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The Prodigal Returns

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Susie and I have just finished a visit to Norfolk in our camper van, which included a week on the Broads on a boat from Richardsons.

On the ferry coming over from Caen to Portsmouth we saw the Queen Mary 11, coming out of Spithead on her way down the channel.




 We spent the first week in a chalet on the Broadside Chalet Park in Stalham. A very peaceful and well maintained place with all the facilities one could wish. For us it was nice and central for going out visiting friends and family. It has a clubhouse which is just across the main road from Richardsons, for those who fancy a bar and a meal a few hundred yards from the mooring. Only open Friday evenings and weekends in the off season.



Then it was load everything back in the camper van (I had found a folding wheelbarrow in Lathams) travel about 200 yards as the crow flies and load it all again into the hire boat at Richardsons. Thank Goodness we had hired a big one! The boat was ready at 1400 as requested but it was 1600 before we had everything stowed and were ready to go. I didn't need a trial run as they reckoned I had "been before" but I nonetheless got a very comprehensive handover of all the switches and buttons, etc.

It then took me 4 hours to get down the Ant through all the traffic and on to Salhouse, where the general consensus of opinion was that the gazebo that I had just delivered, could wait until the morning before we tried to put it up! Some things are best left until the morrow and so the Admiral and Mary Jane joined us for a GT instead!

I have posted my photos of the Saturday morning and we couldn't believe the lovely weather, after all the dreadful forecasts. There were 3 boats moored for the night who were "not invited" for the festivities but Grendel came down early and lit up his wood burner for breakfast. I offered him a coffee while he was doing it but he is a determined "survivalist". Anyway it was very effective as the "non members" soon departed under cover of the smoke screen!

We left the broad about 0830 to pick up Wussername an' 'is missis from Ranworth, which gave an excuse to charge the batteries, get hot water and not be accused of running my engine on the moorings. On the way back out of Ranworth Dam we came across The Corsican, stopped beam on in the river and seemingly broken down. I did the normal thing, lashed alongside him and started towing, while they sorted out whatever the problem was. Once we got past Horning Vicarage the news came across that despite Steve's best efforts the engine needed some parts, so we were "on" for a tow to Salhouse. It was only then that it dawned on me that I was no longer part of the boatyard staff : I was a hirer, and I was towing with a hire boat! Not allowed! I said to Andrew that if we get through Horning with this lot, on the Horning Sailing Club open day, without being pulled in by a Ranger, then I'm a Dutchman! Sure enough, just before the Swan corner there was the Ranger, coming the other way and there was the sailing club, tacking ahead of us. By this time we had started on the bottle of chilled Prosecco that Andrew and Anne had brought with them, so the glasses had to disappear into the galley "right quick"! As it was he simply waved as he went past and we all waved back. Talking about it afterwards, we reckoned he must have thought that it was The Corsican who was towing us!

We had a splendid weekend and went back to Ranworth on Sunday morning to drop off Andrew and Anne and then on to Acle to spend the night. As it happened, a boat came out of the right side moorings at the Maltsters just as we arrived, so I got in there stern on pretty sharpish. We then reckoned we couldn't do better than stay there for the night, have an afternoon siesta, and tackle Yarmouth the next day. We had lunch in the pub with Andrew and Anne, accompanied by Morris dancers who, just for once, were very professional and pleasantly entertaining. We tried for a pizza in the evening but the man who runs the hut had already run out of ingredients. So at least he had a good day's business! So it was a meal in the pub again, and very good it was.

So that's the end of part one, and I will leave you with a shot of Ranworth Church in the sunset.






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"And the second lesson is taken from the first book of the Prophet Pump-handle, beginning at the third line from the bottom. . . ."

You rejoin me on Malthouse Broad at dawn.



While I was taking this photo, about 0530, I clearly heard the boom of a bittern, about a quarter of a mile away, coming from the marshes on the far side. These marshes, then owned by Peter Mills, were used as a duck flight, of which my father was a syndicate member. On one of the moored boats was Bob, a forum member, who we had been with in the pub the day before. It occurs to me now - should I have woken him, to hear the boom of a bittern? Who knows? Maybe next time. You have to be up in the dawn to hear the bittern.

