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Spring Time On Spring Horizon


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At last! After two and a half years, I have finally found myself helming a broads cruiser again. Ill health, lack of funds (due to having to leave my job), and, of course, the Covid lock downs have all caused this longer than wished for break. But, by 2.45, our 5 hour drive to Stalham was over...

After the traditional swift check in at Richardson's, we found Spring Horizon 2 moored up awaiting us on Kingfisher Quay (which felt very special as I associate this as where the 'posh boats' moor). Added to the truly glorious blue skies and sunshine, it felt like a very warm welcome to our returning family.

We did have a bit of a wait until we were allowed aboard - 35 minutes which is actually the longest we've ever had to wait. Felt a shame that we couldn't start loading our gear on to the boat whilst we waited for our hand over. I'm sure there's a good reason but it would have been a better use of time. After the handover, we were underway by 4pm.

A quick note here - I always own up to having been before but always ask to be told everything. I'm really not the know-it-all type and I don't want to be "one of those boaters" when I only get an annual outing (moreso this year with such a gap). However, I was very pleased that the crew member said my boat handling was very impressive. He knew I was going to be alright as soon as he saw me leave the steering alone when in reverse. Of course, he made that judgement before he got to see my terrible stern mooring (a tradition for me at Stalham).

Bathtubs are not my favourite by any means, but Spring Horizon 2 has been a perfectly good way to get afloat again. I did notice that she hates turning to port (which, looking back, I am going to claim affected my stern moor earlier...). When we moored up, I found that she only has a three quarter turn of the wheel to port but 2 and a quarter to starboard. Guess something isn't quite right there then...

Before too long, we were on Barton Broad and this seemed like the perfect time for my son to have his first go at the helm (he's just turned 5). Of course, he was closely supervised but the wide open space would give him room to make mistakes safely. He was already thoroughly excited by the whole affair but getting to "drive" was his highlight. We're working on the nautical terms this week...

With the sunroof open, our slow chug down the Ant could have been a summer scene (save for the wonderful lack of traffic). The beauty of that first house in Irstead always strikes me (I think it's called the Ice House). The wife and I always wonder what job you have to do to afford houses like that!

Today's cruise ended, as is tradition at this point, at Ludham Bridge (ready for the shop in the morning). Unfortunately, some private owner clown was taking up two spaces on the shop side so we are relegated to the marsh side tonight (but still satisfyingly close to the bridge).

I am ashamed to admit that our first mooring did not exactly coat us in glory. My first choice (which, irritatingly, was going to be perfect) ended up by the 'mooring only for water' sign. A rushed abort meant a minor bump into a barge. To add insult to injury, I then shunted the quayside when the wife told me something and I forgot to apply reverse. That crew member at the yard definitely judged me too soon. Bad things always come in threes though... The wife, bow spring in hand and standing on the bank, looked at me and said, "I can't remember how to tie this." My plan to throw the stern line ashore was over.

As our lasagne cooked, we had a quick walk over to the stores. An interesting shop called 'Circus' has appeared since my last visit (or at least, I don't remember it). We could only look through the window but it looked full of interesting wood carvings. I don't know what time they open but I'm hoping for a mooch around there tomorrow. We were just heading back for dinner when, lucky as ever, the boy was treated to the arrival of an ice cream van!

We did discover that we have no washing up liquid or cleaning cloth. Do the yards not supply that any more? Our plates had to make do with a campcraft clean tonight - run under water whilst the entrails are still warm (improvised with a face cloth) until they look clean.

Well, it's due to be very cold here tonight (below zero). We're wrapping up warmly and hoping for the best! It's going to be cold in the morning!




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Enjoying this start to your holiday. When I last hired from Richardson's I seem to recall that the w-up liq etc., was hidden away inside the tea towel or window cloth or somewhere. We were on what they call one of their platinum fleet, I don't know if that makes any difference, but I also thought that we didn't have the usual kitchen supplies to start with.

