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Singing Soprano At October Half Term


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Our Broads trip started yesterday for myself and my daughter Natalia. Singing Soprano? We will be today, all being well when we collect Soprano from Richardsons. Prior to that yesterday we enjoyed a little curtain raiser...

Sunday 23rd October

My alarm went at 5am and I left home in Cardiff at 6, picked up Natalia and we had one of the smoothest journeys to the Broads I can remember. We've often travelled the day before hiring and today we had something different to try planned for the afternoon - a day cruiser from Whispering Reeds at Hickling. We chose it as a good way of enjoying the quiet beauty of the waterways above Potter Heigham Bridge, knowing how hard it is to pass through there these days.

We arrived at Whispering Reeds boatyard around 1230 for our half day aboard Bittern. We were soon shown aboard and on our way. Bittern is more than just a day cruiser as you can hire by the night also - I'll write a boat review separately. The guy from the boatyard told us Bittern handled 'like a dayboat' and he was certainly right as I had no issues piloting us out on to Hickling Broad. The sun was shining, the roof was open and we were boating in a beautiful place. Its been an unusually long time gap for me since I last visited the Broads, 13 months as I've been spending time and money holidaying elsewhere, including the Thames. For Natalia it's been 19 months and so it felt fantastic to be here. Soon after setting off it became apparent Bittern's throttle lever wouldn't stay where you put it so I resolved to keep my right hand on it (and later right foot!) to keep it in check. We had the opportunity to take a right turn down Catfield dyke and in doing so found a stretch of water we'd never seen before - a rare collectors item. Its a lovely little stretch actually, unusually straight and canal-like and very peaceful. It's not at all scary with room to turn at the end and not so narrow you couldn't pass another boat if necessary (although we saw no one). We made a brief photo stop at the mooring at the end of the dyke and then returned to Hickling Broad. There were a few sailors around enjoying the sunshine but no other traffic. Soon we made a left turn up Meadow Dyke towards Horsey and squeezed by the couple of boats we encountered on our way to Horsey Mere. We moored at Horsey Staithe and walked to the mill which is in mid-restoration at the moment. The cap and sails have been removed and it's covered in scaffolding. It's not pretty but it will be once the National Trust have done their stuff and it becomes a fully operational wind pump for the first time in something like 75 years. We were soon on our way again, turning the boat on the ropes easily and retracing our steps back down Meadow Dyke. Heigham Sound is beautiful and we were alone as we crossed in the sunshine. There was still time to chug down to Potter Bridge and back and then as far as Martham Ferry. Did you know you can hire a day boat from Martham Ferry? I didn't but I spotted a little fleet there although no signage. We really enjoyed the final chug back across Heigham Sound and Hickling Broad. On returning the boat I mentioned the dodgy throttle lever only to be told that was a deliberate way of trying to stop people going too fast! Very bizarre and unlikely to work in my view.

We headed to Acle and checked in at the Travelodge before the Bridge Inn for dinner. It's lucky we booked a table as even on a Sunday night the place was heaving. The food was very good and I do like the fact they have a gluten-free menu (I have the coeliac condition). To be able to order gluten-free chocolate cake is a luxury.

A brilliant day and roll on tomorrow and our next boat....

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4 hours ago, Hockham Admiral said:

She looks a nice trim little boat, Simon. What's the headroom like inside?

Probably no worse than usual for a forward steer.

I forgot to say when we reached Potter Heigham clearance at the bridge was under 6 foot so no surprise we didn't see any other hirecraft.

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1 hour ago, Jonzo said:

Yeah she's a nice little boat, and much newer (around 2004) than most of the Sheerline 740's you can hire.

What's she looking like these days? I haven't hired her for a while as we used to have her as a weekender and Mrs Jonzo tends to prefer a bit more space nowadays :rolleyes::rolleyes:

To be honest Jonzo she looked older than 2004 but that may be just because the exterior wasn't very clean.

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Monday 24th October

We started the day with breakfast at the Little Chef next door. Ok but overpriced was my view on that. Next Natalia being an A level student has a heavy homework burden for half term hence she stayed at the Travelodge for that whilst I visited Horizon boatyard. It was a busy turnaround time but I had chance to say hello to Rob and he told me about some of the goings on. I spent an hour or so just mooching about there and reminiscing about the happy holidays I'd had. I returned to the Travelodge to pick up Natalia and check out to head for Stalham. We completed the obligatory Tesco visit and arrived at Richardsons around 1230. We checked in and given a 230 time for Soprano to be ready. I enquired at Swan Quay at 2-10 and was disappointed to be told the boat hadn't yet been cleaned. They were busier than planned and cleaners had let them down. Fair play though cleaners were soon aboard and we were eventually able to board at 3-05. As we did so I spotted one of the managers wiping windows and screens. He cheerfully told me he was happy to muck in. This has been Richardsons busiest season in 50 years and the Saturday just gone was the busiest day. After the briefest of brief demos( "you know about this, you know about that, sign here") we were away at 3-35. We had a lovely cruise down the Ant. Soprano is beautifully smooth to handle and quiet. We opted for Ludham Bridge for the night. The moorings above the bridge were full (you can see a theme developing here) but we squeezed in at Hall Farm moorings just below. One or two boats were struggling to find space as darkness fell.


