Almost a repeat of last year but Tuesday to Tuesday this time. There will be a link to the video added later (lots of editing to do). Saw plenty of wildlife, goslings, duckings, one coot, Grebes nesting, a few Marsh Harriers and plenty of Herons. This was our third time with Swan Roamer, next time is June and then we have her booked twice in 2020 (we do like this boat). We did see the Irstead Ranger about quite a bit, probably far more than in previous years.
Weather was rather mixed ranging from sunshine through rain and then hail, chilly most of the time but still enjoyable, if Easter hadn’t been so late this year we would have had the glorious sunshine that earlier visitors enjoyed.
Tuesday 30th April
Left home far too early really but I was unsure what the traffic would be like on a weekday but once we cleared the Milton junction on the A14 it was pretty much 70mph all the way (except roundabouts!!)
As usual we stopped in Hoveton (Wroxham) for the toilets (parked in Roy’s car park), proceeded to Womack for sandwiches and coffee then made our way to Richardsons at about 12:15. We knew that checkin didn’t open until 13:00 now but it gave us chance to have a wander around the yard and locate Swan Roamer. Noticed a new sedan boat outside the build sheds, not sure if it is the long rumoured one or not. It looked as if there were a lot of boats not out (or going out) which tended to confirm what I had seen on Hoseasons web site and the general rumours that trade is down this year.
Once checked in the instructor showed us round the boat, we asked for an extra rope, blanket and lump hammer (we couldn’t see the latter two on board but subsequently found them, we were glad to have two blankets most nights though). Once signed off (no trial run since we are regulars) and the boat loaded we left the yard at about 13:45.
We headed down the Ant with the intention of mooring at Irstead if possible (no such luck) or continue to How Hill which was to be. Good mooring near the cottage and then a walk up to the grassed area where some some photographs of the vegetation were taken, I had been hoping for a few early Damselflies and Butterflies but no such luck, I guess the chilly weather has delayed everything.
Once back on the boat we finished unpacking and then thought about tea of Chilli (brought with us frozen) and rice. Hoping for a good sunset but again this was not to be so quite an early night (as is our wont on the Broads) at about 21:00. How Hill staithe stayed quite empty all night, in fact we found that all moorings were half empty every day and the rivers very quiet until the weekend.
Wednesday 1st May
Left How Hill just after 08:00 and decided to head for Womack with the intention of having the Carvery at the Kings Arms this evening. We made a detour down to South Walsham to Russell’s for water (still only £1), some dredging going on down Fleet Dyke and Russell’s quay heading not good. 9ft under Ludham Bridge.
Arrived at Womack to find plenty of room and moored alongside Swan Rapide, two boats away from us on the other side there was a large blue boat that I initially thought was private but in fact it was one of Broom’s large new ones, very smart it looks too. Got talking to the couple on Swan Rapide who were not happy about the foot of the beds having restricted space and being freezing cold plus a very deep step as you entered the boat, I have subsequently looked at the layout of this boat and it really doesn’t look good. Noticed a Grebe’s nest opposite and spent the afternoon mainly watching the male tidying the nest up which the female was sitting on, at this stage we weren’t sure if the eggs had hatched or not. Later in the afternoon the guy on the boat now moored in Swan Rapide’s spot came up to me to say he recognised me from our videos and was looking forward to this years. In the end we decided not to eat out this evening. After the problem getting the mud weight up last year I had decided that it wasn’t necessary with the wind being so light. The staithe was pretty much full but most boats were a little spread out so there would have been space for another one or two but no arriving boats seemed too concerned.
Thursday 2nd May
Topped up with water and left Womack at about 08:15 having decided on Neatishead for tonight.
Once clear of the staithe we very slowly approached the Grebe’s nest (not too close) and took some video and photographs, it was now apparent that the chicks had hatched but probably only just, we did keep well clear so as not to disturb them which is more that some boats had done yesterday when they must have gone quite close at speed without noticing the nest.
Saw a few Kingfishers up the Ant and when on Barton Broad I checked (again) to see if any boats were following me and didn’t see anything but as we were about three quarters the way across a Broadlander came past us at what must have been full throttle, he then disappeared into Lime Kiln Dyke. It always amazes me when people complain that they use a lot of fuel (over and above their fuel deposit even) but have been cruising all day and at speed, keep the revs down and these boats are very economical. We proceeded through the narrow section meeting several cruisers and Nancy Oldfield boats coming down and arrived at the staithe to find plenty of space, went in forward and moored one boat length in from the end.
Shortly after our arrival three Barnes boats approached (2 Rhapsodies and one Lullaby), they were obviously together and all got safely moored, it transpired that they were a party of Germans (with a couple of English) who were on a company outing, presumably a team building exercise.
