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Vaughan

The Prodigal Returns

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I hesitate before continuing this account, as I am not exactly in the mood, after the news of the atrocity in London last night. We must all get back to normal however, as that is the only way forward. On this, I can add nothing to what Theresa May has just said, outside Number 10.

So you join me again on Thursday morning at 0400, ready to cast off and catch the tide through Yarmouth. I look out of the window and see - nothing! Thick fog! I should have remembered - when there is fine weather in late spring, there will be mist in the morning. So I had to wait until 0500 for full daylight.

I was the only boat on the mooring so all was very quiet, apart from a plaintive cry from the after state-room which asked "why haven't we left yet?". I suggested to my able crew that she might open the curtains and work it out for herself! I could see both banks and so I set off for the Berney Arms, where I would have stopped if there was still fog on Breydon. As it was the fog suddenly cleared, but I was now over an hour late on the tide.

The boat was cut down, by the yard, to about 7MPH, but this still gave enough power to stem the tide in safety. All credit to Richardsons for their judgement of the right speed to which they limited the boat. So I turned up the Bure at the Coal Wharf, by now almost 2 hours late and was able to throttle down to 1300 revs and glide through the Yacht Station with grace and due dignity, to the dis-appointment of the usual old codgers watching from Vauxhall Bridge to see if I messed it all up. As it was, apart from Spirit of Breydon, I was the only boat under way, from Reedham Ferry right through to Stracey.

Breakfast and a morning paper at Stracey Arms and then on to the Dog at Ludham to meet friends for lunch. I wanted to go to Thurne Lion but they were not quite ready to serve food yet.

 

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I was going to put this in the history section, but I thought it might be of more general interest here.

This is inside the old diesel pump house at Oby Mill. What amazed me was that I could see that the mill and the diesel pump had been inter-connected.

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This is the cross-shaft and bevel gear which went between the two and drove the down shaft to the turbine pump. (see next photo)

 

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At the bottom of the mill is the old brick arch where the original "water wheel" pump was installed, such as the one at Stracey Arms. above it is the cross shaft which drove the more modern turbine pump. Sticking out of the mill is part of a dog clutch, which would disconnect the mill from the shaft when required. I imagine the diesel had its own clutch on the flywheel.

I had always assumed that wind power gave way to steam, then steam to diesel and finally the electric pumps which are used now. Remember that the Broads is re-claimed land and still has to be pumped now, as it always was. It seems though, that the transition took rather longer to evolve and at Oby, either wind or diesel could be used as required.

 

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This flash photo was taken "blind" through a small hole in the door but we can see through the barn owl poop that the main shaft and bevel gears are still in place. The main pinion wheel appears to be made of wood.

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What the pulley belt wheels were for, I don't know. Perhaps to drive a "troshin' machine"?

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There is a planning notice on the site which says that a scheme is in place to restore the mill to working order and possibly to open to the public.

Imagine what the river will then look like, with the three mills of Thurne, St Benets Level and Oby, all in restored order. If that is part of the future for this area, I am delighted.

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This is the view from Oby Mill across the river. When I last saw this, 30 years ago, the reed fringe had been killed off by polluted water, the bank was exposed to severe wash erosion and the meadows had been ravaged  by deep-dyke drainage for arable crops. It was just a vast expanse of oilseed rape, going all the way from Fleet Dyke to Upton.

I am delighted to see a healthy reed fringe protecting the bank from wash and the grazing meadows restored to what they always were.

A beautiful Broads landscape, and I admit a tear in my eye.

 

 

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Must admit we have mud weighted many times in Rockland Broad but never with Mal. Historically with silver jubilees and Juliette's. I agree it's magical watching the sun go down and we never had an issue with weed or lilies or anything. Had an issue with mossies though. OMG rockland is mossie central at night... 

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Now you mention it, we never saw a single mosquito during more than 2 weeks in Norfolk. Maybe our healthy French wine diet is not to their taste!

More about why there were no lilies, in my next post.

 

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IMG_0096.thumb.JPG.e8863182fa4bd0966225874acb423bb4.JPG

That's another pair of new trousers ruined!

I love "communing" with swans after 3 years in Staines, taking part in the annual "Swan Upping" - which is not what it sounds like! All the swans on the Thames are rounded up and checked and the year's cygnets are ringed, as they either belong to the Queen or to the Worshipful Company of. . . . can't remember who! They are very friendly and docile birds, but you have to watch out for the cob, when he is out guarding the nest in the spring. If you get too close then, he can be pretty dangerous, especially to children. He is not vicious though - just doing his job.

