For a relaxing holiday in the UK I can heartily recommend boating in the Norfolk Broads. Whatever size of group you are travelling with, there is a boating option for you regardless of previous experience or age.
We booked our break through Hoseasons and arrived at Summercraft Boatyard in Wroxham which is an old established family boatyard & is a good start point for a holiday on the Norfolk Broads.
We stayed in Glitter Girl, a 4 berth river cruiser. The boat consisted of a double bedroom, kitchen, shower room with toilet/sink and main cabin area with pull out double bed. It was surprisingly spacious and had more than enough storage facilities. The roof to the main cabin was retractable affording maximum sun exposure on nice days!
Its a case of bring your own food/drink if you wish to use the facilities on the boat. Otherwise, there are no end of local pubs along the riverside offering friendly welcomes and free mooring to customers. Restaurants are also available in some of the larger village should you choose to moor there.
Our holiday gave us £60 of fuel which is more than enough for a 14 day break let alone our 4 days. The value of the remaining fuel is then returned to yourself via cheque from the boatyard. You have a carte blanche to travel practically anywhere that you can along the rivers although the stronger sea currents towards Great Yarmouth are not recommended for beginners.
After about 45 minutes tuition with a member of staff from the boatyard to practise handling/mooring etc, we were free to explore. We initially travelled from Wroxham down to Hoverton Nature Reserve and moored at Salhouse Spit where there is a small overnight mooring fee which goes towards the preservation of the area. For our second day, we travelled down the River Bure visiting the marina at Ranworth to pick up supplies before heading off to Acle. A short walk from the river leads you to the town. We dined at the riverside Bridge Inn which provided a decent menu and facilities suitable for families. Our third day took us up to the historic bridge of Potter Heigham on the River Thurne. Beware! Only certain boats can pass under the bridge and a Bridge Pilot is available to ensure you don't get stuck! We made our way onto the River Ant where we moored up (for free!) at the picturesque How Hill Nature Reserve. Our final day saw us visit the beautiful Hunsett Mill at the top of the River Ant which is a must see for photographers. We headed back towards Wroxham via the beautiful village of Hoverton which boasts a great selection of riverside pubs, restaurants and quaint village shops. We moored up (again for free!) just outside Wroxham at the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club before returning our boat the next morning.
We had never been on a boating holiday before but found the basic tuition easy to pick up. The boats are quite hardy so minor scrapes and bumps are to be expected particularly on the first few attempts mooring up! Most boat folk seemed friendly enough and were only too keen to lend a helping hand. We had a great time and four nights cost us just under £400. If its a different kind of break you're looking for, whether just as a couple, a group or a family, I can definitely recommend this one!
I think a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads is the best holiday you can have in the UK (that's just my opinion, of course!). I've had a week's holiday on a boat on the Broads three times; the last time was last summer.
The Norfolk Broads is a series of lakes (broads) connected by rivers covering nearly 200 square miles of countryside in Norfolk and Suffolk. There are over 125 miles of navigable waterways in this area. One of the best things about the Broads is that, unlike canals, there are no locks to negotiate.
Despite its natural appearance, the Norfolk Broads is a man-made landscape. In the Middle Ages, the underlying peat beds were excavated for fuel (this was before coal was discovered). This created pits which, when sea levels rose, flooded to form the shallow broads we see today.
The Broads comprise the largest wetland in the UK, and has a similar protection status to a national park. Despite being very busy in the summer with hordes of boating visitors (like me), the lakes, rivers, and reed beds are home to some very special, and in some cases unique animals, birds, insects, and plants.
The very rare Bittern makes its home here, the Broads are a stronghold of the marsh harrier, a large bird of prey, and the swallow-tailed butterfly is found only in the Norfolk Broads. In the past, human activities caused wide scale pollution in the area, but it has been cleaned up. The cleaning process is still ongoing, but one success story is that otters have returned to many areas of the Broads (during my last visit, I was thrilled to see a pair of otters at How Hill Nature Reserve).
Boating is definitely the best way to see the Broads. Motor cruisers are for hire from many boat yards across the area. These are best thought of as floating caravans. They range from small (two berth) to very large (can house up to 12 people). The cruisers vary in quality from basic to almost luxurious. Even a basic cruiser will have a galley, bathroom, shower, living room and bedroom. The larger ones will have TV's CD's, DVD's, microwaves, central heating and even, in some cases, a Sony Playstation!
