Rails, trails and sails in the Broads

  • Contributor information: CNP

4 February 2019

Paul Dickson takes us on a guided tour of Norwich and the Broads National Park as part of the brand new English National Parks Experience Collection. 

Rails, Trails and Sails is a special guided walking tour that I lead, which has been selected to be part of the new English National Parks Experience Collection. More than 70 experiences from around the English National Parks are in the collection, which was officially launched at Haddon Hall in the Peak District on January 31. These experiences  aim to tell the story of our landscapes, history and culture.

I have been leading guided tours in Norwich for the last four years and have gradually expanded outside the city. Rail Trails and Sails links Norwich with the Broads National Park at Reedham. Let me give you a taste of what it involves:

Paul Dickson touring Norwich Cathedral


It’s a full day tour, which begins with coffee and stories at the historic Maids Head Hotel in Tombland. Then we go outside for Monks, Mayhem and Murder, a guided tour of the Cathedral Quarter, featuring the riot of 1272, Walter Eghe’s lucky escape in 1286, Sir Thomas Erpingham and Agincourt (1415), Kett’s Rebellion (1549) and much more.

This is followed by a short walk to Norwich Railway Station to catch the train to Reedham. The journey is on the route of Norfolk’s first railway line, which opened in 1844 connecting, Norwich with Great Yarmouth and passes the RSPB’s Strumpshaw Fen and Buckenham Marshes, with great views from the carriage windows.

Cantley Sugar Factory, which opened in 1912, is just before Reedham.  It was the first factory in the country to successfully produce sugar from sugar beet.

Following local footpaths, we head from Reedham Station down to the River Yare and the quay, once home to yards making wherries, the  former workhorses of the Broads. Wherries are shallow draft vessels with a single tall mast and can trace their ancestry back to Viking craft. But the wherry was forced into retirement, by the railways and the internal combustion engine and today there is only one trading wherry left, The Albion, along with a small fleet of pleasure wherries.

Reedham Quay by Paul Dickson

Take in the sites of Reedham Quay. Photo credit: Paul Dickson

After a bite to eat in the Lord Nelson pub, we climb up above the railway line to view it stretching into the distance towards Lowestoft across Norton Marshes. If we are lucky we’ll see the venerable swing rail bridge, dating from 1902, open for river traffic.

Reedham railway

Reedham railway on the route of Norfolk’s first railway line. Photo credit: Daniel Wildey.

We walk beside a disused Victorian branch line, cross over the Great Yarmouth line and head up to Humpty Dumpty Brewery and  St John the Baptist Church

Humpty Dumpty Brewery was founded in 1998 and takes its name from the nickname for the GER Class T-19R locomotives that used to run on the Norwich to Lowestoft line in the early 20th century.  Humpty Dumpty ale samples are offered at the brewery, with the possibility of a tour in the summer.

St John the Baptist Church is on a very ancient site. In Roman times, Reedham used to be at the edge of a vast estuary and archaeologists believe that there was orginally a Roman lighthouse and fort, where the church is today.

The first church dated from the mid 7th century, with centuries of rebuilding  and additions, including the impact of a terrible fire in the 1980s. Roman tiles, used in the building of the curtain walls can clearly be seen along with the fabulous 16th century Berney tomb.

This welcoming church offers visitors the opportunity to make a cup of tea or coffee and is the final stop on the tour before we retrace our footsteps back to Reedham Station and Norwich.  


By Paul Dickson

Rails Trails and Sails tours are for small groups, from 2 to 15 people, are available all year round and are arranged for mutually convenient days. For more information contact Paul Dickson, 07801 103737, paul@pauldicksontours.co.uk.