They are Britain's newest national park and are in the care of the Broads Authority. Special legislation gives the navigation of the waterways equal status with the conservation and public enjoyment of the area.
The total area is 303 sq. km. over 200 km of waterways. There are 6 rivers and about 50 shallow lakes known as broads.
Specific parts of 'the Broads' have been awarded a variety of designations, for instance:
The Romans first exploited the rich peat beds of the area for fuel, and in the Middle Ages the local monasteries began to excavate the "turbaries" (peat diggings) as a business, selling fuel to Norwich and Yarmouth. Then the sea levels began to rise, and the pits began to flood. Despite the construction of windpumps and dykes[?], the flooding continued and resulted in the typical Broads landscape of today, with its reedbeds, grazing marshes and wet woodland.
The Broads have been a favourite boating holiday destination since the early 20th century. The waterways are lock-free, although there are three bridges under which only small cruisers can pass. The area attracts all kinds of visitors, including ramblers, artists, anglers, and bird-watchers as well as people "messing about in boats". The Norfolk wherry can still be seen on the Broads as some specimens have been lovingly restored.
A great variety of boats can be found on the Broads, from Edwardian trading wherries to state-of-the-art electric or solar-powered boats.
The Broads are Britain's largest protected wetland and are home to a wealth of wildlife, especially birdlife. Amongst the waterfowl: mallard, coot[?], moorhen[?], Great Crested Grebe, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose. Larger birds include Grey Heron, cormorant[?], kestrel, sparrowhawk[?] and bittern. Among the rare insects is the Norfolk hawker, a dragonfly.
The broads range in size from small pools to the vast expanses of Hickling Broad, Barton Broad and Breydon Water. They are unevenly distributed; there are far more broads in the northern half of Broadland, and out of 50 or so broads, only 13 are open to navigation. A further three -- Martham Broad, Sutton Broad[?] and Womack Water[?] -- have navigable channels. Hoveton Little Broad and Horsey Mere[?] are not available for boating in autumn and winter. These 18 broads provide approximately 400 hectares (990 acres) of water for navigation.
In the lists below, names of broads are bolded to help distinguish them from towns and villages.
The River Waveney