They can be quite comfortable, but the best feature of some of the boats is the sliding roof. These roll back and open the living room/driving position to the open air. This means you can motor along, with some people sunbathing, someone else piloting the boat, with others watching TV or eating. The roll back roof is really worth watching out for.
When picking up your boat, you will get a short course in how to steer it. This is relatively easy, but it does take some practice to do smoothly. Once you're comfortable, it can be really relaxing motoring along a picturesque river. The maximum speeds may seem low (3, 5, or 7 mph), and you may think that it would appear slow, but for some reason, it doesn't. There's no inclination to "put your foot down" as you're rarely in a hurry to get anywhere.
The Norfolk Broads area is an extremely pretty place to holiday. The scenery varies from dense woodland, large expansive broads, flat farmland, and, near Great Yarmouth, what seems like the open sea (but is really Breydon Water, an inlet from the River Yare).
There is never a shortage of things to do whilst boating. There's plenty of pubs to stop at which vary in quality from OK to excellent. There are several nice towns such as Beccles, Lowestoft, and Wroxham. You can visit inland Norwich or coastal Great Yarmouth. There are plenty of historic places to visit including the Museum of the Broads, several show wind pumps (i.e. "windmills"). There are, of course many nature reserves where you can get close to some of the wonderful wildlife that lives in the area.
All of these attractions are available within a short walk of a mooring point. Many mooring areas are free of charge, but those at the towns can attract a mooring fee.
One of the activities that the Broads is famous for is coarse fishing. This is free across the area (but you do need an Environment Agency "rod licence", although you can apply for this online).
Fishing from a boat is excellent. Most have an area at the stern which you can fish from in comfort. If it rains, you can retreat a few feet into the boat, leaving your rod outside. The fishing is very good, too, with plenty of roach, perch, rudd, pike, and bream to be caught. If you've never tried fishing, this could be a good chance to have a go.
In summary, boating on the Norfolk Broads is a peaceful, relaxing, varied, interesting holiday. If you can put up with the lottery that's English weather, it might be worth trying out.
I've wanted to have a boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads for about as long as I could remember, so when my friend announced that that was where she was planning on having her hen party I was really pleased!
The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads is an area of wetlands in East Anglia. There are altogether 40 Broads, and they vary in size. Most of these are linked together by a network of rivers, which combine to create 200km of lock-free waterways. These large shallow lakes were peat pits in medieval times and first became flooded during the 14th Century as sea levels rose.
The best way to see the Broads is by boat. Many companies, such as Hoeseasons, have a selection of boats for all sizes of groups to hire out for a long weekend, a week or a fortnight. We were a group of seven girls and we found our 8-berth boat just about the right size. The beds are a bit small, but not too bad - you just have to make sure you don't roll about too much in the night! The berths also had small wardrobes and shelves, which was handy. Our boat had a toilet as well as a seperate bathroom. The bathroom had a shower, which was fine although the hot water tank was only a 12-gallon one, so if you were washing your hair you had to be quick! Also, as soon as the hot water had run out, you had to wait for 20 minutes or so for the it to heat up again. The kitchen/lounge area was small but comfortably furnighed and well supplied. We had a full-sized oven, which was handy as we'd brought along a load of food for dinners. One thing that never occured to us was the amount of work that goes with a boat. We had to do engine checks (oil, water, filter) every morning and there was quite a bit to do when it came to mooring. All of your electricity comes from a battery and to charge the battery the engine needs to be running. You get told at the beginning of the week that you need to watch out for how much power you use, but we never had a problem.
We started off in Beccles, a beautiful old market town. We went along the River Waveny to Reedham (beautiful old village with a couple of lovely pubs) and then up the River Yare to Brundel (slightly larger marina and village). On the way back we stopped at Burgh St Peters. This route took us three days, but we could have gone a lot further - we were taking it quite leisurely. We virtually had the whole rivier to ourselves and never had a problem getting moored of an evening. However, we were told that this all changes during the tourist season (June - August) and the place becomes really busy.
Things to do
The main attraction is the beautiful scenery. The whole point of holidaying on the Broads is that it's relaxing, so if you usually like jetting off to Ibiza, then this is probably not the holiday for you. the pace of life is so much slower and you are literally forced to take things slowly by the speed limits set (between 4 and 6 m.p.h). The night life isn't exactly what you would call lively, but there are some really lovely pubs whose gardens lead right down to the water and the staff were all really friendly. The larger towns have shopping facilities and family attractions, but we didn't visit these.
