The pen is mightier than the sword in the Broads National Park

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The River Wensum is a part of the Broads National Park and it wends its way into Norwich, the UNESCO City of Literature. Norwich is synonymous with a plethora of successful writers, from Julian of Norwich in the 1300s to 2017’s Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Kazuo Ishiguro, who studied the world-famous creative writing course at the University of East Anglia, so there can surely be no place better to fall in love with the written word. With the National Centre for Writing opening in historic Dragon Hall, we take a look at modern writers who have found their muse in the Broads National Park, with a few handy hints for finding your own inspiration along the way…

Sarah Perry, Author of ‘The Essex Serpent’:

Culture and heritage in the Broads - St Benet's Abbey
St Benet's Abbey

Bestselling author Sarah Perry was recently quoted as saying, ‘Quite what mysterious alchemy makes the East Anglian air so vital a source of inspiration for writers I am not sure – but the alchemy is there’ and she has certainly added to that atmosphere of magic with her novel about an Essex legend and the tussle between faith and science and how often the doctrines of the two can overlap. Perry lives in Norwich and has been appointed Patron of the National Centre for Writing.

Sarah Perry-style inspiration in the Broads National Park: The Broads village of Ludham has its very own ‘Ludham Serpent’. It is said to live underneath St Catherine’s Church and is closely linked with nearby atmospheric St Benet’s Abbey. For your own taste of local legend and watery mystery, a trip to Ludham is a must!

Louis de Bernières, Author of ‘Captain Corelli's Mandolin’:

bungay castle rosa hughes
Bungay Castle © Rosa Hughes

Louis de Bernières writes bestselling books from the village of Bungay in the Southern Broads. Among his many literary prizes he lists the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the Best Novel and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Best First Book, and has been shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. His novels have been set in locations as diverse as Colombia, Yugoslavia and rural England.

Louis de Bernières-style inspiration in the Broads National Park: Louis de Bernières has written a novel called The Red Dog about a famous Australian collie. So why not visit his local village of Bungay and take some inspiration from the village’s very own famous hound, Black Shuck?

Eimear McBride, Author of ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’:

norwich cathedral copyright hugh llewelyn
The magnificent Norwich Cathedral © Hugh Llewelyn (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When Eimear McBride’s debut novel won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Literature as well as the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Goldsmiths Prize, nobody would have guessed that McBride had been desperately searching for a publisher for her book for the last 10 years. After a decade of trying to find a home for the novel she was picked up by a Norfolk independent publishing house called Galley Beggar Press and the county has considered her one of its greatest authors ever since.

Eimear McBride-style inspiration in the Broads National Park: Cities feature heavily in the work of Eimear McBride so travel into Norwich or Great Yarmouth and spend time watching the comings and goings of human life.

Kazuo Ishiguro, Author of ‘Never Let Me Go’:

Hardley mill southern broads
Tranquillity at Hardley Mill © Julian Claxton

Kazuo Ishiguro honed his craft at the University of East Anglia. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017 and is one of the country’s most celebrated authors. He has been quoted as describing the experience of spending time in East Anglia thus, ‘after the frenetic life I’d been leading in London, here I was, faced with an unusual amount of quiet and solitude in which to transform myself into a writer’.

Kazuo Ishiguro-style inspiration in the Broads National Park: Ishiguro has described the solitude of East Anglia as ‘transformative’ so why not take some time out in the Southern Broads, famed for its tranquillity? Quieter than the Northern Broads, it could be the perfect place to find your muse.


These are just a small handful of the great wealth of writers who have found inspiration in the Broads National Park. Try out our handy tips for places to find inspiration like theirs and find a few of your own. There is so much to be inspired by and maybe you’ll be the next great writer to have written a bestseller in the Broads.