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A Week On Gainsborough Girl


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So Saturday 29th September will see the wife and me head for The Broads, to spend a week on Gainsborough Girl from Summercraft, which we booked at the end of our holiday last September.  

Neither of us had, at the time, any inkling that in the intervening period we would be in a position to buy a share in a syndicate, so this is likely to be our last week as hirers and our next visit will be on Moonlight Shadow in the New Year.

It will be slightly odd for us as on the last four Broadland holidays, we have been accompanied by our son and daughter-in-law and for the last two, our grandson too, but we are both looking forward to a rest and hopeful that the current spell of clement weather will continue. 

I will,  of course, write a blog, probably when we come home and I hope to have a few new photos to post (possibly another entry or two for the calendar competition) as well.

Even at my advancing time of life, the feeling of excitement at the prospect of being back on The Broads is the same as I remember back in the 70s.   Two more get-ups for work to go . . . . . . . . . 


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Enjoy! I always enjoy your detailed blogs. I have happy memories of a lovely trip on Gainsborough Girl with my daughter back in 2010 when she was 10 years old. As you may know it was originally fitted out by Brister Craft (as Yare Sunlight) and so there's a quality feel to the interior. 

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8 hours ago, YnysMon said:

Enjoy! Looking forward to your holiday tale, and lots more tales in the future from your Moonlight Shadow adventure. Wish it was us that could sign up for the syndicate!

Are you back on the Broads yourself next month Helen? I seem to recall you booked Bronze Emblem for October?

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We are indeed Jean. Only a fortnight Saturday, so we’re really starting to get excited! My eldest son is hoping to join us, so I expect he will want to do a lot of the helming. He’s been sailing on the Broads on Hunter’s yachts several times but it will be his first trip in a motor cruiser. We’re hoping to spend most of the time on the Southern Broads as Harry hasn’t been anywhere downstream  of Acle.

Have started making lists!

The only thing I’m worrying about is what to do with the cat. I’m hoping our neighbour will feed him, but I’ll have to first ask her how she would feel if he ‘popped his clogs’ whilst we are away.  He’s so ancient (20) that we’ve started keeping him indoors. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

Saturday 29th September 2018


I planned to leave our house at 08:30, to get to Hoveton by about 11:00 and hopefully miss some of the traffic through the roadworks.  My usual route is A45 - A14 - A11 - A47, but due to the works on the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge, of late I've been heading south on the M1 to Junction 13, then picking up the A421 - A428 - A14 - A11 - A47.  Careful planning by the Highways Agency have now set roadworks up on the M1 starting north of Junction 14 at the services, all the way to Junction 13.  We eventually left the house at 08:50 and not really being sure which way would cause the least delays, I opted for the M1 route and although there are several miles of 50mph limit, the traffic kept moving and we were soon onto the A42.  The rest of the journey, was thankfully uneventful.  The weather had been clement, with hazy warm sunshine, which continued through till dusk, when the temperature plummeted. 

We arrived at Hoveton at 11:15, parked in Roys car park and ambled round to Norfolk Marine to collect a couple of life-jackets that we had ordered in readiness for time to be spent on Moonlight Shadow.  I took them back to the car and the wife went into Roys to collect some supplies.  We had a route planned and subject to getting through Yarmouth on Sunday morning, included sampling the menus in several of the riverside pubs, so we did not need too much and she was soon out.

With the shopping safely stowed in the car we walked to the river and whilst Debbie sat at one of the benches with Harley (our dog), I went to get some fish and chips from Greys.  We sat and watched a couple of craft being taken through the bridge by the pilot, whilst we enjoyed our food.

By the time we had finished, it was about 13:00, so we retraced our footsteps back to the car and drove the short distance to Summercraft.  I was met by Sue, who told us that Gainsborough Girl was all ready for us and showed us where to park (undercover).  We quickly unloaded the car and after a brief handover (with a test run deemed unnecessary), we cast off from the boatyard at about 14:00, turning left onto the Bure and heading for Acle, our intended overnight mooring.

The boat was immaculately presented, complete with the usual tray of tea, coffee and sugar sachets and cup cakes.  It has to be said that Sue and her team do look after their fleet.  None of them are new, but throughout the entire week it became increasingly obvious how little care and attention is paid to the exterior condition of most of the boats from the majority of the other yards, with even the newest boats already looking uncared for and shabby externally.  Indeed, we chatted to several people in various locations through the week, all of whom were very complimentary about the condition of Gainsborough Girl, now twenty years old and at the end of the season.

We had a steady cruise, past Wroxham and Salhouse Broads, through Horning, past the end of Ranworth Dam and the junction of the River Ant.  Surprisingly, there were some spaces at the moorings at St Benets Abbey and we encountered a few of the rag and stick brigade as we neared the Thurne.  The sun continued to shine as we turned right, following the Bure towards Acle.

I was surprised and disappointed at the apparent lack of wildlife, though.  I'd seen a couple of herons and one grebe, but very few ducks.  As we continued, I spotted a heron balanced on a fence post, some distance from the river, so managed to slow the boat and grab a couple of photos.

We approached the bridge at Acle and I could see a space at the BA moorings, near the old shop, but another boat pulled off the quay at Bridgecraft and moored in the middle of the space that would have been big enough for us both, had he exercised some consideration.  I turned to head into the ebbing current and moored at the far end of Pedro's moorings, where we were soon asked for the mooring fee.  Last year it was £5.00, but this year it had increased to £10.00, with £5.00 redeemable on food in the restaurant, which I think is a bit strong, considering the lack of facilities provided. Anyway, there weren't any options, so the money changed hands and we set about unpacking, stowing our clothes and other bits and pieces.