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Lovely write up thank you so much! The first boat I hired with my youngest two kids was Spring Horizon, the blue one, from Horizon Craft at Acle Bridge.....my children (now well into their 30's) still speak fondly of their first week afloat.

I look forward to hearing more about your week and will keep an eye out for you this week.

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First things first - we survived the 'freezing' cold night. As we got into bed last night, the wife and I both looked at each other and realised we'd forgotten our sleeping bags (we always bring them as a just in case). However, no one got too cold, the boat did a reasonable job of retaining the heat, and an extra blanket layer in the night was all that was needed.

A 6am wake up (heralded by our son) saw a beautiful morning at Ludham Bridge. We managed to convince the boy to snooze until 7 and Mrs Catcouk was able to enjoy a lie in until nearly 8. I snapped the sunrise at about 6.30 as I turned the heating on. The floor was freezing cold but all seemed well by 7.

We trotted over the bridge for a quick mooch around the shop. A new coach (with opening bonnet and engine detail!) was added to the boy's toy collection whilst we focussed on a few essentials. Thanks to all who messaged about the bread bin. Whilst we did find the bog roll and tea towel in there when we left, there was definitely no washing up liquid...

We also visited the new bakery next door. I'd assumed they had appeared somewhen in the past two years but it turns out they only opened two weeks ago. We treated ourselves to some massive sausage rolls and a few other bits but decided against the fresh bread purely on the grounds onlf not being able to use it whilst it was still fresh. We ate these for breakfast as they were all warm and fresh; sausage parts were a bit oily but it was all so yummy. Lunch was served quite late as a result!

Sadly, the 'Circus' shop wasn't open yet (sensible not to be up at that time and working really). Great to see so many businesses here. The bakers told us they had moved here from Wroxham and I wish them the best. Must be easy for a business to get lost amongst Wroxham's other offerings but I hope they'll attract a captive audience looking for some baked treats.

Just after 8.30 and we had cast off. I opted to go astern up river to give myself space before proceeding through Ludham Bridge. We decided to chug down to Stracey Arms for 2 hours and, although I get bored of the many reeds, we actually saw loads. The beautiful and bright weather was already rewarding but we also saw several herons and even some oyster catchers. Lovely!

I also had to navigate an absolute armada of sailing boats (all hired from Hunters Yard? Correct me if I have that wrong). Honestly, I lost count of the number of yachts but the winds were all favourable for us this morning. No issues whatsoever. At other times though, it felt like we had the Bure to ourselves today!

We had to go against the tide to reach Strachey Arms so the engine did have to work a bit harder. Our last bathtub had an engine under the rear deck and, whilst not really an issue before, Spring Horizon's inboard engine definitely made itself known! I'm glad that we won't be needing that sort of engine strength again actually...

Our morning at Stracey Arms caused my first essential 'therapeutic rest break' of the trip. Although we moored against tide wonderfully and smoothly, the wind took the stern out requiring me and the wife to heave some ropes. Maybe it didn't need to be quite so neat but, with the tides there, I really wanted the security of the stern spring. A 10 minute break was then essential before I could stand up again. Long Covid strikes again...

We had hoped that the Donkeys might be out on the bank (as we had experienced previously) but they were in the field today. We still enjoyed waving to them as well as meeting the goats. Nothing in the shop for us this time but we did stay for some drinks in the cafe (which we had completely missed last time - I had thought it was their private garden). Everyone was lovely so, despite the lack of donkeys, it was a worthwhile excursion.

Aiming for Wroxham via Salhouse, we left Stracey Arms about 11.30. Still feeling quite full (see the earlier bakery visit) only they boy needed lunch at this point. I also gave him his first experience of helming on the river. He found it more challenging trying to keep the boat straight but I think he did a pretty good job. He did admit to finding the river trickier than the open Broad.

Just before Ranworth Dyke, I encountered a few sailors who I did need to dodge. I find it remarkable how these sailors have the patience to perform all of those short tacks. Fair play. I enjoy sailing on a lake but river sailing looks too much like hard work to me! If you sail up here, I tip my cap to you!