This is where we stopped for tea, just off the top end of Barton Broad and then it was back to Stalham and the end of our holiday, apart from a lovely meal in the Harnser, on the Sutton Rd in Stalham. Another good pub to add to your list.

So, how did I get on, and how do I feel about the Broads? I have called this thread "the prodigal returns" as I wanted to make a comparison between the Broads I knew and worked in until well over 30 years ago, and the Broads I see now, as I have not been back to them in the interim.

So what are the main differences that I have found?

LILIES!!!

Pardon?

That is not the forum swear filter at work - that is the main, and vitally important difference. There were no lilies on the Broads in the 70s. They had all been killed off by the bad water quality. I have learned on other waterways in Europe that lilies will be the first to go, when water gets bad. But now, they are back in abundance, on the rivers as well as the broads, just like they were in the 50s. So the war against pollution is being won!

The same thing goes for the reed fringe on the banks. In the 70s the reeds were dying off in the bad water, so the banks were exposed to wash erosion. Now there is a healthy and thick reed fringe again, to protect the bank and to be a haven for wildlife. I looked for it, but I never saw any bank erosion, wherever we went.

I am hugely impressed by this.

The war is not won yet though, as shower water and washing up liquid can be just as bad for the water as sewage. Now most of the boatyards have gone, the BA must seriously address the installation of public pumpout stations at key locations. Ideally new boats must now be built with holding tanks for grey water as well as sewage, as they have been for years in Europe and in the States but there is no point in insisting on that, if you can't get the blasted things pumped out anywhere!

Speed Limits.

In my day, you charged around at 7MPH or more, or 5MPH in some of the villages, but not all. There is no doubt, the wash did a lot of damage. Now there are very much slower limits, which are enforced, and the rivers are very much the better for it. But have we gone too far the other way? A lot of people, private and hire, seem to think that 4MPH means tick-over, so all the boats following down the Ant have to spend most of the time in neutral to stop running into them.

To steer a boat straight at very slow speed is difficult and takes quite a lot of practice. But all the hire boats coming out of Richo's on a Friday and Saturday have not had this practice. So they go wandering all over the river and end up in a tangled heap before they get as far as Barton. Frankly, I found the traffic situation on the Ant, especially at Ludham Bridge, to be really rather silly. If only people would go just a little faster, they would still make no wash (which is the point of the limit) but would have twice as much control of their boat and probably still be within 4MPH.

On the dashboard of my boat it said that 4MPH is 1000 revs, but I suspect they say that on all of them! It is more like 1400, on that boat, and that makes a big difference, when steering it. Remember that 3.5MPH is known as a brisk walking pace, so that gives some idea. It is noticeable, however, that Herbert Woods hire boats seem to go a lot faster than any others. Perhaps they should have a review of their policy for limiting the speed of engines, for their own benefit as well as for the rivers.

Hire boats.

There is now a range of modern, luxury boats offering all the bolt-on goodies but there are also the so-called "budget" boats, built in the 70s and 80s but still going strong and maintained to top class condition. When you think of what it must cost to maintain the older boats I think the cost of a boating holiday is excellent value. Personally I would not hire a boat that will not go under the bridges, but that is my choice. I have also always thought of boating as a "camping" holiday. If you look at it in that light, you don't notice the extra luxuries that may be missing, on a 40 year old boat. But then, I helped to build our boat, in 1975, so perhaps I am sentimental?

How do I feel?

I came here prepared to be dis-appointed but I am most certainly not!

There are still lots of "issues" on the Broads, the main one being dredging and the next being finance, with its effect on river tolls, but I am most encouraged to see the Broads in the state that it is today.

What would I change for the near future?

Have Richardsons letting boats on the south rivers again, so I don't have to fight my way down the Ant!

I took my young grandchildren for a trip on the boat in Reedham before we had supper in the Ferry. They have grown up from babies, right on the river's edge, at Stalham Staithe, so they already have webbed feet. I am so pleased and relieved that the Broads that I knew when I was their age, is all still there for them to grow up in, just as I did.

Long may it continue!

cheers 

 

 

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It's lovely to hear that some (very important) things such as water quality have improved.  There are a lot of complaints on forums about the EA (as well as the BA), but they must be doing something right to effect such improvements. Since booking with Faircraft Loynes for our September holiday (or NBD) I've noticed that they have a policy of advising hirers to bring environmentally friendly toiletries with them, and it looks like they also provide environmentally friendly washing up liquid and a fat trap.  Perhaps it would help if other hire companies followed their lead?

Helen

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53 minutes ago, YnysMon said:

Perhaps it would help if other hire companies followed their lead?