How to get there
The best way is by car as you'll be taking probably more luggage than on a normal holiday (you need to bring towels and basic kitchen supplies - tea, milk, bread etc) and all the boatyards we saw had on-site car parking for clients. If you need to go by train, you will need to start off from one of the larger towns that has a station.
We went in March and the weather was great. It rained at night sometimes, but we didn't care as we were in the pub (well, it was a hen party!). During the day the weather was lovely. I think the rule is to take outfits for all eventualities - that's the only way to handle the British weather!
The hire of the boat for three nights was just over £500, so this worked out to about £75 each. I looked and boats for 2-4 people are around £350 for the same type of break, so this obviously works out a bit more expensive. All diesel is provided and you have an optional insurance policy that's about £5 which covers you in case you sink the boat.
This is a great holiday/break if you are looking to escape from everything and relax, but probably not so much if you like something a bit more in-your-face!
My grandparents lived in Norfolk and I spent many summers there. It feels like I practically grew up there because whenever I am driving there it feels like I'm going home.
I had always seen the Norfolk broads but had never explored them via water, so after months and months of badgering my partner; we booked up with Herbert Woods. I booked it just before Christmas and it was all I could talk about until July.
Herbert Woods is based in a small place called Potter Heigham famous for the store of Latham's and the tiny bridge. We had booked for a week on Shimmering Light, which had cost about £1000, I know that may sound expensive but if was a fairly modern boat, flushing toilet, bath, luxurious for two.
The staff at Herbert Woods were excellent, an engineer came aboard and how to operate in facilities such as water (you have to fill up daily), cooker and heating. We were then shown the tasks of maintenance for the engine, checking oil and weed filter everyday before starting the engine. Then the most important thing, operating the boat.
For those that have never taken this type of holiday, you start the boat much like a car but first you turn the key a quarter turn, you will hear a siren noise, hold it there for approx 30 seconds (sounds short but when you're waiting every morning, it feels longer). You then turn the key another quarter and the siren noise goes to a higher pitch (you don't have to hold it), you then turn full to start the engine. These are great fun to drive because (as the engineer said) they are like big bumper cars)
Anyway from Potter Heigham we travelled on the River Thurne at 4mph, there is some lovely riverside accommodation, some are owned for holiday lets. I know the speed is slow but this is so your wash (water at the back) does not damage their properties and the banks.
Once out of Potter Heigham and onto the River Brue heading towards Wroxham, the speed does increase to 5mph. Along this river you pass the Ranworth Broad, which has a conservation centre, which can be explored if you can find available mooring (parking) spots.
All the scenery is beautiful and if anyone thinks they will be bored then think again. Herbert Woods have an activity book available for children for colouring and spotting wildlife.
There are many nature reserves and walks, like Salhouse broad just before Horning. The Salhouse broad is large broad and has children's play area and picnic tables. There is also a public footpath that will allow you to walk into Salhouse village but this is a very long walk.
You will be provided with a skipper's manual on board your boat and there is a list of boatyards that offer free mooring. There are also many Norfolk Boards authority 24 Free Mooring but these call fill up with fisherman during the fishing season, so be quick.
During the peak seasons mooring near a pub can be a nightmare, as you may find that you'll have to moor up early in the morning to have a place for the night. Many of the pubs charge for mooring but normally the can be refunded if you have a meal in the restaurant.
There are other places along the boards that you can moor up to but they may be a charge. I found that I did not have to pay much more than £5 a night.
Great Yarmouth is the most expensive mooring charge £20 for 24 hours but there are cheaper options like 10am-6pm for £5.
The Next Time
That was our first holiday on the Broads, we have since been again because we wanted longer to explore past Great Yarmouth. The following year we hired a cheaper boat and were able to afford two weeks for less than the original holiday.
This boat was called Flickering Light and the only difference in facilities was the toilet and shower. The toilet was one of these pump ones, once you had done what you needed to do, you pull a handle up that was near the base of the unit so it would fill with water and then you have to push the handle down to allow the waste to go down. The shower was located in front of the toilet as the base were slates in the floor to allow the water to drain away, you pulled the shower curtain around you so water did not go everywhere.