We moved off at 0830 and had telephoned The Corsican to find that they were repaired, so we arranged to meet them at Stokesby for lunch, to wait for the tide through Yarmouth. This left plenty of time for a quick trip up the Thurne :





This is my favourite of all the drainage pumps : St Benets Level Mill, with the "Bishop's Bungalow" in front. This was the holiday home of the Very Reverend Aubrey Aitken, Bishop of Lynn. A true Broadsman, famous for his evocative sermons in churches all over the Broads. His bishop's crook was fashioned as a boat-hook, with, at the other end, the "bott" of a quant pole.




Two lovely old ladies, Albion and Maud - still in the prime of life, thanks to the efforts of those who support them. My nephew was one of the builders of Albion's new mast, and very fine it looks.


Her Jenny Morgan can be seen above the trees right down the Thurne from Potter, and up the Bure as far as the water works. The Broads must never lose a sight like this.




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Next time, we are going to tow one of these, in case Susie gets "taken short" going over Breydon. It's very hard to get a pumpout on the south rivers, you know!

And so, we had a very convivial lunch sitting outside at Stokesby with Geoffrey and Steve and were also joined by Simon (Broads 01). We could see that the tide was running late so no hurry, and a good time was had by all! Apart from Austin, who seemed to have a bit of stomach trouble. Can't think why?

We had a very easy run down and by tea-time we were moored in the basin at the Waveney River Centre, where we had supper in the completely re-newed pub and next day had lunch there with James and Ruth Knight. James is my brother-in-law, so call me biased if you like, but the WRC is a really excellent facility these days. Immaculately kept, with lawns mown like a golf course, where you can tent, glamp, yurt, caravan, enjoy brand new luxury chalets or stay in new rooms in the pub. I can imagine having a great week's holiday there.


This what Broads water meadows should look like, before they started all the deep-dyke drainage. A really beautiful place.



New chalets being finished for this season at the WRC, and this will be their view.

That afternoon we went down the Waveney with the tide under us and we seemed to be the only boat on the river. As we came out of the New Cut we started pushing the tide, so what better place to wait for it to turn?




This is the Cockatrice, near Reedham Ferry. I don't ever remember it being open but it was a famous pub in its day, where all the wherries used to wait for the tide. It was also famous for the smuggling of brandy, by wherries which had gone out to lighten ships off Yarmouth Bar.


On the Yare near the Beauchamp Arms, with Cantley in the distance. Again, we were the only boat on the river. Quite a change from the Ant at Ludham Bridge!


By about 7PM we had dropped our mud weight in the lilies on Rockland Broad, near the short dyke.

But more of that next time. . . . .


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3 minutes ago, Vaughan said:


This is the Cockatrice, near Reedham Ferry. I don't ever remember it being open but it was a famous pub in its day, where all the wherries used to wait for the tide. It was also famous for the smuggling of brandy, by wherries which had gone out to lighten ships off Yarmouth Bar.

Now a B&B - see https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/17151152

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So here we are, moored on Rockland Broad. People don't seem to mud weight here as it seems too shallow, but lilies will only grow in 3ft of water at low tide. No more, no less. So if your Broads cruiser draws 2ft 6ins at the keel, you can moor in them. If you don't want to get them round the prop, then "kedge out" on the mud weight until you are back in the channel, as we did next morning.

And so here we sat, in perfect peace, watching the broad and having our supper, until the sun went down. . . .








Then I was up, at 0330, with the dawn.


There were so many things going on, that I couldn't film as there was not enough light. Two pairs of grebe were doing their famous mating display, which I have only seen before on the Thames. Big fish were splashing around in the lilies and twice there was the wake made by a big pike as it crossed the broad, just under the surface.

All the while, a bittern was booming in the reeds only about 300 yards away, accompanied by three cuckoos and the chattering of all the grebe.

Once the sun had fully risen at 0500 I went back to bed, and when we left the broad at 0800 it had all changed. The "early birds" had been replaced by terns, marsh harriers and swans and you wouldn't have known what had gone before.



I'm sorry folks, but you can't call this a "National Park" - This is the real Broads. This is Ted Ellis country, which you can only ever see by boat. No amount of nature trails or cycle paths would ever give you this experience.

For Susie and I, that evening and morning on Rockland was worth the price of the whole holiday.


