Vast and somewhat understated, East Anglia is an area of many rural delights and an ideal destination for short nature trips. With its long coastline and the water network of the Norfolk Broads, the area is particularly brilliant for those keen on water sports, like surfing, canoeing, and sailing. But the far-stretching countryside, dotted with idyllic villages, is a great setting for land-based activities, too. Here are some ways in which East Anglia distinguishes itself from the rest of England — and reasons you might want to plan a visit.
East Anglia is nestled in the coastal bulge northeast of London, and though Essex is sometimes counted as part of the area, it’s strictly speaking made up of three counties; Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire. The area’s name comes from the small Anglo-Saxon kingdom it once was, established by the East Angles, a tribe from the German Anglia. The region was once highly prosperous and progressive, particularly because of its successful wool trade, but it remained largely untouched by the industrial revolution. As a result, much of East Anglia has kept an olde worlde charm; there’s a lack of large cities, but picturesque towns and villages, often with stunning medieval churches, break up the open countryside. It is, for instance, worth checking out the pretty Suffolk villages of Lavenham and Ipswich, the Norfolk villages of Blakeney and Cley, and coastal towns like Cromer. And, of course, there’s Cambridge, with its famous university and striking medieval architecture.
A Hiker’s Paradise
If you’re looking for mountains, you’re in the wrong place. East Anglia is largely flat and its landscapes are mostly undramatic. But with its unspoilt countryside, sparkling fenland waterways, and its long-stretching coastline, it has a subtle, languid beauty; a beauty that once formed the inspiration for John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough. And given its flat terrain, the area lends itself perfectly to hikes and cycle trips that are less strenuous — but not necessarily less picturesque — than those in most other regions of England. East Anglia is particularly popular with hikers, and there are several long-distance trails that criss-cross the three counties, offering a surprising variety of vistas.
A typical East Anglia landscape
Perhaps the best known of these hiking paths is Peddars Way, a 93-mile trail that follows a Roman road and encompasses the forest area around the Brecks, rugged Norfolk coastlines, and lush river valleys; it offers a gentle and wonderfully remote-feeling hike that’s rich in historical and visual treasures. But you might also want to strap on your hiking shoes and explore the Norfolk Coastal Path, a striking hiking trail between Cromer and Hunstanton, the Clare & Cavendish Trail, a circular path that connects picturesque historic villages (with plenty of opportunities for pub stops), or the Thetford Forest Fir Trail, which allows you to explore the heart of this stunning forest. The latter offers plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities, as the forest is home to animals such as deer, hares, and a vast array of birds. Suffolk even offers an annual walking festival; a great opportunity to join groups of other hikers keen to explore this part of the country.
Water World; Sailing and Canoeing through the Broads
But East Anglia’s biggest attraction is perhaps its rich water network and its 500-mile coastline. As Stephanie Green remarked about the area in her recent book ‘Wide Woman on a Narrow Boat,’ “[c]rossing the Fens by boat, there comes the realisation that water, not earth or sky, is the natural element in this landscape.” It’s particularly Norfolk that has a landscape dominated by water, as the county is home to the Norfolk Broads, a National Park that comprises of an intricate network of rivers, lakes, and marshes. These vast wetlands are home to a large variety of birds, and some of England’s rarest plants can be found here. It’s a stunning world of fenlands that offers an ideal setting for a low-key activity.
The best way to explore this water world is by boat; over 125 miles of the Broad’s waterways are navigable, and there’s a wealth of options of both guided and self-guided trips. You can, for instance, rent canoes or kayaks and explore the meandering waterways at your own pace, mooring up at charming villages for breaks along the way. Or you can opt for organised canoeing trails, some overnight, and some with the added element of fishing. For keen sailors, there are plenty of opportunities too; the Broads is a great setting for a tranquil sailing trip; a relaxing and family-friendly option of exploring these marshlands.
WATER: there is world of water in East Anglia
Board Fun; SUP and Surfing Spots
While surfing isn’t necessarily associated with England’s east coast, East Anglia actually offers some exciting waves. Though the surfing conditions aren’t as consistent as on the south and west coasts when the waves come, they are often good, and the Norfolk coast has some popular surfing spots. If you’re inexperienced, don’t worry; there are surf schools that offer lessons and board rentals. And for those keen on a calmer, less challenging boarding variety, stand-up paddle boarding on the Broads will make for a wonderful day out, and a tranquil way of taking in East Anglia’s serene scenery and open skies.
Check out more location across the UK and Ireland where you can go to explore the wilderness and find these outdoor activities and more adventures HERE!