I always love cruising through Horning (and the Wroxham below the bridge). The houses are stunning and, by Wroxham, the plethora of cuttings make it feel as though they are just normal streets but made of river instead. A part of me has always wanted to go an explore up there...

We stopped at Salhouse Broad about 2.40. Plenty of space - it felt quite quiet. I haven't moored up here since I was a child but it felt like everything would be nice and close to the quayside. The attendant was on us before we had tied up but he was actually very friendly. At this point, I have to talk about charges...

£2.50 was the price for an hour (I had expected £5 as a whole day price so I was very happy with this as an hour would be perfect). What I didn't know was that this included topping up with water! Ludham Bridge had wanted £4 for water this morning (I don't fill up there). As far as I'm concerned, this is a no brainer. £2.50 seems sadly reasonable as a water charge but to get a picturesque mooring spot too? I'll be doing that again!

I explained to the attendant that I hadn't been here before (well, in my limited memory capacity) and asked what was here. In addition to finding out about the free water (still love this) he pointed out the coffee shack, a little playground, some woodland walks, and there is even an Easter letter/word hunting trail! Unfortunately, a walk around a trail is beyond my ability at the moment but I know we'd have loved finding the letters.

The walk to the top of the hill was fine - a bit daunting but fine. Regardless, there are plenty of benches and large logs to have a rest at the top. The 'Dark Skies' viewing platform intrigued us and both my son and I had a quick climb over that. I think Mrs Catcouk has added this as an overnight stop for a future trip!

The boy enjoyed climbing up the cargo net and the slide on the small but well made playground. He even had a go at the climbing wall (assisted significantly by his mum). Ice cream was the natural progression here before I needed to top up the water tank. My son (who is autistic) found the "posh" vanilla to be a bit too "gritty" so his mummy got to enjoy an extra two thirds of a pot.

We had to move (and stern moor again) to get closer to the water but it all went like clockwork. On our last venture, the boatyard accidentally launched us without refilling the water tank - it took an hour to refill! Today, after 24 hours and showers all round, it only took 10 minutes. I definitely think water refill charges are something I can cut back on. Whilst I watched for the overflow, my wife and son were in the boat's well feeding the ducks (with the special duck food we traditionally get from Ludham Bridge).

My absolute highlight of the day happened as we left Salhouse - we found the Ice Cream boat! I thought it was a myth of times passed! So, having missed out on the posh ice cream, we naturally tied up and got the boy a new one. £3 for three scoops and a flake seems very reasonable - I had expected such an overt tourist trap to be extortionate. The guy was also really friendly and very eager to give advice on how to moor up. Another small business that I want to firmly recommend there - I do hope other hirers make use of him.

 On the tight bends between Salhouse and Wroxham Broad, we encountered a few more tacking sailors. Very little wind here and I could see they were struggling. One particular group (looked like youths with an instructor) had just tacked when I saw their jib back. Assuming they had stalled, I crossed to the 'wrong side of the river' ready to pass. However, they got their sail set sorted and, assuming they were about to find a sudden burst of speed, I came back to the 'right side' of the river. Sadly, the wind took forever and I had to bring us to a complete stop. The instructor looked so embarrassed - she had clearly made the same assumptions that I had. I told her the wind was definitely there somewhere and gave her space to get going again. Sure enough, they went and I wished them a good afternoon.

A detour through an empty Wroxham Broad allowed my son another go at the helm. He was amazing! Pretty much kept our boat arrow straight. So good that mum took over supervisor responsibilities whilst I called ahead to the Wroxham Bridge pilot. He took us really neatly all the way to the exit with only one slight missteer - even I'm not that good at times!

The call to the pilot did give us some concern though. He said they finish at 4.30 (I thought it was 5!) and doubted we'd get to him from Wroxham Broad in the 30 minutes left. Well, never has a 4mph boat trip felt so tense. Sure, we could go through at 8am tomorrow but we could get so much closer to Roy's...

