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22 Years Later - Back on the Water


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Just back from our week on the Broads. First trip in 22 years & saw it quite changed. Not IMHO for the better in many instances. Initially disappointed that we were not likely to (& indeed could not) get under Potter Bridge we nevertheless had a cracking week exploring the quiet corners like Stalham, Dilham & Neatishead as well as the more commercialised centres like Ranworth & Horning. We handed the boat back to Woods at 8 am on Friday morning & drove up to Horsey. Looking at the yachts in Horsey Dyke (& that lovely old "Juliette" from Martham Boats - now that IS designed to have the best chance of going under bridges!) & then out over Horsey Mere & around Hickling from Brograve Mill I realised I was GLAD we hadn't got the boat up there, along with a flotilla of others. It was so beautiful & peaceful, especially compared to the Bure & Malthouse Broad where everyone seemed to be racing around on mini Titanic liners! Where did all the crafted craft go? The Broads is now cruised by floating hotels! We went everywhere we could get at water snails's pace & were on the go from dawn to dusk every day, waking up with the herons & going to bed with the barn owls.

Referring to the proposal in another current thread of doing away with Potter Bridge I agree the waterways are man-made; but so are the narrow lanes of Cornwall or the Lake District - should these be widened to dual carriageways to accomodate ever larger caravans? The problem of Potter Bridge is a compounded one - the bridge's dimensions/shape, the British weather & the increasing demand for ever larger cruisers. Perhaps it is US who have to adapt. We skimmed under Wayford Bridge with no trouble & had a lovely trip up to Brick Kiln Bridge at Dilham accompanied only by herons & kingfishers. But we saw several boats approach Wayford & turn away as there was a bare 7ft clearance. We met one couple alone on a huge 4 berth with 2 showers & 2 separate toilet/washrooms. In the 1970s & 80s I shared boats of that size with seven friends!! And only one bathroom/shower between us! And in those days we always got under Potter Bridge. Another couple had a 4 berth with a full size bath aboard! What? Goodness knows how many times they had to fill up with water if they wanted to use that everyday! And I do wonder exactly what all those on floating bathtubs actually see apart from reeds. We had an aft cockpit with a fantastic raised viewing position which enabled us to enjoy the wide ranging views over the reeds & the marshes beyond.

We saw only 2 River Inspectors all week (are they a dying breed?), umpteen boats far exceeding the speed limits, moorings at a premium because where you once got 6 reasonable sized boats you can now only get 4 gigantic bathtubs. Certainly there are nowhere near the number of craft on the water that there were 20 or 30 years ago, which is just as well. Where on earth do they all moor in July? We spent our last night in Womack Dyke, mooring on the quiet Broads Authority stretch beyond Hunter's Yard early afternoon as we had friends to visit in Ludham. Walking up to the village we saw hardly an inch of space on Womack Staithe at 2pm. Nor at 4pm. Seems you have to stake your spot at lunchtime & stay put.

Due to tide times/heights we didn't make it under Wroxham Bridge either - the Pilot was willing to take us up river, but there was not a suitable return time that accomodated his hours AND our requirement to go elsewhere AND get back to Potter in time. I did regret missing that beautiful view of Belaugh Church!

Can highly recommend the Museum of the Broads at Stalham, the Radar Museum at Neatishead (which needs at least 3 hours), Toad Hole Museum Cottage, Ranworth Conservation Centre, St Helen's Tower (wow! amazed H & S still allows you to go up there!), Horsey Mill & the walk from Horsey to the sea & that endless glorious coastline where we walked very close to a colony of seals - bulls, mothers & several pups. Norfolk still has all the charm & attractions I remember in spades. But I am not sure whether the Broads themselves will entice me back. I loved being aboard again & the freedom of your own little floating home for a week & the wonderful sunsets & sunrises which seem all the more beautiful from the water. We always moored for the night in quiet places & if we wanted a drink we took a torch & walked to the nearest village. It is sad to see so many pubs closed, or changed. The best one was without doubt "Nelson Head" at Horsey - a friendly welcome, a roaring fire, delicious unpretentious food, great beer & locals happy to have a chat. Nelson's Revenge certainly hit the spot & made a fitting end to a brilliant holiday! cheersbar

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Why 22 years? Various reasons & have been getting my "life afloat" fix crewing on a friend's yacht out of Fleetwood & Preston Marinas until recently. Totally different experience! I wanted to show my current partner the delights of Norfolk - & the best way to see them is definitely from the water. He enjoyed! Result!

Have done the Southern Broads many times in the past, but was realistic enough to know that with only a week we were not trying to do the whole network in one of the smallest hire boats on the Broads. Used to hire from Brooms & Newsons in the 70s & well remember the delights of Geldeston Locks Inn, Rockland & Loddon. I'm good at keeping secrets!

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