First day of spring signals wildlife spectacle

Today is the first day of meteorological spring and wildlife is bursting into life right on cue.

Male swans are getting really territorial, puffing up their feathers and seeing off the competition.

swan on the water

One pair of swans have even been spotted trying out the nesting spot shown below in a secluded area of Wroxham Broad, although this seems to have been abandoned.

two swans nesting on river in cluster of reeds

Wroxham Island, a narrow strip of land that splits Wroxham Broad with the river Bure, is now a cacophony of activity with Canada and Greylag geese noisily squabbling and jostling for the best nesting positions. The island is a much coveted nesting spot for geese as it affords good protection from predators such as foxes.

two canada geese on water underneath bank overgrowth

two canada geese standing on reed back

two canada geese on water one reaching over to the other with its mouth open

Currently the Canada geese seem to be the most aggressive at staking their claim on the island and are certainly getting the best of the Greylag geese, which are still moving in large numbers as shown landing on Wroxham Broad below.

multiple greylag geese flying above water

Another interesting phenomenon is some of the Cormorants (which crowd onto the imposing trees on Wroxham Island) developing white patches in their plumage.  The birds with white patches are the mature birds that are ready to breed in the spring.

two comorants perched on a bare branch

A little further down river, on Salhouse Broad, Great Crested Grebes are continuing their delightful courtship routine.

great crested grebe on water swimming away from camera

Great Crested Grebes very rarely come to land because they have their feet on the back of their body, making it difficult for them to stand, which is why they build floating nests for their eggs.

However rules, as they say, are ment to be broken and we recently spotted a Great Crested Grebe climbing on to the bank – a very unusual and slightly ungainly sight as you can see in this picture!

two great crested grebes on on river bank and one on water

Another notable point on Salhouse Broad is that there are unusually high numbers of Pochard ducks as you can see below.

multiple pochard ducks on the water

The Pochards are mixed in with other winter species, such as Tufted Ducks and Gadwalls, which are still remaining on the broad for now.

pochard tufted and gadwall ducks swimming together on water towards bank

5 tufted ducks swimming together on water away from camera

On a final note we had to rescue a swan yesterday, which became dangerously tangled in fishing tackle.  The vets took it away and thankfully it is recovering well in the care of the RSPCA.

Words and images by Oliver Franzen

Queen of the Broads’ royal transformation

The project to transform the top deck of one of our most popular trip boats The Queen of the Broads ñ for the 2017 season is taking shape nicely.

Perhaps the first thing that our regular customers will notice when our trips start again in the spring is that we have changed the outside seating area to have forward, rather than sideways, facing seats as shown in the picture below. These will not only give a better view of the river and be more comfortable but they are lighter and more versatile as they CAN easily be slotted in and out.

internal shot of seating without pads

internal shot of seating without cushions

Last month we gutted the upstairs forward saloon to so that we could begin work giving it a fresh new look and expand the upstairs toilet to make it more accessible. As shown in this before and after picture we have now installed much of the wooden paneling on the walls and a new floor. Welding work has been carried on the roof and we have installed insulation and electrics into the ceiling, which we will be paneling soon. Mushroom vents have been installed to aid ventilation.

internal shot of man working on queen of the broads
Saloon from the 17th January

internal shot of man working on window frames of queen of the broads
The saloon now

We have started building the new larger toilet, which involved constructing a new bulk head (walls).

man working on internal toilet area of queen of the broads

As you would expect the boat has now been given a full lick of paint, in Marine Blue no less, and we hope to lift the boat out of the water next week so that we can begin the annual maintenance work on the hull, such as antifouling (a special paint that is applied below the waterline to stop weeds growing on the hull.)

Full steam ahead this winter

Full steam ahead this winter

Anyone who has been to Broads Tours or our sister company Norfolk Broads Direct (which provides boating and cottage holidays) in the summer will have experienced a buzz of activity from our staff. But one of the most common questions we are asked by customers is “what do you all do in the winter months when there are far fewer visitors to the Broads?”
The answer, of course, is all kinds of maintenance to keep things looking great for next season – from transforming and maintaining our boats to building Norfolk Broad’s Direct’s luxury holiday cruisers, decorating cottages and even curtain making.

One of our most exciting projects is revolutionising the top deck of our largest trip boat – The Queen of the Broads – so that it’s even better for visitors in 2017.
In response to feedback from our customers we are changing the outside seating area to have forward, rather than sideways, facing seats. This will give passengers a better view of the river. The old heavy benches have been replaced with modern, lighter seats that are not only more comfortable but that can easily be slotted in and out. This will make it easier for skippers and crew to quickly change the seating pattern when using the Queen of the Broads for private evening charters. To complete the look we will be fitting a smart new canopy to the outside area.

queen of the broads seating in progress

The Queen’s top deck cabin area will also be transformed. We have gutted it inside to replace the wooden panelling for a smart new look, LED lights will set it all off nicely, and the existing upstairs toilet will be enlarged for greater accessibility. The boat will also be completely repainted and have the windows resealed.

queen of the broads revamp in progress

Another operation is preparing all four of our trip boats for the annual Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) out of water survey and inspection. This is a little like a car MOT, but on a grand scale, to ensure that boats are safe and seaworthy. The picture below shows the Queen of the Broads being craned out ready for inspection – not a simple task since she is 80ft long!

queen of the broads in the shed from the front

All the other holiday cruisers and day boats in our fleet are given some TLC over the winter so that they are in tip top condition for the 2017 season. They are craned out of the water and into a large boatshed in batches where they cleaned, repaired and antifouled. The day boats are sanded down and painted, while the fibre glass on the holiday cruisers is thoroughly polished to make them look shiny and new.

day boat being lifted above the yardnorfolk broads direct cruiser being serviced

Meanwhile our team of boat builders are making our most luxurious cruiser yet – The Entrepreneur – to update Norfolk Broad’s Direct’s fleet of 60 holiday cruisers for 2017. The 46” boat will boast two spacious double bedrooms, both with a full-sized en-suite shower room, and an airy central saloon.
Currently the galley is being fitted and we have just finished installing limed oak effect laminate flooring and a smart new cream ceiling with a purple stripe. New cabinets have also been constructed and a sofa is being built in the saloon.