Great Yarmouth and Beyond.
When at Great Yarmouth please be aware you are near the mouth of the sea and the tide can be quite strong making it difficult to manewvare your boat. Lucky though there is the river authority on hand to assist and most people from boats will be willing to help as well.
From Great Yarmouth, under the bridges and onto Breydon Water. Breydon Water is open water, you can go what speed you like, however it is a flood prevention area so ensure you navigate between the posts on either side or otherwise you may bank your boat.
Once across Breydon water you can either go down the River Yare towards Reedham and Brundall or down River Waveney towards St Olaves, Lowestoft and Beccles. I prefer this half of the broads, as they seem to be wider then the ones before Great Yarmouth, another reason could be the average speed is either 5/6mph whereas the upper half is 4/5mph. I know this does not sound a lot of difference but believe me it does.
At Reedham is the chain ferry; this is a ferry that carries cars across the river because there is no bridge. The chains are located under the water and there are signposts to ensure you navigate your way through them properly.
There are many bridges on the Broads but many are easily passable. There are signposts well before any bridges that show the current maximum passable height under the bridge. Your craft height can be located by either the Skipper's manual or on the dashboard. If your craft cannot currently pass underneath then you shall need to moor up and wait until the tide has changed the height.
For any really small bridges you will need to obtain a pilot, this is a person who comes aboard to navigate the boat through. You shall need a pilot if you want to pass under Potter Heigham and Wroxham bridges.
You can purchase maps for the waterways of the broads from most boatyards, these give you details on mooring areas, pubs, boatyards, nature reserves, bridges and heights.
You can visit the below links for more information:
I found this to be a very relaxing but exciting holiday; everyday there was always a different destination to go to and therefore different sites and activities to see.
The scenery is wonderful and because you are not going at a race pace you have time to enjoy and take photographs.
However if a boating holiday is not for you then there is a day cruiser option for about £25-£30 for the day, but if you would like to leave the driving to someone else then take a riverboat tour. These are beautiful and traditional riverboats, they can even be hired out for parties!
I enjoyed this very much and even though I wouldn't want to do it every year, I probably will go again in about 5 years. Unless my magical six numbers appear on the lottery then I'll go and buy the wonderful riverside house I saw at Horning, near Wroxham.
PS For anyone who knows about my dogs, they loved it too and spent most of their time sitting on deck watching the variety of feathered animals go by.
Thanks for reading
Let me take you on a journey, a voyage of discovery through the peaceful world of the waterways of the Norfolk Broads.
Before we go we had better have a quick lesson in geography and history.
The Broads are a huge area of wetland that cover just over three hundred square Kilometres of Norfolk and North Suffolk. They include over two hundred Kilometres of navigable waterways including the rivers Waveney, Bure and Yare plus many other smaller waterways. There are forty-one Broads in all, eighteen of them navigable.
The whole area encompassing water, fen, marsh, woodland and arable land make up this unique wetland area that holds a protected status similar to a national park.
The Broads name itself is a Norfolk word meaning shallow lake and that is exactly what they are.
After the last Ice age debris collected on top of the chalk base of the area and was compacted leaving vast areas of thick peat. This peat was excavated by hand between the ninth and thirteenth centuries when it was used for fuel. This left huge shallow areas that eventually became flooded and were joined by the areas rivers to make up the huge watery landscape that we see today. Later, boats called Wherries used the waterways. These sailed craft transported freight to the many towns and villages that were now linked by the watercourses.
Today however with other forms of transport having taken over from the Wherry the Broads are used mostly for leisure pastimes.
Lesson over; let's set off on our tour of discovery.
We will set off from Oulton Broad, which is a town on the edge of Lowestoft in Suffolk. It is where the river Waveney makes its way into the North Sea and is at the southern edge of the Broads. With its pubs and clubs and its proximity to Lowestoft's beaches it is a popular stop off point for holidaymakers. Oulton Broad together with other towns such as Potter Hiegham and Wroxam act as starting points for waterborne holidaymakers being where they board their holiday cruisers.
We are lucky we are leaving on a Thursday evening so we will get to watch a bit of the powerboat racing as we gently work our way through the moored boats. It is a really exiting spectacle but a noisy one and I look forward to peace and quiet once we get through Oulton Broad and start our journey by joining the river Waveney at the west end of The Broad.
