the tower was still closed as a covid-restriction.

If you are a history-lover, keep an eye out for the Antiphoner, a 15th Century service book written in Medieval Latin.  It was given to the church over 600 years ago, lost for a while (how careless!) and then rediscovered.

Mooring at Malthouse Broad

Boats moored at Malthouse Broad, Norfolk Broads, Norfolk, UK

Malthouse Broad is convenient if you need to return your boat to one of the boatyards or Marinas in the northern Broads early the next day.

Another good reason to moor at Malthouse Broad near Ranworth is for the facilities.  There is a green in front of the boats, where you can sit, relax and watch the boats come in.  You’ll also find a grocery shop and Broads Visitor Centre.

By the car park in Ranworth are some public toilets, which are always useful if you’re on a boating holiday.

The Granary Stores & Tea Shop

Granary Stores & Tea Shop, Ranworth, Norfolk, UK

The Granary Stores doubles up as a post office, convenience store and tea shop.  It has most basic grocery items and a good choice of ice creams.  The tea shop offers sandwiches cakes and drinks.

If you have time to visit upstairs, you’ll find a gallery with some local art and wildlife photos.

Getting to Ranworth Broad

Ranworth is in the East of England, between the city of Norwich and the coastal town of Great Yarmouth.

To get to Ranworth, take the A47 to Acle and turn off towards South Walsham.  In Ranworth you will see signs for the wildlife centre car park.

Have you been to Ranworth Broad?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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