Area of interlinked shallow freshwater lakes in Norfolk, eastern England, between Norwich, Sea Palling, and Lowestoft. The area has about 200 km/125 mi of navigable waterways, and the region is a popular tourist destination for boating and fishing. The area became a national park in 1988. At St Benet's Abbey near Ludham are the remains of a 9th-century monastery re-endowed by King Canute in the 10th century.
The lakes formed some 600 years ago when medieval peat diggings were flooded as a result of a rise in the water level. They are connected by ‘dykes’ to the six rivers which intersect the region: the Bure,Yare, Waveney, Thurne, Ant, and Chet. The Upper Bure is where motorcruising developed and many of the smaller broads open out from here. It is an important wetland region supporting a rich variety of wildlife, including swallowtail butterflies and many breeds of birds. Reeds which grow around the margins of the lakes are used for thatching; Thurne has the most extensive reedbeds. Much of the water has been affected by excessively high levels of phosphates and nitrates draining off from agricultural land, and sewage pollution.
Principal lakes Hickling Broad (about 3 km/2 mi long) is the largest of the Norfolk Broads. Others include South Walsham, Wroxham, Barton, Salhouse, Blackhorse, Malthouse, Surlingham, Rockland, Horsey (the nearest to the coast in the northeast), Ormesby, Rollesby, Filby, and Somerton. Oulton is the largest of the Suffolk Broads. Breydon Water and Oulton Broad are segments of estuaries that have been converted into tidal lakes.
Nature reserves There are nature reserves at Howhill, Hickling, Hoveton, Horsey, and Ranworth and Strumpshaw Fen, with huge wildfowl populations, including ducks, waders, and geese, and at Upton fen where wild flora are important.