Hickling Broad, Norfolk

Hickling Broad is one of the premier inland sailing locations in the region, if not the UK. It is the most northerly of the Norfolk Broads and offers around 500 acres of sailing in a relatively safe environment. With typical water depths between 1 to 1.7 metres, beginners can confidently take their first steps, whilst the water offers flat water blasting to the more experienced freestyler. Although on the Broads, Hickling rarely attracts large numbers of holiday cruisers, so the water is generally not busy. The entire Broad is designated for environmental purposes and is an idyllic location where you can sail in the presence of marsh harriers and swallowtail butterflies.

Fees: The purpose built beach, grassed rigging area, car park and changing facilities are leased by Hickling Windsurfing Clubwww.hicklingbroad.co.uk

Non-members can use the beach and facilities for a day fee of £5.00 (this is refundable against the joining fee if you choose to join the club).The only club access to the Broad is from the beach. The annual fee for club membership is £40 (families £45), with a £45 joining fee for new members (deferred for those under 21). Those using the club facilities are required to have third party insurance. See website for further details or contact Tony on 01603 811008.

Beach Faces:

South-east.

Best Wind Direction:

Any wind direction is good, although a direction with a hint of easterly in it is best since the wind comes off the sea with little interruption. Southerly winds are perhaps better for beginners since it will keep them in the safety of the north bay, where they can be overseen from the beach and it is only a short paddle / walk back if things go wrong.

Not Good:

North-westerly winds tend to be a bit flukey. If the wind is northerly and the tides are right, many locals will make the trip to Wells Harbour instead, for which this direction is ideal.
The autumn sometimes brings weed to the surface which can be drawn to fins. That stated, it has not been much of a problem in recent years.

Tide:

Hickling Broad is effectively non-tidal so all times of day are sailable.

What’s On The Bottom:

Mud (and it stinks!).

Any Hazards:

A number of fixed timber posts mark the navigable channel for larger boats. Any rider striking one of these will come off worse: so best avoided!

Other Water Users:

A few holiday cruisers in the summer.  Hickling Sailing Club race dinghies in the summer, usually on Sundays, but this rarely impacts on the windsurfers.
The environmental designation of the Broad includes its importance as a winter haven for waterfowl. Two areas of the Broad are therefore zoned off as winter bird refuges. (See map on Hickling Broad website). No water users (apart from the birds!) are allowed in these areas between 1st November and 1st March. In practice this does not inconvenience windsurfers, since the zones do not significantly restrict the preferred sailing areas.

Suitability / Levels:

Beginners to Advanced. Beginners at top end of the Broad by the beach.

Wipeout Factor:

No real problems although spectacular catapults are the forte of one or two of the regulars. If the worst happens, the shallow water means that you can generally walk back to the beach.

Instruction:

YES for beginner to intermediate through Energise Boards.

Kit Hire:

NO although the club has a number of basic boards and rigs (including a kiddy rig) which are freely available to members.

Friendly Factor:

Always a decent crowd on a good forecast even in the middle of winter. The beach can be crowded at summer weekends when it is popular with family members and juniors learning.

No Wind Alternatives:

Always a decent crowd on a good forecast even in the middle of winter. The beach can be crowded at summer weekends when it is popular with family members and juniors learning.

Surfable?:

Not a chance! However, reasonable waves can be found at Sea Palling (3 miles away) or Cromer.

Facilities:

Toilets

Yes, 2 mins walk from the beach.

Shower

No. But Hickling Broad Sailing Club are currently working on proposals to develop a shower block.

Windsurfing Shop

None. But Tony from Energise Sports is usually present with his van and he should be able to sort you out with broken bits and bobs.

Food

The Pleasure Boat Pub serves good food as does The Greyhound Inn a short distance past the beach.
Cracking fish&chips at Potter Heigham, 3 miles away.

Parking

Included in the sailing day fee. Little parking on nearby roads.

Pub

The Pleasure Boat

Accommodation:

Numerous campsites, B&B’s and self catering properties are within the vicinity. Seewww.visitnorfolk.co.uk

Local Hotshots:

No real hot shots, more of a social sailing scene, although one or two can turn on the ‘style’.
However there are plenty of keen beans! If there is any chance of at least a zephyr, Tony Myhill (Energise Boards), Graham Ives (bald guy, always smiling) and John Tuddenham (wears a cap, not always smiling) are never far away.

Local Knowledge / Secrets:

On hot summer days, even if there is hardly a breath of wind inland, it can still be worth turning up in the early afternoon. A reasonable sea breeze will often kick in after lunchtime, giving a few hours of big sail blasting. Even if the wind doesn’t kick in, there are few finer places to sit and soak up the sun!

Extra:

Hickling Windsurfing Club hosts a “Come and Try Day” every June. For a nominal fee, around 50 newcomers to the sport receive instruction and one-to-one supervised sailing with the opportunity to join the club for reduced fees. Look out for the adverts on the website and the local press.

Any webcams of the beach? NO. However, in conjunction with the Sailing Club, the Windsurfing Club operates a windline that offers real time information on the wind speed and direction on the Broad, all at standard BT rates!
Tel: 01692 598991.

How To Get There:

Head towards north-east Norfolk to pick up the A149. Halfway between Stalham and Potter Heigham, turn north-east of the A149, signposted Hickling. After about a mile, turn right at the crossroads (signposted HicklingBroad). After about 1/2 mile, the road bears left and the club car park is on the left.

Report By:

Richard Houghton

Photo Credits:

Photos courtesy of Richard Houghton & Hickling Windsurfing Club

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