The sun began to set, so out came the camera and I stood on the bank taking a few shots as the sun went down, before walking along the bank to The Bridge Inn for dinner.  After a few minutes wait, a table became available and we both enjoyed pate as a starter, followed by steak and ale pie and veg, washed down with a Ghost Ship for me and a large Sauvignon Blanc for Debbie.  With no room left for dessert, we paid our bill and wandered back to Gainsborough Girl.

We watched tv for a while, but we were both tired after an early start and a long (but enjoyable) day, so had a hot drink and an early night, with the alarm set for the following morning, needed to reach Yarmouth for slack water.







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Lovely photos. Looking forward to reading the rest of your tale. Hired from Summercraft back in the 90s on Gracious Girl which is no longer in their fleet. Keep looking at their boats but none of them seem to have the island bed that we want. But they always look so well turned out.

Sent from the Norfolk Broads Network mobile app

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Thanks for the lovely detailed tale...have taken note of the expensive Pedro's moorings at Acle, which we'll try to avoid when we are afloat next week.  Like you, we're planning to go through Yarmouth on an early slack tide.

Lovely photos too - especially the one of the heron.

Looking forward to hearing more!


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29 minutes ago, Broads01 said:

From memory the signage gives conflicting information but when we ate there last month they happily deducted the full £10 from the food bill. . . . . . . 

The signage does say that only £5 is redeemable against food and that was endorsed by the guy collecting the money.  We had no intention of eating in Pedro's anyway and it would have been ideal if we were able to moor at the BA moorings, however we had no option but to moor there on this occasion.  However for the money, broken mooring posts are not what I expect and it will dissuade me from stopping there in the future.

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Sunday 30th September 2018


We were up bright(ish) and early on Sunday morning, as planned. Debbie took the dog for a walk – it would be a long time before we moored again and needed to make sure that she (the dog) had done necessary business before we left and I put the kettle on for my customary cuppa.  The sun was rising, so I pulled some clothes on (after first getting rid of the pyjamas!), made my tea and went outside to take some photos.  The sunrise was spectacular and I hoped the day would continue to be fine.

We cast off as soon as the wife returned with Harley.  I set the revs to about 5 mph and headed towards Yarmouth.  I was slightly disappointed to find that there was no hot water, especially after our experiences with Grand Girl over the past few years, when there always seemed to be sufficient hot water left in the tank for me to shower as soon as I got up. I suppose that it was either a smaller capacity tank or not as well insulated.  However, after about twenty minutes running, the water was heating nicely, so Debbie took the helm (outside naturally) and I went to get ready.

We were well past The Stracey Arms by the time I emerged, showered and dressed.  The wife and I swapped and I took the helm, whilst she went below to get showered and dressed.  We were passed by three craft who appeared to be in a convoy, two from Barnes and one from NBD and I overtook Sovereign Grace, who was also heading towards Yarmouth. 

The weather was still good, but clouds could be seen in the distance and I feared the sunshine would be short lived.

We entered Yarmouth, past the ever more dilapidated Marina Quays and through the yacht station.  The early bridge height board showed only 8ft 6ins clearance, so we quickly dropped the screens as we needed 8ft 3ins to pass under.  Fortunately, I remembered to duck!!

Safely through, the screens were put back in place and we continued across Breydon Water.  There was a chill in the wind, but the sun was still shining as we cruised past the Berney Arms and mill, however it wasn’t long before the clouds rolled in. 

There was plenty of space at Reedham, so I turned Gainsborough Girl into the incoming current and moored between the Rangers hut and Sandersons yard.  Harley had the opportunity to stretch her legs and I wandered into Sandersons to see if they had a bulb to replace the one that had blown earlier that morning in the forward toilet.  I’m not sure who I was talking to there, but he had a rummage in the apparent chaos in the shed and couldn’t find one, suggesting that I should be able to get one in Brundall.

I topped up the water, before setting off again, this time heading for Rockland Staithe.  We continued along the Yare and had passed the ferry, the turning for the Chet, Hardley Mill and the sugar factory at Cantley when a familiar shape loomed into view from the direction of Brundall.  We had been in contact with our fellow syndicate members and I was aware that another couple were aboard Moonlight Shadow that week.  They were also aware that we would be on Gainsborough Girl, so agreed (by email) to look out for each other.  

Sure enough, Moonlight was heading towards us, so we waved at them from the upper helm and realising that it was us, got a friendly wave back.  It seemed slightly strange to see the boat that we own a share of being used by someone else, but also felt a sense of pride in the knowledge that we were co-owners of her.

We carried on past the Beauchamp Arms, that seems to have a new name, which I cannot now remember, turning left shortly afterwards down Short Dyke and through Rockland Broad, to moor at the staithe.  There were only a couple of other boats there, so there was plenty of space.  I climbed off with my camera, but soon a heron landed on the wooden staging and started fishing.  I hurried back to the boat, fully expecting it to fly off, fitted my long telephoto lens to my camera and took several shots whilst it stalked along the staging, before it flew across the staithe, landing on the quay heading on the other side. It flew off again when someone walked across the green.

We had bacon rolls for lunch and decided to see how far it was to walk to Short Dyke, so we got ready and walked along the path, spending a few minutes in the bird hide on the way.  There was an abundance of birds there, ducks, geese (greylag and Canada), grebes, cormorants, swans and coots – that’s where they had all been hiding!!  It took less time than we thought and decided that it could well be the overnight mooring on Monday, with the potential to eat in the New Inn, too.

We wandered back to the boat, cast off and headed for The Ferry House, at Surlingham, where I had booked a mooring and a table for our overnight mooring and meal.  We arrived shortly after 16:00, found the allocated space and moored safely.  The weather had remained grey and cheerless, so we set up the TV aerial, I read and Debbie started a new cross-stitch.  

