A day out on the Broads - what fun, what larks!

This was going to be an awfully big adventure.

When I say ‘big’, I’m thinking more Enid Blyton than Bear Grylls because I’m not massive when it comes to adventure. People often assume that because you work in the media, your life is all sex, drugs and rock ’n roll. But in reality, that’s just on Thursday nights. I’m kidding.

No, for me and Mrs Liggins, the idea of a good night out is not getting ‘hammered’ in a loud and sweaty nightclub. Not these days. We much prefer a light supper at home, followed by a light drama on television. I often can often be relied upon to fall asleep in the armchair at around 8.30pm and snore gently. After that, bedtime is normally around 10pm, or 11pm if we’re feeling a bit more daring.

But I digress.

The adventure I’m talking about was to walk across Halvertgate Marshes to Berney Arms, to do some research for this very column. Not far from Great Yarmouth, Berney Arms is in the middle of nowhere and is both weird and wonderful. Situated on the river Yare, it’s home to the world’s best train station, a restored old windmill and it used to have a pub, which has now sadly closed down. And that’s about it. Famously, you can’t drive there, but you can walk, take a boat or a train. I’ve done the boat and the train, but I’ve never walked there. So I looked at my Ordnance Survey map to see where to go, packed refreshments (orange squash, a chocolate biscuit bar and a banana) and set off in the car for the village of Wickhampton, where my adventure would begin.

Let me say at this point, that I am an excellent map reader. My children tease me remorselessly, but I love maps and more to the point, I know how to use them. So having studied my OS ‘The Norfolk Broads Walker’s Map’, 1:25 000 (scale is very important to experts like me) I decided that Wickhampton to Berney Arms was a little over three miles and would take perhaps an hour and half to complete?

Now in my defence, the weather on the day wasn’t great and the visibility was poor. You get the biggest of big skies on Halvergate Marshes and on this day, the sky was grey and it was misty.

It should also be pointed out that the way markers are few in number and point in all kinds of weird directions. Just saying. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I realised that one old windmill looks much the same as another - from a distance. Don’t hate me, they just do.

After about an hour, I was beginning to worry. I couldn’t find Berney Arms and although I could see a few old windmills in the distance, I wasn’t sure which one I needed. At this point, I had the genius idea of using the map on my phone. I typed in ‘Berney Arms’ and the phone assured me that I was 10 minutes away. Marvellous - soon be time for orange squash and a chocolate biscuit! Ten minutes later, the app had found Berney Arms, but I most definitely had not. The phone was more confused than I was.

To cut a long story short, I wandered round Halvergate Marshes for about four hours, walked eight miles …and never reached Berney Arms. I felt like a fool and trudged miserably back to Wickhampton, waving at Berney Arms in the distance. I didn’t reach my destination, but I did see deer, hare, lots of birds and a man in a digger and I now know better for next time. If there is a next time.

The serious point about this whole fiasco is that although the Broads are beautiful and ripe for adventure, they can be very unforgiving. On land and water, you have to treat the Broads with some care and respect or suffer the consequences.

A column on Berney Arms? Yes, sorry about that. Maybe next time…?