It is a glorious sight with the early evening sun sinking slowly into the glittering water that moves in soft waves running before a gentle breeze. The waves work their way over the water to gently lap into the reed beds and the gardens that back onto the water. Residents of those houses are sitting on their jetties enjoying the evening sun.
Leaving Oulton Broad the wide expanse of water narrows into the river and suddenly we are in a different world, gone is the hustle and bustle, peace descends as we cruise along the reed lined river. We are now in countryside; nightingales greet us from high overhead, ducks and moorhen swear at us as we make them move aside for us and a serene swan moves on its regal way, making us avoid it.
Other craft pass us waving as they go on their way.
As we progress we see an angling club having a fishing match from the riverbank.
"Caught much?" we enquire as we pass.
"Roach, Rudd and a couple of Bream" says one.
"Two large Pike and some Eels "says another.
"I hit into a large Carp," says a third.
Just a few of the many species of fish available to catch in this anglers paradise.
As we leave the anglers behind there is a break in the curtain of reeds and we can see across an expanse of marshland inhabited by grazing cattle in front of one of the many windmills that dot the whole area. One of the many country churches looks out over the water from its position on the hilltop. A group of ramblers are walking along the path that runs along the edge of the river, enjoying an evening stroll in the summer sun.
As we continue we are faced with a choice, we can continue straight which will bring us to Great Yarmouth and the northern broads or we can turn left to Somerleyton and Beccles.
We will continue north as most of the Broads are in this direction. But for now it is getting near dusk and we need to find somewhere to tie up as it is illegal to be on the move after dark for obvious safety reasons.
Burgh Castle is just up the Beccles fork so I think that would be a good place to stop for the night. The towns and villages along the water frontage are popular so it is a good idea not to be on the go too late if you want to find a mooring at one of them. It is possible to tie up in the open if you prefer although it is wise to check that there are no obstructions and that your chosen tying up point is not private.
After we have found a mooring spot it is time to kick back, relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. Maybe we could break out the fishing gear or the binoculars to take in some of the abundant wildlife. We could go to the pub for our supper or get something from the shop.
Early the next morning and it is time to get underway again, heading off towards Great Yarmouth. The early morning is a great time to be boating, nothing else is moving and you have the illusion of being totally alone in this watery wonderland. As we wend our way slowly along the river the early morning wildlife is out and about in its search for food. Look there, a kingfisher sitting on the reed on the lookout for small fish for its breakfast, not much further and a much larger predator is doing the same, a heron studying the rippling river surface. If we look up we may see a hawk searching for one of the many mice and voles that inhabit the riverbank.
Time slides by as we cruise, life is not rushed, no pressure to get anywhere fast, not that is possible anyway as a large number of stretches have speed limits for safety and to protect the river banks from erosion from the wash of passing craft.
Another fork this time the choices of heading up the river Yare towards Norwich or down river through Breydon water to Great Yarmouth and the North Norfolk Broads. That will be our route, then along the river Bure through Acle and onto the main Broad area.
This whole area is a designated National nature reserve and as we head toward Barton Broad we enter a designated area of special scientific interest.
The Barton Broad project was a huge undertaking to restore the broad to its former glory whilst at the same time expanding the human interaction available.
As well as the Barton Broad project, Hickling, Horsey and Martham Broads are internationally important refuges for water birds. They come to the Broads in large flocks especially ducks and geese who spend the winter on the open water where they feed and roost.
We have come a long way and so now we will close our tour.
We have passed many towns and villages where we could have stopped and explored, ranging from small market towns to the magnificence of Somerleyton hall. All in all the broads is a great place for a laid back holiday where you just cruise along and stop where you will.
Of course holiday making and tourism whilst making up a large proportion of Broads activity nowadays is by no means all that goes on. Many people make their living in Broadland with industries as diverse as reed cutting for thatched roofing materials to livestock raising on the fertile marshland to traders selling local craft and produce and many, many more.
Conservation too is very important and is looked after by the Broads Authority in partnership with the Environment agency and the people of Broadland who work hard to conserve the area for generations to come.
That is the broads in summer, it is a very different place in the winter and for me it is even more special.
I love to go down to my marshes in the winter, crunching the frosty grass under my boots as I admire the frost glinting in the morning sun on the reeds and the trees. Spider's webs glisten with bright frozen dew between the reeds and ducks push between them looking for their breakfast. Walking to the water's edge a sense of peace always comes over me. It is isolated and bleak but at the same time it is peaceful and an ideal place to let my cares be washed away on the slow moving water for a time.