At about 18:45 we took the short walk to the pub, which was warm and welcoming on what had become a chilly evening.  The pub was busy, but not packed and we soon found our table, next to a piping hot radiator.  We ordered food and drinks, prawn cocktail for Debbie and whitebait for me as starters and we both had liver and bacon with mash and vegetables for mains.  I must confess that I am getting the taste for Ghost Ship!

With no room for dessert, we paid the bill and left, walking along the lane to the houses at the end, before turning and walking back, to allow Harley time to do the necessaries before returning to the boat. 

We watched TV for a while, before the customary hot drinks and bed.  The plan was to be in Norwich the following morning, so there was no desperate need for an early start.











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Monday 1stOctober 2018

 Monday dawned, grey and gloomy.  I was up early again, despite there being no desperate need, probably due to getting up at 04:30 when at work.  I pulled some clothes on (warmer than the PJ’s) made a brew (as usual) and the wife eventually surfaced, got ready and took Harley for a walk. When she returned, I sliced some bread and made toast for breakfast and waited until just after 08:00 before starting the engine to heat the water. 

We cast off at about 08:30, heading for Norwich. Despite the weather forecast saying that it would be a fine day, with sunshine, it was raining, so Debbie took the helm inside whilst I went for a shower and to get ready.  By that time, the rain had stopped, so I switched to the upper helm and she went for a shower.

The river levels seemed high and I was a little concerned that we may have some difficulty negotiating the railway bridge as we entered Norwich, but the boards indicated 10ft 6ins, so we passed under easily. The dereliction that used to border both sides of the river (with the exception of the Coleman’s factory) seems to be being replaced by new buildings, some of questionable design, at an ever increasing rate, however there are still a few boats moored as you progress into the City, that lead you to wonder how they remain afloat.

We passed the old converted barge that now functions as a restaurant, looking somewhat different now with much of the old cladding removed and the space that used to be occupied by the MTB, before cruising under the last bridge before the yacht station.  The Ranger was just locking his office as we went to moor and pay and he waved us on saying he would catch up with us later, so I headed along the river, mooring towards The Bishops Bridge, as usual.

We gathered necessary bits and pieces, ready for the walk into Norwich and headed over the bridge, along the riverside walk to Pulls Ferry, then turned right onto Ferry Lane.  Upon reaching the Cathedral, I headed in to take yet more photos and the wife sat outside, near the memorial to Edith Cavell, with the dog.

I mooched round, conscious of the fact that Debbie was outside, took the photos, had a chat with a couple who were comparing the grandeur of the Cathedral with two they live close to (Salisbury and Winchester) and returned to meet Debbie.  The weather had brightened up, but it was far from the sunny day promised on the morning weather forecast.  We left the grounds by the Ethelbert Gate, crossing into Queen Street and continuing onto the pedestrianised area and the shops.

I spotted Greggs and had to go in – some of their branches sell London cheesecakes which I am very partial to but seldom see where we live and obviously, whilst there, was tempted by a bacon and cheese turnover. I treated the wife to a cake and turnover too and we continued with the shopping trip, visiting a couple more shops before heading for Tesco. Debbie headed for the market and a particular pet food stall and I entered Tesco, just as there was a sudden heavy shower. Fortunately, it stopped, just as I’d finished collecting and paying for the required provisions.  Result!!

We walked back to the boat, stowed the shopping and had lunch of sausages in rolls, before casting off and moving along to moor again near a hose to top up with water.  The Ranger came and helped, collecting the mooring fee at the same time.  Tanks topped up, we set off again, destination Short Dyke Staithe, off Rockland Broad.

The clearance under the railway bridge had reduce to about 9ft 6ins, but ample for us to pass under without needing to drop the screens. We cruised slowly back along the Yare, retracing our route from earlier in the day.  Surprisingly, there were only two or three boats moored at Bramerton, usually quite full and it would have made a good, peaceful mooring for the night, but was too far to get to Yarmouth and catch slack water on Tuesday morning, so we pressed on for our planned destination.

Moonlight Shadow was at her home mooring at Brooms, Brundall and I saw our co-owner fishing from the quay nearby.  We exchanged waves and shouted pleasantries before we carried on.  Remembering we needed a bulb, I called in to Silverline’s yard, but they have converted to LED lighting and were unable to help.  They suggested I tried Brian Wards and were happy for us to moor Gainsborough Girl there for a few minutes so we made the short walk through Riverside Estate, past the pub and across the level crossing, where we successfully purchased the required bulb.

We wandered back to the boat and as we passed the row of buildings that used to be the offices of various hire yards, I thought how different it is now to the way it was, even only a few years ago at the turn of the millennium, when so many boatyards were operational and hiring. 

We re-boarded Gainsborough Girl and set off for our overnight mooring. The weather had brightened up for a while, but was becoming increasingly overcast and gloomy.  The river was quiet, and we only saw two other boats before we turned along Fleet Dyke and across Rockland Broad.  Another hire craft pulled out of the turn to Rockland Staithe and started to follow us across the Broad, however within a few seconds he had opened the taps and came speeding past, clearly in a hurry to get somewhere.  

I was somewhat surprised at how full the BA moorings on Short Dyke were, but there was room for us and we moored easily.  As usual, Debbie set up the TV aerial and sat down to do some knitting (she likes to be busy) and I went to take a few photos.  However it wasn’t long before there was a loud bang (not sure if it was a bird scarer or a shotgun), that caused all the geese that were congregating on the far side of the Broad to take flight and many flew over where I was standing, making a tremendous din as they flew over.