Fair Entrepreneur hullmen working on the interior of fair entrepreneurgalley being fitted on fair entrepreneur

One of the most interesting winter transformations is Norfolk Broads Direct’s fleet boat reception, which is turned into an upholstery workshop to make fresh new soft furnishings for our holiday cruisers, trip boats and cottages. It’s out with the welcome packs and in with the sewing machines! Two of our seasonal summer cleaners – Richard and Danny – have a real talent for upholstery and are turning their hands to making everything from curtains to pillow cases for a smart new look in the 2017 season.

upholstery for queen of the broads

Not to be outdone, our housekeeper and office staff are busily painting and decorating all of our holiday cottages. So, while the Broads may be quiet at this time of year, we are all turning our hands to different tasks to make 2017 the best season yet.

Half term trips are a treat for wildlife

Our half term kids go free* boat trips are in full swing and children and adults alike are being treated to a wonderful display of wildlife.

Topping the list was an otter popping up in our boat basin to the delight of passengers – who got to see one of the Broad’s shyest and most enigmatic creatures before even reaching the river!

Every trip has been a riot of wildlife activity, with some birds starting their spring courtship rituals but other shyer species, which are usually only seen in the winter, still present in large numbers.

A real highlight has been watching Great Crested Grebes performing their courtship ‘mirror’ dance.   With their beautiful headdress fluffed up – as if showing off their best clothes on a first date – the male and female birds face one another and copy each others movements giving the appearance of looking in a mirror.   It’s a truly magical sight that will soon be followed by Great Crested Grebe pairs making a floating nest for their eggs and, eventually, successful mothers carrying their cute little ‘greblets’ around on their backs.

two great crested grebes facing each other on the water


great crested grebe on water facing away from camera

Other signs of spring include mature adult cormorants heads’ turning from black to white to signal that they are ready to breed and male swans starting to act territorially as they look for a mate. Elsewhere we have even seen one pair of swans already making a nest on a remote and inaccessible corner of Broadland (Alderfen Broad).

swan on water next to river bank

close up of swan on water next to river bank

Equally as exciting is the way we have been spoilt with lots of rarer winter species.  In particular, there are still very large numbers of Little Grebes emerging from the riverside undergrowth.  These cute, fluffy little creatures that are a constant buzz of activity (forever diving and hiding) are hardly ever seen for most of the year because they are so shy.  Fortunately for us they clearly feel confident enough to venture out onto the river at this quieter time of year.

grebelets on the water by the river bank

grebelet close up on the water

grebelet on the water swimming towards the bank

Another highlight is that there is a full complement of rarer ducks to spot.  Although we are seeing many species on Wroxham Broad perhaps the most productive area is Salhouse Broad, where there are large numbers of Gadwall,

gadwall ducks on the water by the bank

Tufted Ducks

two tufted ducks on the water

and a few Pochards.

pochard duck on the water

Not to be outdone, Teal are putting in a welcome appearance on the river between Salhouse and Wroxham close to where the Little Grebes are being spotted.

teal ducks on the water

Perhaps the most majestic moments have come from watching marsh harriers gliding through the air, as shown by this one that was unusually high over Wroxham Broad.

marsh harrier in flight from below

If you haven’t come to our half term boat trips yet don’t miss out!  Trips run until Sunday 19 February at 11.30am and 2pm. All trips last 1.5 hour from Wroxham to Salhouse Broad taking in the open vistas of Wroxham Broad.  Colouring in sheets are available for the ‘little ones’ too!

For more information contact 01603 782 207.

Finally we will leave you with a couple of pictures of the ever charismatic herons in Wroxham village!

grey heron standing on river bank facing camera

profile of grey heron standing on wooden railings

*Maximum of two free children’s tickets available with every full paying adult.

Hare we go again!

Broads Tours had a very special visitor – A GoGoHare!

More than 50 of the animals will be individually decorated by artists and displayed around Norwich and the surrounding county in a much anticipated art trail to take place from June – September 2018, which is once again organised by Children’s Charity Break and Wild in Art.

The move follows the incredibly popular GoGoGorillas! and GoGoDragons! sculpture trails that captured the imagination of tens of thousands of people in previous years and which raised vital funds for Break by auctioning the characters to businesses at the end of the trail.

For the first time, in addition to the main Norwich Trail of 50 City sculptures, there will be a County GoGoHares! trail to benefit rural communities and towns.
To celebrate this Break took a GoGoHare! on tour and made a surprise visit for a quick photo shoot in our marina outside the Vintage Broadsman trip boat!

Break said: “There were gorillas, there were dragons’ and now ‘Hare is the next sculpture!

“The Hare has been chosen as it is a popular iconic subject for artists and can regularly be seen in the countryside of East Anglia. However this time there will not be just one design, but three!”

The GoGoHares! trail will celebrate Break’s 50th anniversary and shine a spotlight on its work with vulnerable children, young people and families since 1968. For more information visit