The Broads is a special place. If you do visit I am sure you will enjoy the experience but please help to look after it by not speeding along if you are afloat, don't leave your litter behind you and heed the rules that are in place to protect the environment. Of course as it is an area with a lot of water care should be taken at all times especially with small children.
When you visit do your bit to keep this unique water world as it should be.
© Docpov August 2005
As I type I'm drifting down the River Ant. It's still and deadly quiet. The countryside and banks are a myriad of autumn colours as the sun shines weakly down upon them casting a glow on the softly rippling water. It's peaceful. Tranquil, and ...... bloody freezing ... hang on, I'm goin' down below!! Cor blimey gov'ner! Brass monkey weather today or what? (and I started so poetically too :) I guess I'm lucky. My family (Ma & Pa) have a boat on the Norfolk Broads. I have my own readymade holiday! And what's more, it doesn't cost a penny ~ teehee! Floating down deserted rivers freezing our bits off in the middle of winter is a regular activity for the intrepid members of the idodoyou family. Yep, we are nuts. Or rather, my mother and father are nuts, they are still up on deck, braving the November weather, noses red and glowing like beacons. I, on the other hand, am down below basking in the heated cabin with the kettle on the hob talking to myself as I gabble and type the afternoon away. Come to think of it, talking to myself ...... I could be nuts as well? The chances are that if you are thinking of taking a trip, a floating holiday, you'll be visiting some time in the summer months? Good, cos to be honest, the majority of boat owners prefer it when you all go home. We are not being rude. Just merely biding our time when we can go out onto the river and not risk our lives and our boats at the hands of imbecile tourist makers that think because they can steer a car, they can steer a boat!! A BOAT IS NOT A CAR OK?? My father has had to help at least four people this year. Either help them out of the bank, or out of the water (running on deck is not advisable either y'know?) I'm guessing that by booking the holiday in the first place you will have some idea as to what the place is like, yeah? Well, here's a little bit more for ya ...... The Norfolk Broad
s are as characteristic now, as they were 500 years ago (or so I've been told ~ I have no personal experience of this ;)). Today the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, which are situated to the east of the cathedral city of Norwich in East Anglia, play host to over a million visitors every year. The 200+ km labyrinth of waterways was at one time thought to be 'au natural' after being formed by glacial activity. However, in the 1950's after scientific research, it was discovered that the network of rivers, channels and the 40 Broads were actually man made for turf and peat diggings that had been flooded in the 14th century when sea levels (the North Sea) rose. Of course, once upon a time, way back when, the Broads were not used for recreation, but were an essential transport network. Especially so for the River Yare because it ran from Norwich to Gt. Yarmouth. A canal like section was cut out in 1833 (called the New Cut ~ original!) was constructed to encourage commercial traffic to use the docks at Lowestoft rather than Gt. Yarmouth. If it didn't do its job at the encouraging bit, the river was certainly made use of. The first sugar beet factory in the UK is built on the riverbank at Cantley (13 miles from Gt. Yarmouth) Up until quite recently, oil was still brought to the factory via the River Yare. (hold on, kettles whistling away ..... Oh s**t, them up top have heard it and want a cup too! I'll be back in a minute! <a couple of minutes later> right, back again ..... you didn't want one did you? Good, where was I?) There are 5 main rivers that go to make up the Broads, and they are usually split in to two sections. The Northern Rivers and the Southern Rivers. The two are joined/separated by Breydon Water at the seaside resort of Great Yarmouth. The Northern Rivers consist of .. The River Bure ~ which is navigable for 59k and flows from Coltishall (where it comes to an abrupt stop just outside '