Just after 18:30, we set off for the pub (The New Inn), walking along the path round the Broad.  When we arrived, we found a table and made our choices from the menu.  The landlady commented that no-one should leave there hungry and she certainly wasn’t joking.  The wife ordered a prawn cocktail as a starter (again) which was so big it better resembled a prawn salad when it arrived and I had calamari with sweet chilli dipping sauce and we both had cod and chips as a main.  Debbie had a wine and I tried Green Jack, which proved quite palatable.  With no room for dessert (again), we paid the bill and returned to the boat, grateful for the pre-holiday purchase of a powerful LED torch as we negotiated the path once more.

As usual, we watched TV for a short while, had the customary hot drink before retiring for an early night.  I had calculated that we needed to be away as soon as the sun rose the following morning, to make sure that we arrived at Yarmouth at slack water.









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Tuesday 2ndOctober 2018

 We were both up just after 06:00 and pulled some clothes on, Debbie to take Harley for a walk and I, to make a cuppa, open the curtains and wipe the condensation from the windows.  There was no chance of any sort of sunrise worthy of photography this morning, it remained dull and dreary, with the addition of a stiff breeze which had sprung up overnight.

Debbie returned with the pooch and we cast off shortly before 07:00, using the inner helm, turning right onto the Yare when we reached the end of Short Dyke.  The river was quiet as we headed towards Breydon Water.

As we passed Hardley Mill when the water was hot enough, I headed for the shower and emerged just as we were passing under the bridge at Reedham.  Another boat, cast off from Reedham Quay and was following us and a private craft exited the New Cut, heading in the same direction, but soon overtook us.  I switched to the upper helm, deciding that I would brave the wind, whilst Debbie went to shower and dress, but there were breaks in the cloud developing and the sun was beginning to shine.  

It wasn’t long before we were entering the expanse of Breydon Water and we had made better time than anticipated.  We were running about 30 minutes ahead of plan, not a massive issue in itself as we would still be at low water through Yarmouth, but I had an eye on the potential for pushing an ebbing current and the cost of fuel as a consequence.  Gainsborough Girl has a high airdraft and the wind was making steering a steady course difficult.  Speeding up would have helped, but would have made our arrival at Yarmouth even earlier, so we continued at a steady 5 mph, with constant corrections to our direction necessary.

A dredger was working under the span of Breydon Bridge we usually use, so we had to pass under the central span instead, then turned left at the yellow post.  There was plenty of clearance under the bridges and it had not even been necessary to drop the windscreen, but we had hit the outgoing current and had been forced to increase the engine revs to maintain our speed.  We were in a convoy of boats now, progressing through Yarmouth.

I was pleased to be past Marina Quays and back into open country, which is bleak but to me is infinitely preferable to Yarmouth.  We passed one cruiser, who was going very slowly and found ourselves behind the syndicate cruiser Thunder (who we would see several more times through the remainder of the week) and followed her all the way past The Stracey Arms, through Stokesby and into Acle, where they turned to moor outside The Bridge Inn. We continued a few yards further, under the bridge and stern moored at Bridgecraft to top up the water. 

I had jumped off the boat with the ropes and expected to see the wife follow, however when I had tied up and went to get the key to open the water tank, she was crouched over Harley who had torn a claw from the paw on her back leg in her desperation to get off the boat, which was bleeding profusely.  She had contained the bleeding with a tea towel, then found the first aid kit and wrapped it in a bandage and large plaster.  We always cover the seating with blankets, so there was no issue with the boat and upholstery which was fortunate.

I topped up the water and had a chat to the family on the boat that had moored beside us, before discussing what to do with the pooch and whether a visit to the vet was necessary.  The bleeding seemed to have stopped and Debbie re-bandaged the injury. Harley, meanwhile, was looking very miserable, which was understandable under the circumstances.  

We decided to wait and see how she was the next morning before visiting the vets, as although looking sorry for herself, she didn’t seem to be worrying unduly although she never cries and seldom whimpers if she is hurt and on this occasion, was no exception.

We pressed on up the Bure, still steering from the upper helm.  The sun was out and there was what could best be described as a photographer’s sky, with fluffy clouds, although the breeze was still blowing even stronger than before. A few sailes were about, taking advantage of the weather conditions.  We were heading straight into the wind as we neared the junction with the Thurne, they weren’t tacking, but making good progress along the river in the opposite direction. 

We turned right at the junction of the Bure and Thurne, heading for Thurne Dyke and our overnight mooring.  By this time it was about 13:45 and I was somewhat amazed at the number of boats already moored there and it was only as I read the boards along the dyke I realised that there had been a regatta on and moorings were reserved until 14:00 that afternoon.  

We managed to moor on the mill side of the dyke, with the assistance of a couple of people who were there at the time.  The breeze was blowing across the dyke, which made the process extremely difficult, especially give the tall profile of the boat. There was much activity with most of the craft already moored moving off, some hitched to yachts obviously departing the event and moving to home moorings.  

After about an hour, the activities ceased and peace reigned. Debbie sat at the stern, reading. It was too breezy for knitting or cross-stitch and I just chilled, not really concentrating on anything, just watching the boats pass on the river and enjoying the moment.  

We had decided to eat in The Lion that evening.  We’d been there the previous year and hadn’t been particularly impressed.  The food was good, but the choices on the menu very limited and the décor in the pub had been too dark to really see what we were eating.  We waited until I’d taken photos of the sunset, which turned out to be worth waiting for, before wandering the short distance along the dyke to the pub.  Harley was hopping on three legs, loathe to put her injured paw on the ground and we were becoming increasingly concerned, however having arrived at The Lion and being shown to a table, she lay down quietly whilst we made our choices from the now extensive menu and ate.