By late afternoon the three Barnes boats left and then others came up until the Staithe was full again.
Beware, there is a very grumpy Swan at Neatishead (we also saw one at Sutton Staithe, could be the same one) that will try to eat your boat, ropes and shoes, even tried to get on our bathing platform.
We went to the White Horse for dinner which was good, as normal, Claire had the battered fish while I opted for the ham with eggs, there was far too much ham for me although I did eat it all. I do wish though that they didn’t serve Coleslaw with most dishes, I hate it.
Friday 3rd May
Rain was forecast for all day and after I topped the water up and left Neatishead it started. We were going to go to Ranworth and/or Cockshoot but decided to go back to Womack since it is cleaner there when wet than either of the other two. Nothing else to report this day.
Saturday 4th May
Once topped up with water again we left Womack, destination Sutton Staithe.
There were a fair number of boats about now being Bank Holiday weekend and we met a few coming down the Ant with children standing and dancing on the top of them, some with lifejackets some without, really makes you wonder sometimes.
When we got to the last corner before Ludham Bridge I could see a boat on the other side with his stern partially blocking the opening with another boat waiting upstream of the bridge to come through as soon as there was space, once the other boat had got through we then proceeded and found that the current through the bridge was quite strong (combination of wind and tide) meaning plenty of throttle was necessary.
It was now quite windy and Barton Broad was fairly choppy with some white horses, Short sharp showers of rain and then later very heavy hail, I was glad that we had demisters for the windscreen.
There was plenty of space at Sutton Staithe and we moored well down the first section where it was fairly sheltered. A lot of heavy hail showers throughout the afternoon making the decks treacherous if you ventured out. Met our grumpy Swan again (if it is the same one).
Sunday 5th May
This morning was pump out day even though the indicator light said it was still ok so it was a trip round the corner to Richardsons for this and to fill up with water. We were unsure where we were going today but thought Irstead would be nice but space availability was doubtful.
As we went back down Stalham Dyke a Kingfisher was spotted so it was a quick stop of the boat and Claire managed to get a short piece of video before the bird flew.
Irstead was indeed full so we went past, then a short way down stream of Irstead two Otters were spotted swimming straight towards the boat but they dived before Claire could pick up a camera.
We carried on cruising down well past How Hill and then turned thinking we will go to Gays Staithe. As we approached Irstead again we could see it was completely empty so we moored in the inner section and pulled the boat as far forward as possible in order to give space for another 30ft boat behind us (Roamer is marked at 35ft but I think it is nearer 36). Shortly afterwards a private boat moored on the outer section and then another small private boat moored behind us for an hour or so.
A whole bunch of canoeists arrived and had a bit to eat and a rest, it transpired they were from a London canoe club and were up for the weekend camping near Dilham.
Later in the evening a 42/45ft bathtub decided he was going to moor behind us, he tried and ended up touching our stern with his stern on the quay heading of the private house next to the staithe on the downstream side, I had a quiet word with him and advised that there really wasn’t enough space after which he gently edged away and went towards Barton Broad.
Monday 6th May
Having left Irstead we went to Barton Turf for water and then had a gentle meander up to Wayford Bridge where we stopped for some lunch. Although I was tempted with Dilham we didn’t make any attempt to pass under Wayford Bridge because it was only reading just over 7ft and Roamer is marked as 7ft and when having the pump out the day before Richardsons said they had had a boat stuck under the bridge on Saturday.
On our way back downstream we had to avoid two large pieces of tree mid-stream just down from the boatyard.
Went on down across Barton Broad again to Gays Staithe where we moored for the afternoon. Orca came in for water so had a short chat with Alan & Dave (JawsOrca).
About 15:30 we unmoored and took a slow amble up to Stalham, getting on to Heron Quay was a bit of a challenge with boats going out but finally we got onto the quay, there were an awful lot of boats in so maybe business is slow at the moment. It rained on and off all evening again.
Tuesday 7th May
Woke up early again and it was still raining, once packed and everything back in the car the boat was refuelled and we went to the office to checkout. We got nearly £110 back from our £150 Fuel Deposit so just over £40 worth of diesel used, ok, we had only done about 4 hours gentle cruising each day at less than about 1400 revs but the heating had been on every evening and morning (no engine started, batteries good) when we got up. Just shows, with no speeding and taking it easy how little diesel is used.
The drive home was uneventful, Sat Nav (not needed but just in case diversion was necessary) was showing heavy congestion on the A14 at Cambridge but by the time we got there it was clear.
I will add a link to the video in a week or so and then our next visit is in June, hoping for better weather then with Butterflies and Dragonflies.