June Walks Giveaway: Upton Broad & Fen, Norfolk

June Walks Giveaway: Upton Broad & Fen, Norfolk

This walk is reproduced from our popular walking book 'Norfolk Year Round Walks'.

📥 To download this walk and take it with you, click here!


Distance: 5 miles 


A taste of the Broads in summer, but off the beaten track. The fen at Upton Broad and Marshes reserve, run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, is one of the best preserved in East Anglia. In summer, it buzzes with swallowtail butterflies and Norfolk hawker dragonflies.

Colourful orchids splatter a meadow that abounds with ragged robin – a pink plant that looks to have been formed by the erratic cuts of Edward Scissorhands. Warblers provide the soundscape as you stroll abreast the woodland. Meanwhile, this stretch of the River Bure boasts some of the county’s most striking wind- and watermills – and that is saying something in a county where mills rule. But the very best thing? You are unlikely to encounter a single other person along the public rights of way and permissive footpaths.

RECOMMENDED PUB (in case you’re reading this in the future, when pubs are open again) 

The Ship in South Walsham or The White Horse in Upton. The latter has the advantage of being only a few hundred yards off route, whereas the former requires a short drive (but is worth it!).


Leave the A47 about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of the town of Acle. Head north-west on the B1140. After ¾ mile (1.2 km), turn right (north-east) along Green Lane. Bear left at the first junction, joining Acle Road briefly, then right at the second, onto Mill Road. Ignore the next junction (with Upton Road) and go straight over at the second junction. The reserve car park is on the right (east) after 150 yards. Sat Nav: NR13 6EQ 


1. Leave the reserve car park east, passing through the trees and past dense sedges to emerge in Upton Fen, a relatively open area from which four paths ply in different directions. Select the third path from the left. This cuts through reeds and past a couple of small pools. After 50 yards, you reach a T junction. In front of you is a glorious damp meadow which, in summer, is rich in buttercups, ragged robin and southern marsh orchids. Then turn left (east) and continue for 250 yards, enjoying the sensation of bouncing along the distinctly spongy path – the legacy of a peat underlay – to pass through increasingly wooded terrain.

2. At the fork, turn left and follow the path into an area of short vegetation with a small, isolated reedbed. This is another great area for orchids. Follow the path straight on, bearing left over a bridge. Off to your right, along a little path, is a viewing platform which you may feel merits a diversion to get a view of Upton Broad. Otherwise continue along the muddy path, using the planks to minimise disturbance to this fragile habitat, with a strip of carr woodland to your left. At a T junction, bear left on a wide path bisecting an area of tall fen. This stretch can be seriously boggy so watch your step. Stay left at the next two junctions, then cross a boardwalk to walk parallel to a ditch for 70 yards until you reach a slightly elevated permissive path than runs roughly west–east.

3. Turn right (east) here, following the blue posts marking the broad path that runs through a gate. To your left (north) a channel separates you from a reedbed frequented by marsh harriers. To your right (south), a stretch of sedge is favoured by dragonflies and damselflies. Forty yards after a lone hawthorn on your left (north), you cross another gate to reach a T junction. Before you unfolds a sizeable expanse of rough grassland, grazed by cattle. Beyond lie your first windmills and, further still, the crests of yachts hinting at the presence of the River Bure.

4. Twenty yards to your left an information board summarises the history of the area. Have a look then turn round and follow the permissive path that leads south then east. Water soldier – a spiky plant beloved of the Norfolk hawker dragonfly – crowds the ditch to your left (east), between you and the grazing marshes. To your right, beyond the herb border where yet more damselflies billow, lies carr so dense that it grants only the occasional glimpse of Upton Fen. Continue for ¾ mile (1.2 km) until you reach some tall willows.

5. A blue marker seeks to usher you along the public footpath to the right (south). Resist the temptation, instead bearing left over a bridge, past a pond to reach a concrete public footpath. Turn left then immediately right onto a stony vehicular track (also a public footpath) that leads north-east for 2/3 mile to Upton Black Mill.

6. This impressive windmill and adjacent outhouses are worth a look – even more so because they front onto the River Bure, which is narrow and sedate here. Then turn right along the footpath flanking the River Bure, with rough grassland to your right (south). Continue for just over a mile (1.8 km) as the riverside path loops gradually round to the south-west.

Along the way you pass a mill on the opposite bank and, as you approach
the village of Upton, a long series of boats moored along Upton Dyke.

7. Rather than enter the village, turn right (north-west) along a public footpath that passes Palmer’s Drainage Mill (to your right). Continue alongside a belt of trees for 1/3 mile (0.6 km) until you cross a bridge and reach a T junction.

8. Turn left (south-west) here and walk 80 yards to join Prince of Wales Road. Turn right (west) and follow this quiet road out of the village and through fields until you reach the hamlet of Cargate Green.

9. Look for the house called Cherry Trees on your right (west). Between this and the following house, a vehicular track leads right (west) off the road. This is a public footpath. Turn down here, following it through fields to a T junction, where you turn right (north). At the next T junction, by a bridge, you turn left (west) and continue along the footpath. Just after two narrow ponds, the path jinks left to join a vehicular track that serves Ivy and Holly farms before joining Low Road. Continue along the road for 150 yards to reach the car park. 

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  • Alex Batho
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