I chose salt and pepper whitebait for a starter and the wife selected pate and we both liked the sound of the pork belly for mains. There was no Ghost Ship available, so Oakham Citra was recommended as a substitute, which proved to be very drinkable and Debbie had her usual large glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Again, there was no room for dessert, however with an extensive range of gins on offer, we decided to try one.  Neither of us were gin drinkers, so really didn’t have a clue what to sample, however the barman (Jim, who was also very knowledgeable about the choice of beers available) guided us towards one in particular, with a flavoured tonic.  We ordered a double (to share) and I have to say we were converted.  

We had a chat with Jim and the chef before leaving, thanking them for a great meal.  The food was exceptional and completely changed my previous impression of the place. We will be looking forward to future visits when we are aboard Moonlight Shadow next year.

We wandered back along the dyke to Gainsborough Girl. Harley was still hobbling, confirming our earlier thoughts of seeing  how she was the following morning before deciding whether to take her to the vet.

As ever, the TV went on for a while, whilst we had a hot beverage, before retiring to bed.





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Wednesday 3rdOctober 2018

I had been hopeful of a golden sunrise when I went to bed, so climbed out of bed when I woke at about 06:15 and peered through the condensation and out of the windows.  For a change, I wasn’t disappointed – the sky was clear and looked promising, so I hastily changed, and woke the wife in the process.  She gathered her thoughts and examined Harley’s paw.  There was no fresh blood showing on the bandage and I left her making a fuss of the dog, whilst I collected my camera and headed out to take some pictures.

There was already a photographer standing on the bank, near the mill, with his camera on a tripod and looking quite professional. His partner (I assume) was sitting on a nearby bench, looking bored.  I went through the gate and found a convenient spot on the bank that was ideal for what I wanted and patiently waited whilst the sun rose, casting a golden glow over the scene.  I must have been there for some time, but eventually a cruiser passed, disturbing the water and the mirror like reflections that had previously been created, so I called it a day and returned to the boat for breakfast.  I noticed that the other photographer was still there, but his partner must have become too impatient and had wandered along the dyke.

I looked across the river at the mill on the other side and noticed that there were quite a few cormorants perched on the sails.  Note to self – find out what the collective noun for a group of cormorants is!

Debbie had taken Harley for a short walk and she was putting her injured paw on the ground sometimes, so appeared to be slightly better. We had toast for breakfast and waited until after 08:00 to start the engine to heat the water.  No-one was moored close to us, so we shouldn’t have created too much of a disturbance, anyway.  I waited about twenty minutes and went for a shower and to get ready. The water wasn’t really hot enough, but it did.

We cast off just after 09:00 and I reversed easily out of the dyke, using the upper helm.  The breeze that had caused so many problems the previous day had dropped and I turned Gainsborough Girl to head up the Thurne, with Womack Water the intended destination.  We passed Thunder, coming in the opposite direction and that still wasn’t the last time our paths would cross that week.

The wife headed for the shower and it wasn’t too long before I turned left into Womack Dyke.  I noted that there was one space at the BA moorings on the right of the dyke, just in case the staithe was full, but I needn’t have worried as there were several gaps and I slotted the boat into a convenient space at the shop end of the staithe.

The clouds had begun to roll in and threaten my optimism for the beautiful day that the sunrise had promised.  We gathered a couple of bags, locked up, lifted Harley off the boat and took the short walk into Ludham village.  The wife sat on the bench by the church gate, whilst I went into the butchers.  Although Rodney has now retired, the current owner still maintains the quality that we always came to expect before and I selected meat for dinners for the next two nights, as well as some bacon, eggs and a couple of pork pies that I thought would be ideal for lunch with a dollop of nice chutney.

With the bill paid, I walked across the road to re-join Debbie and left her and Harley there while I went to take a few pictures in the church, which does seem very large for the size of the village it serves. That accomplished, I went back outside, collected the wife and dog and crossed the road to Throwers.

Debbie gave me a list and went to sit on the benches to the side of the shop and I was entrusted with the task of getting the provisions.  Selections made, I paid the bill and went back outside and walked back towards the staithe.

Harley seemed to be walking better, putting her injured paw on the ground more and hopping less.  When we were back to Gainsborough Girl, I lifted her back on to save her jumping and we clambered aboard.  The water levels certainly seemed higher than usual, making getting on and off even more of a challenge.

With the shopping safely stowed, the kettle went on and we cast off, heading for Potter Heigham.  By now, the cloud cover had rolled in and there was no sign of the sun, but the outside helm provided views over the banks, revealing scenery that had previously gone unnoticed and I remained outside, determined to soak in all that was visible.

We soon arrived in Potter and chugged past the chalets that line the banks on the way to that bridge.  We needed to top up the water and I had anticipated going into Woods yard as usual, but as we approached, it looked full, so opted to moor outside the Pilots office.  The Pilot emerged and told me that he wouldn’t be able to get Gainsborough through – I hoped that he didn’t think that I’d even considered that it was even remotely possible!!

With the tanks filled, we cast off, clearing the water point and moored a hundred yards or so further along the bank.  I wanted to nip across to Lathams, mainly for the bakery, but also to see if I could get Harley a treat.  Debbie decided to stay on the boat, with the dog, so I walked across the road, found a bag of treats Harley is partial to, selected a couple of cakes and a loaf from the bakers and headed back over the bridge.

Chips had not been on the list, but the smell from the chippie hit my nostrils and I gave way to temptation so bought a bag to go with the pork pies, already purchased from the butchers.  I returned to the boat and we had lunch before casting off once more.

I hoped to moor somewhere up the Ant that night, but was unsure of whether we could get under Ludham Bridge. I decided to have a look anyway. The sky had become quite threatening and I had felt a few spots of rain as we left Potter.  Fortunately, it soon passed, but the sky remained grey and cheerless.  The journey down the Thurne was uneventful and we turned right onto the Bure when we reached the junction.