You are exactly right Helen. I admit I was "cheating" rather, in my remarks about European waterways, since although all hire craft, since 1992, are fitted with grey water tanks by EC law, we can't use them, since the French have not installed any pumpout stations on the waterways! So everything, including the toilets, still goes straight in the canal!

So I have first hand knowledge of this ridiculous situation.

At least in France, all the bases sell bio-degradable products such as washing-up liquid, shampoo and soap. These I can highly recommend and of course, always take a shower ashore if possible.

Does the BA promote these products? If not, they should do.

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Thank you Vaghan for a lovely, evocative holiday blog. Much enjoyed and appreciated.

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What an enjoyable read and a very interesting post about how you found the Broads to be now Vaughan.

Helen, NBD make considerable effort to be environmentally friendly and even had a bin for saving your recyclable items separately. A bit of a pain because they didn't really have a good space for it so we kept shuffling it around. But it did the job and we saved everything that we could.

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Vaughan, a beautiful account celebrating all that is glorious about the Broads. 

Would you accept that it is at odds with the impression you get if you regularly read this forum?

The relentless impression given here is that a few brave souls are fighting a desperate rearguard action to stop the evil genius Dr Packman from stopping boating and finally achieve his lifelong ambition of a boat free Broads. Except for his canoe.

That they allow moorings to deliberately disappear, remove wild moorings (working with that other evil empire EA) to stop more mooring.

Deliberately fail to dredge. 

Deliberately call it a National Park so they can fulfill their evil plan.

Destroy the hire boat industry by charging so much.

Unfairly help the hire boat industry with the intention of driving private boats away by charging them less.

And generally do everything in their power to make things worse.

 

i find this odd. I see things are pretty good. So why the obsession here with presenting everything in a bad light?

 

 

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Hey up Vaughan - good stuff and I agree totally with what you say especially about the lilies and the reed banks and the meadows rather than oil seed rape! I too remember the Broads as you did - in those days me and my sister used to have a game of " Count the condoms!!" and now I cannot remember the last one I saw!!   OK times have changed a bit for many reasons but the ecology is hugely improved. Short term the danger is the the prevention of phosphates from boats going into the rivers - getting somewhere with the farmers and the sewage works finally sorted  a bit, only for virtually EVERYONE to decide they need at least one shower a day using that stuff! Some new boats e.g. at Ferry Marina, now have grey tanks and that I hope will be a growing trend

The real thing I still worry about is the lack of effort in keeping the trees in check, especially as the BA have fewer and fewer resources - trees by the river I can cope with in limited numbers but you will know as well as I how quickly trees grow in marshland especially willow, birch and alder and there is a real danger that manpower even from the NWT and RSPB, to keep those wonderfully iconic reedbeds.

I am just pleased that you found it better than your expectations - it helps going south but even up North you can still get all of that in the places I go too - perhaps not the splendid isolation but it is available if you look and get out of bed before the shower brigade run their engines for hot water!!

Batra bill - I thoroughly endorse your comments!!!!!!

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1 minute ago, batrabill said:

Would you accept that it is at odds with the impression you get if you regularly read this forum?

A very interesting post. I have already said that I came here prepared to be dis-appointed. So I am delighted to find that I am not!

For the first time, I have seen the Broads through the eyes of a holidaymaker. So it can still offer a fabulous holiday, just as it has done for Susie and I. But don't forget, I know the history, so I knew the places to visit, and those to avoid. I found the northern rivers to be well over-crowded and I think we only found our moorings there by luck rather than judgement. At the Spring meet of course, we were assured of a mooring - for two nights.

I very much understand where you are coming from. If you read this forum "blind" it seems as though the whole thing is going over the cliff!

But the underlying issues are still there. There is not enough dredging and this is not just vital for navigation but simply for the hydraulic management of the river basin. Remember the Somerset Levels.

Finance is fragile, since whatever you think of the hire boats, there used to be 3 times as many of them and they were paying 3 times as much as the private boats! The Broads has to be commercial, as it is not a "natural" place, so money has to be spent on its maintenance or it will gradually go back to a peat bog. We need to consider whether too much pressure is now being put on river tolls, rather than government finance, which surely the BA is in the best position to negotiate for us?

My comments on water quality are valid, and either the BA or the EA or the Councils, or who bloody ever, should be more concerned about holding tanks and the provision for emptying them.

So you are right in what you say. It is not all bad news! That means it's worth fighting for!

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I think overcrowding or not is very much down to individual perception and tolerance. As you know Vaughan I was boating the same time as you and although I stayed north for 5 nights I didn't perceive it as overcrowded in the slightest. You may have read my post about my evening at Potter when there were only 3 other boats on the BA moorings. I was also on the Ant on the day you picked up the boat but I didn't think it was crowded at all. I'm not dissing your views at all, just trying to explain how I saw it. 