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Vaughan, Rockland Broad. Your story, your tale, your memory, of that place, which you have shared with us, has I hope identified the Broads as a place which has been denied by many. But it is denied by many because they have not taken the time or effort to find our hidden treasures.

We read on forums on both sides so many negative comments. Some times I despair as to what visitors, indeed potential visitors think of us. 

Your post together with your photograph's will I hope will I hope emphasise  that it is not a magical place but also a special place. That controversial issues plays little part in our daily life. 

Share that part of the Norfolk Broads which seems to have escaped some people. You will not be disappointed.

Scientific Fuller would agree with Vaughan, the former, a broadsman of years gone by,  and so do I.

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What a beautiful description of dawn on Rockland Broads, sounds idyllic. I too wake early when on the Broads, but I've mostly stayed in my bunk, not wanting to wake the rest of the crew. Perhaps your account will persuade my hubby to get up earlier!  No need to consider my son, as it takes such an effort to wake him!

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I'm really enjoying your tale Vaughan. It was such a bonus on what was my last full day to have that drink in the sun with you, Susie, Geoffrey and Steve at Stokesby.  I didn't know about the Cockatrice nor that it was safe to mudweight at Rockland. You're not the first person to write about the getting up for sunrise thing so I'm going to have to try it. Could you explain where you were positioned at Rockland and what 'kedge out on the mudweight' entails? 

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20 minutes ago, Broads01 said:

nor that it was safe to mudweight at Rockland.

I wouldn't say it was "safe" - I would say "don't try this at home"! It was a night when there was no bad weather forecast and no wind. I would not have done it in different conditions. It is true though, that lilies will only grow in 3ft of water. The mud weight, however, would not have dragged even in a gale. The next morning it was very firmly planted in the mud!

Ships like landing craft have a kedge anchor on the stern, so that they can drop this before they drive up a beach. When they are unloaded they can then "kedge off" by hauling in on the stern anchor at the same time as going astern on the engine.

On the broad I did something similar by pulling the boat forward on the mud weight; raising the weight; throwing it out ahead of the boat and then pulling forward again. After a couple of goes at this, either your cardio-vascular system will implode, or you will find yourself back in the channel and can start the engine!

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Loved the story Vaughan. We used to moor at Ranworth and listening to the bitterns was one of its pleasures. On our dining room wall, I have a lovely 5 am photo of White Moth and a river cruiser moored in the early morning mist across Malthouse Broad; I often watched the Grebe mating dance there too. 


Er...and twice witnessed the Morris dance at the Maltsters!

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10 hours ago, Broads01 said:

I'm really enjoying your tale Vaughan. It was such a bonus on what was my last full day to have that drink in the sun with you, Susie, Geoffrey and Steve at Stokesby.  I didn't know about the Cockatrice nor that it was safe to mudweight at Rockland. You're not the first person to write about the getting up for sunrise thing so I'm going to have to try it. Could you explain where you were positioned at Rockland and what 'kedge out on the mudweight' entails? 

It means being fit and not dependent on an electric anchor/mudweight windlass. Quite simply you haul 45 pounds or whatever of muddy old iron onto the front of your boat, lift it up and swing it backwards and forward before lobbing it 15 or 20 feet towards open water. You then pull your boat towards that open water and repeat the operation until you are clear of the waterlilies or whatever. The trick is not to catch the rope around your leg unless you want to follow the weight into the water!

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Such a beautiful write up and photos, we often get up at dawn to witness the things you describe, a steaming mug of coffee and a spot of fishing watching the sunrise, there's nothing comes close to beating that

Thank you for posting your report and photos, absolutely stunning


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Here is one that Susie took on her iPhone - it came out very well.



It occurred to me after I did yesterday's post that I never saw any duck on the broad - either at sunset or in the dawn, and none in the sky either. So where were they? They had seen my boat moored on the broad and it frightened them off.

"Surely not!" I hear you cry. Why, you can stand and feed them on the village green at Horning and when you moor on Malthouse Broad they all come swimming up to the boat for food? But those are not the same ducks! They are Mallard, yes, but a domesticated variety, a bit like town pigeons, which stick around the populated areas and depend on humans, for whom they no longer know any fear.