There had been a fishing competition on that day and there had been several fishermen along the right-hand bank of the Thurne, from the end of Womack Dyke almost to Thurne Dyke and there were many more fishing as we approached St Benet’s Abbey.  A swan was helping itself to the bait from one man’s box as he fished, which was a comical sight.  The fisherman seemed quite tolerant and occasionally threw some in the water for the swan.

We turned right up the Ant and as we approached the bridge, dropped the screen in anticipation of being able to pass under.  I was worried as the advance height marker indicated only 8ft clearance, three inches less than we needed, however I was aware that there are inconsistencies with the markers so carried on towards the bridge where the indicator also showed 8ft.

From the upper helm, it was easy to look along the roof line and there was definitely clearance, so edged up to the bridge and sure enough, there was at least five or six inches between the roof of the boat and the bridge.  When I looked back at the height marker on the other side, it showed 8ft 3ins.

Grateful that we had made it, we carried on up my favourite river on the Northern Broads, past How Hill, through Irstead and across Barton Broad.  Paddy’s Lane is a pleasant, quiet mooring and as we were eating on board that night (for a change), so I turned left at the top of the broad and moored.  

My brother-in-law had given me some fishing tackle when we told him that we had bought a share in Moonlight Shadow and I had applied for an eight-day licence, so thought it would be an ideal opportunity to give it a go.  I had been fishing as a child under the guidance of my dad, but hadn’t fished for almost fifty years.  Someone had told me to try sweetcorn as bait, which didn’t seem to be of interest to the fish in the area (if indeed there were any), so I reverted to a piece of bread.

It wasn’t long before the float disappeared.  I waited a couple of seconds and struck.  I felt some resistance and sure enough I had a bite, however as the fish came to the surface, it struggled and came off (really). I had another go, this time with more success and actually caught a small roach.  I continued for a while longer, without further success, however I had caught something, much to my surprise and even more to my wife’s (who had taken a picture of it on her phone and posted on FB), but I’d been there for a couple of hours, it was getting colder so I put the gear away, ready for next time.

Debbie had prepared the dinner and put it in the oven whilst we were underway earlier in the afternoon and the smell of beef casserole was making me hungry as we watched TV before dinner.  We ate around 19:00, I had a bottle of Ghost Ship and the wife had opened a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoyed a couple of glasses, leaving enough to accompany dinner on Thursday night.  When finished, we washed up and relaxed for a while, before our usual hot drink and bed.


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Thursday 4thOctober 2018

I woke early, as usual.  Getting up at 04:30 during the week to go to work is a difficult habit to get out of.  I headed to the galley to put the kettle on and lifted the corner of a curtain to check the weather . . . . and wished I hadn’t.  Grey and gloomy again!  Debbie got up and dressed to take Harley for a walk and returned abut twenty minutes later, reporting that the dog was walking better and putting her injured paw down more.

We usually have at least one cooked breakfast during the weeks we are afloat, and this morning was the one, with no particular rush to be anywhere and a relaxing day in prospect.  I cooked sausages, bacon, eggs black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans for our full English morning feast, which we enjoyed.  

By this time, it was after 08:00, so I started the engine to heat the water, as usual.  This was the only aspect of Gainsborough Girl that was really an annoyance, the high freeboard combined with the high-water levels had made getting on and off sometimes a little challenging but could be considered more of an inconvenience.

I hadn’t really been paying much attention to the weather since first looking out, but noticed that the clouds had disappeared, leaving a beautiful, clear blue sky.  I collected the camera and consigned the scene to digital memory quickly in case it clouded over again, before giving the wife a hand with the mountain of washing up I had created with my culinary efforts earlier.

I had a shower, got dressed and to my surprise, the sun was still out.  Debbie went to get ready and I cast off, heading the short distance to the staithe at Barton Turf, where I stern moored ready to top up with water when she had finished.  I had never moored there before in all of the years I have been going and it is certainly a very pretty spot, although the lights from Cox’s Boatyard could prove to be an annoyance at night.

I lifted Harley off the boat and she mooched about, sniffing her way round the pleasant green.  I took a few photos, topped up the water and was putting the hose away when another boat moored beside up, closely followed by another.  The helmsman of the first was struggling to back close enough to the quay for the lady on the stern to step ashore, so she threw me the ropes and I pulled the boat back and secured it for them.

Debbie by now, was out and she had taken over from me to follow Harley, so we ushered her back to Gainsborough Girl, helped her aboard and cast off.  My intention was wo head up to Wayford Bridge to go kingfisher spotting and try to grab a photo if the opportunity arose, so I headed back past the moorings at Paddy’s Lane, turning left when we reached the main River Ant.

The clouds had started to roll back in and I feared another gloomy day was in prospect as we headed towards the turn for Stalham, but a flash of iridescent blue caught my eye as it flashed by the boat on the left and I watched as it settled on a branch a few yards up the river, but as I lifted my camera to my eye, it flew off and I could not see where it settled this time.

We chugged on and I could see the mast of a mobile crane sticking up over the treeline and wondered what was going on.  All was revealed as Hunsett Mill loomed into view, where it looked as if the crane was there to lift the remaining two sails back onto the mill itself.  They hadn’t finished by the time we returned, but if that was the case, all they need to do now is restore the cottage to its former condition, before the addition of the carbuncle like extension and it should look wonderful again!

We cruised slowly to Wayford Bridge, without any further kingfisher sightings, turned and headed back the way we had come.