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41 minutes ago, Broads01 said:

I think overcrowding or not is very much down to individual perception and tolerance.

You are quite right Simon and I deliberately chose the south rivers on this trip. All the same, what I saw of the traffic, didn't seem any better than it used to be and this is still not the high season. The hire yards that I saw still had nearly half of their boats on the quay un-let.

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2 hours ago, marshman said:

The real thing I still worry about is the lack of effort in keeping the trees in check,

Hey up Marshman and I am very pleased that you, especially, liked my account. I have never met you (as far as I know) but I think we are kindred spirits, when it comes to these matters.

 

 

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When I posted this, I didn't mention, that it didn't look like that before! Imagine no trees at all, a grass bank at the same height as the ramp and a clear view right across the Crown Point meadows all the way to Trowse. There were very few trees on the Yare, as the wherrymen cut down any saplings, so that they could keep a clear wind for sailing up to Norwich.

 

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This is Postwick Grove and it is nothing like I used to know it. It was a sandy beach, where you could beach a launch, and then a climb up a grassy slope to the hill, where you had a view over the whole of Norwich. A lovely place for a picnic. Rather like Salhouse, only a steeper slope.

As a teenager, I think this was the first place that I ever saw a beaver on the Broads. (Sorry - that's a different thread!)  :wub:

 

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This is Postwick reach, right down to the Woods End. This used to be open country! The structure in my first photo, can be seen on the right bank in this one.

I know this is not the same fen and carr that you are talking of, but the effect is still the same. It is a stark reminder that the Broads are not natural. They must have constant attention, or they will go back to whatever Nature decides for them.

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2 hours ago, marshman said:

Hey up Vaughan - good stuff and I agree totally with what you say especially about the lilies and the reed banks and the meadows rather than oil seed rape! I too remember the Broads as you did - in those days me and my sister used to have a game of " Count the condoms!!" and now I cannot remember the last one I saw!!   OK times have changed a bit for many reasons but the ecology is hugely improved. Short term the danger is the the prevention of phosphates from boats going into the rivers - getting somewhere with the farmers and the sewage works finally sorted  a bit, only for virtually EVERYONE to decide they need at least one shower a day using that stuff! Some new boats e.g. at Ferry Marina, now have grey tanks and that I hope will be a growing trend

The real thing I still worry about is the lack of effort in keeping the trees in check, especially as the BA have fewer and fewer resources - trees by the river I can cope with in limited numbers but you will know as well as I how quickly trees grow in marshland especially willow, birch and alder and there is a real danger that manpower even from the NWT and RSPB, to keep those wonderfully iconic reedbeds.

I am just pleased that you found it better than your expectations - it helps going south but even up North you can still get all of that in the places I go too - perhaps not the splendid isolation but it is available if you look and get out of bed before the shower brigade run their engines for hot water!!

Batra bill - I thoroughly endorse your comments!!!!!!

Showing your age there Marshy :party::naughty:

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3 hours ago, marshman said:

in those days me and my sister used to have a game of " Count the condoms!!"

In 2000, I went to Albany, in New York State, to start up a hire boat operation for Crown Blue line and the man who owned the yard where we were based was also a river tug skipper. One evening we were in a bar on the river's edge standing there with our beers and watching all the condoms, going down with the current, towards West Point.

He said "Yeah. Around here, we call them the Hudson River White-Fish".

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3 minutes ago, Vaughan said:

In 2000, I went to Albany, in New York State, to start up a hire boat operation for Crown Blue line and the man who owned the yard where we were based was also a river tug skipper. One evening we were in a bar on the river's edge standing there with our beers and watching all the condoms, going down with the current, towards West Point.

He said "Yeah. Around here, we call them the Hudson River White-Fish".

An old friend, now sadly deceased was a Captain on the Blue Funnel Line, and regularly sailed out of Liverpool. There they were refered to as 'Mersey Goldfish.'

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Well,

what a cracking read.  I purposefully left this thread alone.  I wanted to read the whole adventure in one go and was waiting for an evening when I had time to do so.  Tonight was that time and I have enjoyed every single post.  Well done Vaughan, you did not disappoint, far from it.  So many memories brought forth for me to.  I don't have your length of history or knowledge as I only go back as far as 1960 and the memories did not really start until 64 / 65. (Although I do have an extensive photo / film collection from my parents from the mid fifties)

It was a pleasure to meet you t'other week there if only briefly, one day I hopefully will get to converse with you over a pint or three

Griff

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Great narrative Vaughan and some lovely photos.

It was good to read your comparisons to the past and view of how the Broads are fairing up today.

Thanks for taking the time to share

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