Project Description


If the Norfolk Broads can be described as having a spiritual heart, then the village of Ranworth is surely it. With its imposing church looking down on the village from the hill, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Broads’, the village showcases the true essence of the area from a variety of viewpoints.

Our suggestions will take you around this lovely village on foot, including the church and its many delights; the floating visitor centre managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust; a short ferry ride back to the staithe; lunch at a local pub; followed by an afternoon visit to Fairhaven Garden Trust, a unique, sustainably managed Broadland garden, with its own tearoom.

Start: Ranworth Staithe, off the B1140 between Acle and Wroxham
Ordnance Survey Explorer map OL40; grid reference TG360146
SatNav postcode NR13 6HY

Ranworth Church Tower has 89 spiral stone steps, 2 ladders through the bell tower and 1 trap-door onto the church roof, but the views are magnificent and worth the effort!

Entry to the visitor centre is free, and it contains an exhibition on the creation and development of the Norfolk Broads, together with a viewing gallery overlooking Ranworth Broad with its varied birdlife. For opening times check the Norfolk Wildlife Trust website

Step back in history exploring the River Bure on the Helen of Ranworth reedlighter, a traditional Broads boat that marshmen used to carry bundles of reed in days gone by. Booking Recommended: Telephone Broads Authority 01603 756095
  • The boardwalk at Ranworth is open all year and is suitable for disabled access, while the Visitor Centre opens April to October from 10am to 5pm. Dogs are not allowed in the Visitor Centre.
  • Fairhaven Garden, including the café/tearoom, is open all year (except Christmas Day) and most of the garden is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs. Dogs are welcome on a lead.
  • There are public lavatories located at Ranworth Broad, and customer toilets at Ranworth church tearooms, the Ship Inn, and Fairhaven Gardens. There are no toilet facilities at Ranworth Broad Visitor Centre.

Our recommended itinerary is as follows:

• Drive to Ranworth village car park, situated on a minor road off the B1140 between Acle and Wroxham

• Spend a fascinating day exploring the village on foot, starting with a walk up the hill to the church. Facing away from the staithe, turn right along the boardwalk. When this ends, cross the lane and use the off-road footpath up the hill to St. Helen’s church

• Known as the ‘Cathedral of the Broads’, the church is a national treasure, and is worth more than a passing visit. Set in the midst of quiet country lanes, this place is one of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of the Norfolk Broads

• The church is home to the most complete and best preserved painted screen in Britain, together with a beautifully illuminated antiphoner, or service book, dating from the fifteenth century.

• Although not for everyone, your visit may be enhanced by climbing the famous tower, which provides panoramic views of Broadland.

• Back on the ground, don’t forget the tea room behind the church, serving hot and cold drinks and refreshments, with a delightful aromatic garden and terrace overlooking the Broad

• On leaving the church by the front gate, turn right and immediately right again, walking down the hill, follow the lane until you see the sign for the visitor centre on the left. Follow the boardwalk trail through the woodland, literally out onto the Broad to the floating visitor centre

• As you follow the boardwalk, you will see the landscape change from woodland to reedbeds and then to open water, illustrating the natural processes at work, albeit in reverse, that left unmanaged by man would see the Norfolk Broads revert to oak woodland over a period of around 25 years

• Entry to the visitor centre is free, and it contains an exhibition on the creation and development of the Norfolk Broads, together with a viewing gallery overlooking Ranworth Broad with its varied birdlife

• For your return trip to the staithe, why not wait for the electric powered boat, Helen of Ranworth, to take you on the short journey by water through Malthouse Broad back to the moorings. There is a small charge for the ferry. This is a popular destination for holiday craft and the contrast between this Broad and Ranworth, closed to boat traffic, will be immediately apparent

• For lunch, we recommend you make your way to the Ship Inn at South Walsham, turning left out of the staithe car park and following the lane back to the T-junction before turning left. The pub will be found on the right hand side

• More than a village local, the Ship has a restaurant feel and serves a varied selection of freshly cooked dishes together with local real ales. For a lower cost option, the café and tearoom at Fairhaven Gardens serves a good range of hot meals and snacks in addition to baguettes and paninis with a good range of vegetarian options

• Feeling refreshed after lunch, spend a pleasant afternoon exploring Fairhaven Gardens, located just off the road heading back towards Acle (turn right out of the pub car park, and take the first left turning).

• Organic and sustainably tended using traditional gardening and woodland management techniques, there are over 3 miles of wonderful woodland walks, a children’s nature trail, and with the waterways of the Norfolk Broads never far away, superb views across the private Fairhaven Broad. Boat trips run from April to October.


papilio machaon britannicus - completely dependant on one plant, milk parsley, I can be seen in late May, June and July at Ranworth.


Perhaps the most elegant of British butterflies, they are completely dependant on the one plant, milk parsley. A relic of the last ice age, surviving only on isolated ice-free pockets of Broadland as conditions deteriorated after a warm period.