Out there in the marshes around Rockland are the genuine wild duck, who are in their natural environment and you will hardly ever see them as they are very timid. For a start, they are nocturnal, so you won't see them in daytime anyway. You have to be very well hidden, very patient and very quiet, if you want to go wild fowling. This is why the organised "flight" ponds, of which there are many in Norfolk, will only "shoot" the pond about 3 times in a season. As soon as you have held an "evening flight" the duck will stay away from that pond for several weeks.

This says to me that there is hardly ever a boat moored on the broad at night, so the duck are not used to them. As I suggested earlier, this is the "real" Broads.

Anyway, it is now Wednesday morning, we are on our way up the Yare to Thorpe, and here is a nice shot for Timbo, of the south bank of the Great Estuary at Bramerton Woods End. :hardhat:


Actually, I don't remember the pub being visible from this part of the river in the "old days". Someone must have cut some trees down.



This is the site of an old brick kiln, set into the slope in the woods behind Bramerton Common. There were many of them here before, as well as at Surlingham Ferry and on Whitlingham bend. What is now the public moorings was once a long wooden quay (which I can remember), where the wherries delivered marl and sand for the brickworks and then loaded the bricks, for Norwich and Yarmouth. There was once a big industry around here.


Many will have noticed this strange structure at the top end of Postwick reach. It was erected by the Crown Point Estate and used to be connected by a bridge to the bank, so that grain, sugar beet and other produce could be loaded, by backing up a horse and cart and tipping it straight into the hold of a wherry. Just to the right is the old Whitlingham sewage works dyke, which contained the hulks of a huge Norfolk Keel and the Thames barge "Harold Margetts". I used to play over their decks when I was a boy. The keel was removed for an attempt at preservation in Norwich and the barge has now completely disappeared under the trees that are growing up through its hold.



Here is the BA's "Star Base One" at the old May Gurney yard on Griffin Lane. What is going on right over their own fence does not say much for their planning policies, especially regarding "residential use". I wonder if Thorpe Town Council would think all of this photo to be "aesthetically pleasing"?

At this point we had to turn back, as the tide was wrong for the bridge in Thorpe and we had to be in Reedham that evening to meet the family for supper. So I am sorry Colin, but we didn't quite make it!



These are the lovely Postwick marshes. This farm, with land going all the way down to the Woods End, was up for sale last year for one and half million. If I had won the lottery I would have bought it, just to stop any other  * * * * * from developing it. The Postwick Park and Ride is, effectively, just behind those trees to the left. I fear for the future in the urban sprawl which will surely follow the NDR development.


The tabernacle of a wherry, just above the surface on Surlingham Broad. There will be a bit more visible at low tide, but I think they have sunk down into the mud a lot over the years. There are seven of them sunk here, side by side, and you could still walk on their decks in the 60s. They were used by Ho' bros (May Gurney) as dredging lighters in their last years and may be still in fair condition, as they are sunk in fresh water and mud.



In the true forum tradition of taking shots of one's pub food, here is the ploughman's for two that we enjoyed in Coldham Hall. It wasn't on the menu but as we asked if they did ploughman's, they made this for us. The home made sausage rolls were the best ever!

This is a really first class pub, with beautifully tended gardens and moorings, where there is a large sign saying "stern on moorings for patrons only" No mention of a mooring fee, and this is as it should be, in my view. It seems to be more the "norm" on the south rivers.

So from here, we spent the night at Reedham Ferry where we had a good supper with my family. My plans for the next morning went badly wrong, but more of that in the next instalment. . . . 


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Hi Vaughan, Ruth and I will catchup with you and Susie another time. As it happens we left Thorpe on Thursday morning at 8 and made our way to Cantley for the night. We don't like to rush things, I'm stingy with diesel, and then onto St Olaves on Friday.

Should you decide to do another hire sometime we must exchange tel no so if you don't have time or tide to get to Thorpe we can meet elsewhere.

Love the story so far, I only wish we could have made the meet but other commitments made it impossible.



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Thanks Vaughan and Peter, I now understand what kedging is all about.

Vaughan, I continue to enjoy your brilliant historical knowledge. Good to have the feedback about Coldham Hall, they've had a mixed bag of opinions on here as I recall. 

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Thanks so much for the write up Vaughan. It has added so much to my experience of having visited the Southern Broads recently, having noticed the Cockatrice house and admired it and having wondered what the wierd structure near Postwick was. It adds so much to the interest in the journey to know something of the history of the features along the rivers. Fascinating! 

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