Much to my amazement, the clouds rolled away again and so it was to remain for the rest of the day.  The sky clear and blue, with the temperature rising to the point that the fleece that had been necessary to keep the chill off, had to be removed. T-shirt weather in October – how fickle the weather in the UK?

As we headed back towards Barton Broad, I thought I might have seen an otter enter the water, but there was no sign as we passed the spot, but I’m sure it wasn’t my imagination.  On entering Barton, I steered to the right, heading for either Gaye’s Staithe of Neatishead, depending on whether there was space at one or the other.  There were a few sailing dinghies from the Nancy Oldfield Trust zig-zagging about as we crossed the Broad, but otherwise there were few boats about and I was hopeful that we might be lucky. 

There was plenty of room at Gaye’s Staithe, but I thought we’d take a peek at Neatishead and there was room at the end, so I reversed in and moored.  I went to take a couple of pictures, had a chat to a fisherman, trying to pick up a few tips, before returning to the boat.  We were getting ready to take the short walk to the village to get something for lunch (not that either of us were hungry after the enormous breakfast), but the walk would be good when a car pulled into the car park at the end and a man walked along advertising fresh fruit and meat pies he was selling from the car.

I grabbed some money and walked along and bought two, a large pork, sage and onion and a small apple and cinnamon pie, before returning to the boat.  Several other people from other boats along the staithe had also been and purchased goodies from there too.

We still went for a walk – it would give Harley a little exercise (as well as us), so wandered into the village.  I fancied an ice-cream and Debbie wanted a bag of crisps, so two small tubs of Ronaldo’s ice-cream, a bag of crisps and a tub of pate were purchased before heading back to the boat for lunch.

I was sitting at the upper helm and another couple walked along, who were on one of the Swan boats (now from Richardson’s).  They commented positively about the condition of Gainsborough Girl and asked how we had found her, so I replied and we chatted for a while before being joined by another couple who were on a boat from a large yard in Potter Heigham (no names etc.).  They went on to tell us about all of the problems they had experienced with the boat during their week, which had eventually caused the yard to offer to move them onto a different craft.  I compared that to the problems we had experienced with Summercraft’s boats over the eight years we had hired through them – one blown light bulb, one broken hair drier and flat batteries in the TV remote.

After a while, they departed, we had lunch, started the engine and cast off.  It was a good time to go, as two large cruisers had arrived and were struggling to manoeuvre into the staithe.  We slowly edged along the narrow dyke, back onto Barton Broad where I spotted three grebes all swimming together.  They lacked the brilliant bronze crest, so I assumed that they were from a brood possibly hatched earlier this year.

A number of swans were grouped and suddenly I heard a lot of splashing and turned to see two apparently having a disagreement.  I grabbed my camera and sneaked a couple of shots before one flew off.  Much as all of the wildlife on the Southern Broads seemed to be congregated on Rockland Broad, it almost appeared that the same had happened on Barton Broad. Cormorants were there in numbers, several more grebes and several swans remained as we cruised back to the Ant and I was busy with the camera as we went.

We passed The Ice House as we entered Irstead, now looking so much better than it did a few years ago.  It is evident that much money and effort has been spent in restoring it to stunning external condition.  

There was only one boat moored at Irstead Staithe (syndicate boat Silver Cloud), so I quickly steered towards the bank and we moored for a while too.  It is a lovely spot and Harley had a wander round the green, whilst the wife watched from a bench with a cup of tea.  One of the crew of Silver Cloud was busy scrubbing the decks with deck cleaner and his wife (I assume) was walking about on the green.  She walked across to us and had a chat for a while.  I think that is one of the most appealing things about boating on The Broads – you meet total strangers and within minutes are chatting away as if you’ve known each other for years.

The lady (whose name I didn’t catch) went back to join her husband, so we set off for our final destination for the day at How Hill.  We managed to moor opposite the mill itself, where the river is a little wider and there is less chance of being hit.  The wife did some cross stitch and I prepared dinner, sausage casserole and put it in the oven, before taking some more photos. 

I read for a while (one of Chris Crowther’s books having recently discovered them), waiting for the sunset and the opportunity to take yet more pictures.  When the time came, it didn’t disappoint.  There were the beginnings of a murmuration of starlings beginning to assemble on the mill’s sails, however before they took flight, it became too dark to photograph.

We had dinner at about 19:15, the casserole accompanied by broccoli and mashed potatoes and washed down with a bottle of Tribute Ale for me and the remainder of the wine for the wife.

As ever, we washed up, watched TV until just after 21:00 before making a hot drink and heading for bed. Friday was to be our last full day and I was a little concerned about returning under Ludham Bridge. 


















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Friday 5thOctober 2018

Friday morning dawned much the same as Thursday.  It was dull, slightly misty and a little gloomy, although the weather forecast predicted that it would brighten up and be warmer than it was the previous day.  I made my usual ‘wake-me up’ cuppa and Debbie took Harley for a walk.

I sliced some bread for toast which we had when they returned.  I waited until 08:00 again and started the engine for hot water before going for my shower. The water was not really hot enough, but it sufficed – I was anxious to get underway and see whether my fears about the clearance under the bridge were well founded, or whether we would get under.

We cast off at about 08:45 and chugged slowly back down the Ant.  I spotted a heron standing on one of the advance marker boards for the bridge and reached for my compact camera (which has a zoom lens with a great reach) and managed to get a couple of photos before putting it down.  As I did, I looked to the starboard bank and in the reeds, watching me cruise slowly by was a kingfisher.  I was so stunned at seeing one so close up I stood at the helm, open mouthed in amazement before reaching for the camera.

Obviously, by then, it was too late and it flew off, a bright blue flash disappearing along the river.  If only . . . . . .  Never mind, perhaps one day I will be lucky enough to get a photo of those elusive, shy birds.