20 minutes later, having very carefully watched my GPS speedometer (I do take wash and erosion very seriously), we made it 10 minutes before closure. I rang the pilot and gave our location just as we approached the hotel. Worryingly, he said that he could probably just about get us though (I imagined he was busy with a queue). In truth, I saw him on the opposite bank just as the call ended so I feared a possible jobs worth...

However, he was lovely and got us through to the staithe and even stern moored the boat. Paid our £15 return journey (I did laugh at the thought of telling the yard we weren't coming back through after only buying a single) and really that should have been the end. But...

Having helmed so well across Wroxham Broad, and having had to cut that short to make the pilot, I indulged the boy and let him have a drive around Bridge Broad (which is obscured on literally every map I looked at this evening). It is more of a dyke than a broad but did give him enough space to do a few loops. He took us back out, under guidance, through the North exit and steered back down the river to the staithe. I was going to take over as we passed the moorings but he was just doing so well. And, of course, he could then drive under his first bridge - the railway viaduct. He took this very seriously and was very proud of himself!

So, I completed my third successful stern mooring of the day, and we now sit at the public moorings. We indulged in a browse around Roy's Toys (I had to go and sit down though sadly). I had expected to need scooters and my e-bike here but we are literally moored at the back of Roy's car park - easy walking distance. After a cheeky McDonald's, I sat out the front and just soaked up the evening atmosphere whilst mum read our son his book from McDonald's (it was about Elton John!).

"Was today a good day, Daddy?" the boy asked. "I think it was a really good day.” I couldn't agree more!















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Fantastic write up. The photo of your boy on the well deck in his life jacket looking at the swan just took me back to my childhood in the 1970’s at that age at Salhouse.  The scene has hardly changed at all except we used to moor bow first tied to a tree in the olden days 

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Loved it. Glad you are all having a good time.

Watch the boy with those swans though, they can nip! My boy (in his late 20s) almost got his toes nipped a three years ago when he was casually sitting on the bow of one of the Hunter’s boats and wasn’t paying attention when a swan snuck up on us. People on a boat going in the opposite direction thought it hilarious. 

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Incidentally the bakery at Ludham Bridge is Dolly's. They were at the little business park opposite Hoveton and Wroxham station. They still have a presence there having moved in with Fizz and Fromage but also opened their new shop as you discovered. Many folk may also know them from Coltishall.

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4 minutes ago, SwanR said:

Incidentally the bakery at Ludham Bridge is Dolly's. They were at the little business park opposite Hoveton and Wroxham station. They still have a presence there having moved in with Fizz and Fromage but also opened their new shop as you discovered. Many folk may also know them from Coltishall.

That sounds good. I thought all the businesses at Ludham Bridge were shutting down due to redevelopment though? There was a thread somewhere on the forum about planning permission for a proposal. 

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A boat that retains heat? That's a first! I'm aboard this week and woke up at 6-20 this morning very very cold, so if yours didn't feel too bad you're winning. 

Ludham Bridge to Stracey to Wroxham is a big cruise - fair play for getting the miles in.

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1 hour ago, catcouk said:

Ludham Bridge had wanted £4 for water this morning (I don't fill up there).

George at Ludham Bridge Boatyard told me that through the winter the water on the staithe has been turned off but there’s no sign, so people were putting £4 in and getting nothing. He was rather cross about it as it does the image of the Broads no good at all. He’s investigating the possibility of taking over the management of the water point. 

Your write-up was brilliant, I nearly had tears in my eyes reading it. It’s very informative , and you’ve captured the magic of boating perfectly and hearing how your littl’un’s getting on is wonderful. 
Keep the story rolling. 

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We are so pleased you are all enjoying your holiday and what a lovely write up we are really enjoying your adventure.  It is the best medicine for your fatigue I am suffering with the same frustration but bite size successes are the best medicine and so rewarding. 

Enjoy your cruise Kindest Regards Marge and Parge 

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