Broadland Day Out: Fairhaven Water Gardens It may happen, one day, that you find yourself beyond Norwich in the watery bit of East Anglia in need of somewhere to visit. It may happen that you fancy somewhere gentle, with greenery and floral bits, and the possibility of a boat ride later. In which (very specific) case, I can wholeheartedly recommend a trip to the Fairhaven Water Gardens - a historic aristocratic playground now thrown open to the public. Access is up a lane beyond South Walsham village, then you park up in a field and walk down to the gift shop. Just over a fiver gets you inside, past the plant stall, with all areas fully wheelchair accessible. They stick a board out the front to let you know what's in flower. Rhododendrons and azaleas are big at the moment, but especially special are the candelabraprimula. These damp-loving plants are lovely - concentricrosettes of blooms on long stalks in a variety of shades of pink. Here they're to be found clustered along the edge of various artificial waterways, seemingly very special at first, then eventually so commonplace as to make sightings almost blasé. The Gardens, and especially theprimula, attract Norfolk's photographers in number, which sometimes leads to polite queueing at favoured sunlit spots.
Most twisting walks lead to the shores of South Walsham Inner Broad, where a regular tourist boat service chugs off from a pier beside a thatched boathouse [semi-pretty photo]. Most trips are brief, out to the next broad and back, but twice a day Captain John steers the launch much further up the Fleet Dyke as far as the River Bure. Past yachts and cruisers, past lads beering it up, past retired couples sailing into the wind. Past swans and herons, past gaggles of geese, past grebes and whatever baby grebes are called (other than aww, cute). To St Benet's Abbey, formerly one of the most important religious sites in East Anglia, now razed and ruined (apart from a scaffolded gatehouse). The land is reeded and marshy, far from any road, yet still abuzz with relentless river traffic [pretty photo]. As getting away from it all goes, you can't beat a broad.