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Tuesday 25th October

It was typically cold overnight - why don't boats have brick walls? We survived with the aid of extra clothing and awoke to a lovely bright morning. We took a walk to Ludham Bridge Stores after breakfast. I have a few Norfolk Broads mugs I use all the time at home and I should have brought a couple with me because the ones supplied on board are way too small. The main reason for our walk to the shop therefore was to buy mugs that could contain a full mug of coffee.

We were soon on our way and turned right at the bottom of the Ant and headed for Ranworth. If you want to find a spot at Ranworth Staithe then the morning is usually a good time and so it proved today. There was a couple of tight gaps on the front overlooking the broad and I managed to make a bit of a hash of reversing in initially. I have a habit of coming alongside too close to the bows of the moored craft either side and the angles are all wrong. In that situation I find it best to pull away and start again and second time I judged the manouvre just right. Safely moored we took a walk to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust conservation centre. Although I've walked there before previously I'd missed out on going inside the wooden building overlooking Ranworth Broad. Upstairs there are viewing seats equipped with binoculars and these give you a good view of the wildlife and let you appreciate the non-navigable Ranworth fully. We returned to the boat and enjoyed coffee (in proper mugs now) sat outside in the sun. Ranworth staithe is a sociable kind of place but there's times in life where one person feels the need to show off to all others. In today's case, macho man who insisted on shouting instructions to all those trying to moor, whether or not the helmsman was evidently very experienced and handling the boat brilliantly. Thank god the guy hadn't been around when I was mooring earlier.

We decided to move off and enjoy a bit more Bure time before lunch. As we chugged out of Ranworth Dyke on to the Bure there was a procession of boats to our right as far as we could see. Cockshoot Dyke was already filling up, Horning was it's usual busy self and we opted for some mudweight time at Salhouse. I enjoyed some more outdoor time eating in Soprano's spacious outdoor cockpit area. We spotted a school party on multiple Herbert Woods boats, no doubt the Steyning Grammar school trip that's been running at October half term for many years. I phoned the Wroxham Bridge pilot to check if we could pass through the bridge later and was slightly surprised to receive a positive response.

The plan was to head through Wroxham and on to Coltishall for the night but it didn't work out that way. On arrival at Wroxham chaos loomed, the bridge pilot moorings being occupied, a a 3rd boat in the queue for the pilot double moored at the Wroxham Hotel and dayboats buzzing all over the place. With no sign of the pilot after a few minutes I opted to take a left and moor at Norfolk Broads Direct where we squeezed in the one available space just vacated by a boat moving off. I phoned the pilot and was told there were a few boats in front of us but he'd take us through when he could. Alas the Norfolk Broads Direct moorings next to the car park and the main road aren't the most scenic moorings on the Broads but they served  a purpose and after around 40 minutes the pilot arrived. I chatted with him about how much I'd been reading on the forum about how busy it was and he told me his log showed he'd plioted the bridge 40000 times this year, 10000 up on last year. By the time we were through the bridge (around 6 foot 8 showing on the gauge but plenty of room as we passed under) it was after 4pm and I decided the chances of there being a space at Coltishall Common by the time we arrived were diddly squat. Instead we opted to save the run to Coltishall for tomorrow and stay the night at the Viaduct moorings. We like it there because its peaceful but an easy walk to the pub and town when you want it. We ate tonight at the Wherrymans next to Wroxham Bridge. It's a few years since I've been there but the food was good value and I'd recommend it.

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It's been a long gap since I last wrote due to illness.  I will carry on with the tale. 

Wednesday 26th October

The day began misty,  grey and cold but I'll gladly take that to avoid rain. We set off around 9am for Coltishall.  There was an autumnal colouring to the trees but more green than I expected,  I don't know why.  At Coltishall I always like to "chug on past the pub" as my dad used to call it.  Usually I chicken out and turn around just after where the river turns sharp right and narrows.  This time however I was determined to brave it all the way to Coltishall lock and I'm very glad we did.  We even stayed afloat the whole way.  Another new mini stretch of water for us. We pulled up at the lock and got the mooring stakes out.  It's a pretty,  peaceful spot and there was much more of the lock surviving than I expected. 

Refreshed,  we returned to Wroxham and had a short wait for the pilot.  We pulled in to Royalls for water and a break by which time the sun was shining.  We had various options for the night having chosen to eat aboard and finished up at St Benets . 

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Thursday 27th October

Today I woke up feeling ill and unfortunately remained so the whole day.  I won't go in to detail but let's just say food and I didn't get along. Due to this we decided to cover minimum mileage,  starting with the short run to South Walsham for some mud weight time.  We headed to Ludham Bridge next and eventually to Stalham for our last night at the boatyard.  There was a problem with water ingress in the bow cabin,  swiftly rectified by Richardsons engineers who replaced a faulty bilge pump.  Alas not my best day on the Broads ever and I was very grateful for having enjoyed Sunday to Wednesday so much. 

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Friday 28th October 

We could have travelled home the previous day but I hadn't felt up to the long drive. Today I felt no better unfortunately so we handed back Soprano (39 litres used) and we got on with a tough journey home. 

I have to report my illness was the beginnings of endocarditis and as I write I'm in hospital receiving treatment.  Thank goodness for the forum,  it helps me escape in to Broads world during tough times. 

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So sorry you are unwell, Simon

We were out the same week as you and also did the 'chug' up to Coltishall lock for the first time, like you, had chickened out on account of it being a tad shallow in the past, glad we did, it's beautiful there, we didn't moor up this time but maybe a lovely over night spot for next time

Hope you feel better soon and thank you for the lovely holiday write up and photos

Grace :kiss



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