Navigating Bridges around The Norfolk Broads

Potter Heigham BridgeAll Bridges on the Broads must be navigated with caution, but particular care should be taken when passing under the lowest and narrowest – Potter Heigham, Wayford, Ludham, Wroxham and Beccles Old Bridge.

At all bridges (except the railway swing bridge at Reedham) most cruisers will have to lower their windscreen and canopy. Always remember to make sure that everyone stays in the cockpit or below decks when passing under a bridge – NEVER on the cabin top as you could be injured.

For more information on bridges download the Broads Authority leaflet Bridges or watch the Broads Authority Video Passing Safely Under Bridges.

Approaching a Bridge

When approaching a bridge, look out for the Broads Authority’s gauge posts. These are clearly visible and show the maximum clearance at the peak of the arch, with measurements given in both metric and imperial. At low bridges a warning board will be shown. If there is more than one arch, always use the one displaying the board, or where a bridge has arrows on it; keep between them when you pass through.

The height of your boat, with windscreen and canopy down, should be shown in your cockpit. If the bridge gauge reads less than this, do not attempt to pass under it. If there is only a narrow clearance margin, use extreme caution.

Bridge Drill

  1. Always lower your canopy and windscreen.
  2. Make sure that everyone on board, particularly children, are in the cockpit or below decks.
  3. Check your dinghy mast is lowered.
  4. Ensure that your top deck is clear of TV aerials etc.
  5. If you are sailing against the tide, give way to craft travelling with it.
  6. Motor cruisers should give way to yachts. Yachts have to lower their masts at fixed bridges and have reserved moorings for this purpose. Please don’t use these moorings and keep well clear of yachts manoeuvring near bridges.


Bridges Requiring Extra Care

Headroom (at bridge centre) at average water:

River Ant: Ludham Bridge 2.60m (8’6”) / Wayford Bridge 2.13m (7’0”)
River Bure: Wroxham Road Bridge 2.29m (7’6”) / Vauxhall Bridge, Gt Yarmouth 2.06m (6’9”)
River Thurne: Potter Heigham New Road Bridge 2.36m (7’9”) / Potter Heigham Old Road Bridge 2.03m (6’8”)
River Waveney: Beccles Old Road Bridge 1.98m (6’6”) / Somerleyton Railway Swing Bridge 2.60m (8’6”)
River Waveney: St Olaves Road Bridge 2.44m (8’0”)


Potter Heigham Old Road Bridge

This is one of the most difficult bridges to negotiate, as the centre arch is only 6ft 8in at average high water and the sides fall away sharply into the water at half circle.

You will have been advised on booking whether or not your craft will pass under the bridge, but be aware, this is still often dependant on the suitable state of the tide. You MUST use the Bridge Pilot Service to pass under the bridge, this service is arranged by the Broads Hire Boat Federation and the fee for passing under the bridge is incorporated in your hire charge.

The Pilot Service is marked with flags and signs as you approach the bridge the pilot will take you through either direction. It will help if you arrive at Potter Heigham Bridge about 2 hours before low water, (low tide at Potter Heigham is 3 hours after Great Yarmouth – see your tide table. (if your water tanks are full this will help to keep your boat in low in the water.

On some larger boats a plaque will advise you that the boat will normally pass under the bridge, however, the decision on whether or not a boat can be taken through is entirely at the discretion of the pilot. There are often borderline cases due to wind conditions or especially high tide and under no circumstances must you go against the pilot’s advice. Remember that water heights, tide and wind may be different on your return, so always take advantage of the pilot service.

The service is available from Phoenix Fleet boatyard between 8.30am and 6.00pm every day from 1st April (or one week before Easter whichever is earlier) to 31st October, and between 10.00am and 4.00pm weekdays only for the rest of the year. (subject to tide and weather) Tel: 01692 670460.


Wroxham Bridge

There is a pilot service at Wroxham Bridge, it must be used if you intend to pass under the bridge. The service operates 8.30am – 5.00pm seven days a week.

To use this service please moor on the pilots quayside immediately before the bridge on the right hand side. If this space is full, the bridge pilot will be able to advise you of other suitable moorings where you can wait, but please be aware at peak times there may be no available space if the service is very busy.

Once moored please telephone Tel: 07775 297 638 giving your boat name and your location and the pilot will be with you as soon as possible. Please be patient as at busy times there may be a short wait. It would greatly assist the pilot if you lower the canopy and screens if necessary whilst you are waiting.

Please note that passage through the bridge is always at the pilot’s discretion.


Great Yarmouth

At Great Yarmouth there are low bridges which may delay you if the tide is very high. The best time therefore for passing through Great Yarmouth is within one hour before, to two hours after the low water times shown in the tide table – you will have the best headroom under the bridges and your boat will be easier to manage. Slack water (when the current is still at the change of tides) occurs about one hour after the times given. Be sure to take notice of the three vertical red lights on Breydon Bridge, and the Yarmouth/Acle Road Bridge. Do not continue through if these lights are lit.


Reedham and Somerleyton Swing Bridges 

As you approach the bridge check the advance bridge height gauge to see if your boat will pass through. If you need the bridge to open give three long blasts on the horn. Whilst you wait for the bridge to open keep a safe distance from it and also from any other boats that are waiting to pass through. 

A single red flag being flown at the bridge indicates that it is operational and in service. If two red flags are being flown the bridge is not in service and is in-operable. If this is the case please take note of any signs that are displayed.

Are you looking for a Norfolk Broads boating holiday? If so, have a look at our entire fleet of hire cruisers.


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Registered Office: , Bridge Road, Potter Heigham, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR29 5JF. Telephone Number: 0800 144 4472.