Norfolk, with its 41 Broads and almost 100 miles of coastline, has plenty to offer for paddlers. Cambridgeshire isn’t shy of lovely paddling spots either. Exploring the historic city of Cambridge from the River Cam isn’t just for those in the world famous punts – you can enjoy it under paddle power too.
Despite both counties being popular with tourists it’s still possible to find tranquil waters to drift steadily along, away from crowds and into nature. We’ve chosen our top five places to paddle in Norfolk and Cambridge. All you have to do is get out and enjoy!
River Cam – Cambridge
At 43 miles in length the River Cam has plenty of peaceful paddling spots. However, it’s really worth taking a route which explores the city of Cambridge itself. Between Jesus Lock and the Mill Pond the Cam passes through the Backs, below the walls of many of the colleges.
Here the river is busy and popular with tourists, due to its picture-postcard views of elegant bridges, green lawns and graceful willows. Try exploring the River Cam; Cambridge to Grantchester Paddling Trail, which takes you through the city and all the way to Byron’s Pool, where the poet himself used to swim.
Learn more about the River Cam here.
Do I need a water licence to paddle on the River Cam?
Yes. You do require a licence to paddle on this river. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on the River Cam.
Wicken Fen – Cambridge
The Cambridgeshire Fens cover around 200 square miles of flat, mostly agricultural land. They are home to the lowest point in Britain; Holme Fen, which sits 2.75m below sea level.
Exploring the Fens by paddle power gives you the chance to spot both native wildlife and introduced grazing herds. You may catch a glimpse of the Konik Ponies; a primitive breed of pony from Eastern Europe who were introduced to graze the fen by the National Trust.
The Lodes are canal type waterways, which date from Roman times. Take a journey along one with the Wicken Fen Paddling Trail.
Do I need a water licence to paddle on Wicken Fen?
Yes. You do require a licence to paddle on the lodes. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on the lodes.
River Ant – Norfolk
At 17 miles the River Ant may not be the longest of rivers but it packs a punch with giving you access to some wonderful places to paddle in Norfolk. Starting at the village of Antingham, the river was used as a canal in the past, carrying manure, offal, flour, coal, and farm produce. The bone mill at Antingham would have been supplied by animal bones brought in via the canal, which were then dried and crushed to be used in fertiliser.
Turf Fen Mill is a must see spot – so picture perfect that you’ll likely spot artists sitting on the bank painting the idyllic scene before them. This map from the Broads Authority gives you some great ideas for places to paddle along the Ant.
Do I need a water licence to paddle on the River Ant?
Yes. You do require a licence to paddle on this river. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on the River Ant.
River Waveney – Norfolk
Much of the length of the River Waveney provides the border between Norfolk and Suffolk. At around 59 miles in length there are a wealth of options for paddling adventures. Any journey on the Waveney is sure to involve spotting a mill or two, as many stand along its banks. Some of these mills are mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Only two, Ellingham and Earsham, are officially in Norfolk.
The area is well known for wildlife spotting with regular sightings of short eared owl, cattle egret and otters. What further motivation would you need for a paddle on this glorious river? You can find out more about the River Waveney and discover some of its great paddling trails here.
Do I need a water licence to paddle on the River Waveney?
Yes. You do require a licence to paddle on this river. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on the River Waveney from the River Yare to Geldeston Lock.
Hoveton Little Broad (Black Horse Broad) – Norfolk
This broad is a little bit special as you are only able to access it at all due to the ‘invasion of Black Horse Broad’. In the 19th century, several Norfolk landowners prevented access to broads in their ownership from the main river network under the Inclosures Acts. In March 1949 boat builder Albert Woods led 30 local men to dismantle a barrier the landowner had placed across Black Horse Dyke. Their direct action resulted in an agreement with the owner, who agreed to open the broad to the public each year between Easter and mid-September. However, this campaign sadly didn’t lead to the re-opening of other closed broads.
Nowadays you can access the broad for a week at Easter and then from Whitsun (the seventh Sunday after Easter) until October. Explore this peaceful broad, accessed from the River Bure by following our paddling trail, which gives you more information about the broad and its history.
Do I need a water licence to paddle on Hoveton Little Broad?
Yes. You do require a licence to paddle on the broad. A British Canoeing ‘On the Water’ membership includes a water licence that covers paddlers on Hoveton Little Broad.
It was hard to pick just five great places to paddle in Norfolk and Cambridge and we’d love to hear from you with your top picks in the area. Be sure to let us know your favourite paddling spots over on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!