We drew closer to the bridge and the markers showed 8ft 3, the same height as was indicated on same board on Wednesday afternoon, so I hastily dropped the screens and squeezed under, thankful that our last day would not be spent worrying about how to tell Summercraft that we couldn’t get back.

I planned to go to Ranworth, so turned right onto the Bure and headed towards Horning before turning left onto Ranworth Dam.  There is always a degree of doubt as to whether there will be space to moor, but as I entered Malthouse Broad and looked across the staithe, it was clear that there were several spaces available.  I headed for a spot on the front of the moorings and moored easily.  I had found over the week that stern moorings were particularly easy on Gainsborough Girl, even without the benefit of a bow thruster.

Debbie, by this time, had showered and changed, so I topped up the water for the last time and we got ready to walk to the church.  I gathered a camera, putting my wide angle zoom lens in a separate case to strap to my belt.  The confines of the stairs to the top of the tower made ascending and descending the stairs far too difficult to try to negotiate with a cumbersome camera bag.

By now the weather had brightened up considerably and it was becoming quite warm.  We set off across the green and onto the boardwalk, where there was an impressive display of fungi, between it and the road.  I stopped to take a couple of pictures before carrying on up the hill to the church.

The wife said she was happy to wait outside with Harley while I went in and found a bench, just inside and to the left of the gate to sit on.  I never tire of visiting St Helen’s, although not spectacular or particularly impressive in its architecture, it has a unique atmosphere and I always look forward to looking round it every time we are on The Broads.

I rested the lens of my camera flat against the glass lid of the case containing the magnificent Antiphoner and sneaked a shot – no flash, as it would have caused reflections, which came out better than I expected, before climbing the stairs to the top of the tower.  Another couple followed me and we chatted for a few minutes at the top.  It turned out that they lived near Barton Broad and had never visited the church before. I took in the views.  Although it was a little hazy, the view was still special, looking out over Ranworth and Malthouse Broads and the surrounding rivers and marshlands.

It was time to return to ground level and I was halfway down the stairs when a voice called up to ask if anyone was coming down.  I replied that I was and they waited until I had reached the bottom before commencing the climb.  One of them asked me if it was worth it and I assured her that it was.  

I went outside to meet the others and we headed past the coffee shop, which I discovered is closed on Fridays (much to my disappointment as their cakes are excellent) and we walked round the back of the church and onto Broad Lane, following it past the unusual thatched village hall and back to Woodbastwick Road and the staithe.

I fancied a cake, so called in to the shop and bought a pack of Eccles cakes and some crisps for the wife.  We had a coffee on the boat, Debbie had her crisps, whilst reading her book and I munched through a couple of cakes (well, they were small). It was quite warm, so I changed into shorts and a T shirt that I had taken, but not expected to have the chance to wear – after all, it was October!!

After attaching my long lens to the camera, I sat on the bow for a while, watching and photographing the wildlife, steadying the lens on the pulpit rail and bagging a few good photos, before we had lunch. There was some pork, sage and onion pie left from the previous day, which made a tasty snack.  We intended to visit The Fur and Feather that night for dinner and didn’t want to spoil our appetites.

We stayed there until about 14:00, by which time the moorings were full and several boats were cruising back and forth waiting to see if anyone was leaving.  Reluctantly, I pulled up the mudweight, started the engine and cast off, heading for Salhouse Broad and our overnight moorings.  I looked sadly back across the Broad, looking forward to our next visit sometime next year.

The journey to Salhouse was uneventful.  There were plenty of people afloat on day-boats, hire and private cruisers.  The moorings outside The Ferry Inn were full, although surprisingly there were spaces at The New Inn.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at Salhouse Broad, where I headed for the middle quay, away from the end of the path to the village and canoe hire.  We had taken a couple of bags of flaked maize, to feed the ducks and I spread some on the bank.  Before long, there were some twenty or more fighting for their share, accompanied by much quacking and splashing.

Debbie sat and did some knitting and I watched what was happening across the broad, boats coming and going and the wildlife.  Sometime later there was an accident between two hire boats, one heading onto the broad, which was hit squarely amidships by one leaving.

They both headed across to moor near us, the one that had been hit mooring easily, but the helmsman of the other seemed to have absolutely no idea what he was doing, going backwards and forwards, to the extent that the owner of a private cruiser moored nearby cast off to get out of the way, fearing that he too would be hit.  Eventually, the second boat moored and details were exchanged.  Fortunately, no-one was injured and there was no apparent damage to either craft.

It was getting cooler, so we went in and managed to get a picture on the TV, something of an achievement with terrestrial telly at Salhouse, that we watched for about half an hour or so before getting ready to go for dinner.

We had not visited The Fur and Feather for several years, as I understood that they were not dog friendly, but recently had read that dogs were now permitted.  The walk didn’t seem to take as long as I remembered and we were soon there, seated and reading the menu.

Debbie chose mushroom bhajis as a starter followed by pork loin, whilst I chose bruschetta, with steak and kidney pud to follow.  The food was as good as the last time we were there, piping hot, very tasty and generous portions.  I had a beer, Woodforde’s Norada, which was quite drinkable and the wife had a wine as usual.

We were too full for dessert, but shared a double gin and aromatic tonic before paying the bill.  With our powerful torch lighting the way, we walked briskly back along the road and through the woods to the boat.  We did some packing, always a sad time at the end of a great holiday, stowing our bags in the unused fore cabin, before calling it a night, having a hot drink and going to bed.
























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Wonderful photos again. There's something about Ranworth that I can never define as to why it's so popular. But we always spend a night or two there if we're out on the northern rivers, even if it's often the Island rather than the main staithe. So much boat watching and people watching to be done.

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