;The Rising Sun' public house (good excuse for a river to stop flowing don't you think :)) to Great Yarmouth where it meets up with the River Yare. The River Ant (where I'm right now .... these hand helds are wonderful things don?t you think?) is a tributary of the River Bure. This river is more narrow, shallow, and twisty! And, it leads to the more remote areas of the broads. Stalham, Dilham, and Sutton Staithe to name a couple. The River Thurne, the other tributary of the Bure. Potter Heighham, Hickling (which has a large grassy area for the kids to find their land legs again) That's if you can get through Potter bridge? .Downstream from Hickling you pass Horsey Mere and the village of Horsey which has no amenities but boasts All Saints church believed to date back to 900's (a woohoo!) It generally known that the Northern rivers and the surrounding areas are better than the Southern. This is because they tend to be more picturesque. Have more Broads and are more accessible to the quaint little villages that litter its banks. Although accessible to the worlds once off the river, larger boats might (and will at times) find the river harder to navigate. This is because of the bridges. Some tend to be old, and low, thus making it harder for the bigger boat to go under. The whole of the Broads is tidal, and it's best to know what you are doing. Many a time have I sat and watched some idiot tourist get stuck. Even on TV, when somebody sends their video clips in to 'You've Been Framed'. The most famous of these low bridges is Potter Heigham. (If you have seen such a video clip on YBF ~ this is the bridge!) although now, and for a while, in order to go under the bridge, if possible at all, you HAVE to have a guide take you through. Our boat stands 7'9 out of the water, Potter Heigham has a centre height of 6'9 ...... guess who won't be going under there?! The Southern Rivers consist of ~
The River Waveney which flows for 35 kms from Beccles northeast to the ......... The River Yare which flows from Norwich to Gt. Yarmouth. Both rivers offer some lovely scenery. Alternating from beautiful hilly wooded banks (akin to the River Thames) to fens and marshland. The Southern Rivers are known for their lack of low bridges, easy navigability, and the numerous Windpumps which are used to drain the water from the surrounding low land into the higher broads and rivers. Its not because I live here, but Norfolk is quite unlike any other county in England. We have a distinctive building style (falling down usually :)) a unique dialect (of which I don't have, thank god cos it sounds bloody awful even if I do say so myself) and a diverse countryside, more so than any other lowland region. Apart from the waterways, the whole county is plentiful with things to do, and many fine examples can be found from the Broads. There's no need to spend your whole holiday on the water y'know? We have over 700 villages (of which 40 are deserted ~ probably saw the latest load of holiday makers arrive and decided to flee ~ teehee) and 750 mediaeval churches (if you like that kinda thing) buildings and ruins, many of which can be found within walking distance of mooring points along the rivers. The main tourist attractions consist of a diverse range of things to see and do. From Wroxham you could either visit Wroxham Barns ~ Children?s Zoo and country crafts (might have to take a small bus ride to get there though if you have children or old people?) or take a trip on the ... Bure Valley Railway ~ a miniature train that will take you to Aylsham (a market town near Blickling Hall) and back again. Wroxham (or rather Hoveton ~ on Wroxhams doorstep!) plays home to the largest village store known as Roys. Bargains and anything can be bought here. Gt. Yarmouth is your typical seaside town. Depending which days y
ou head into the town will depend on whether you hit market day (Friday I think?) but if shopping ain't your thing, head for the front and stuff your self silly. Words of warning here though, if you do decide to moor up at Yarmouth, make sure you are aware of the tides. They turn quickly, and a lot. You could leave your boat bobbing happily away a foot above the bank only to return and face a 6 foot drop to get back on it!! Potter Heigham ~ home of the famous bridge, and Lathams (the outta town discount store!!) If you are the other side of Breydon (Southern Rivers) you have Oulton Broad ~ an off shoot of Lowestoft, it has a marina and shopping facilities. Beccles ~ a prehistoric town with all manner of facilities. Of course, Norwich has everything you could possibly want from a city, and if mooring on Riverside (Pulls Ferry) all you need is within walking distance (a K.F.C literally a stones throw away!!!) A quick stroll up Prince of Wales Road will bring you to Castle Meadow, where you will have a ..... err, Castle (now a museum) or a shopping Mall. Head into the city on certain Saturdays and catch a football match ~ only if you make a habit of supporting losing sides though! Food and drink are a plenty here on the waterways. Almost every mooring that you stop at will have a pub! Unless of course you decide to go remote and moor by the river banks away from civilisation that is! (If you do, MAKE SURE you use your MUD WEIGHTS properly ok? After making an early start one morning, we rounded a bend only to be faced with a 54 ft holiday cruiser in the middle of the river with the passengers all asleep!!) Yep, grub can be bought in all shapes and forms, and depending on which company you use, which boat you hire, full cookers and microwaves could be aboard? So eating out each night doesn't have to be an option. Of course, hit the larger villages and towns and fast food can be found. Stalham ~ Pizza, Chinese, Cu
rry, Fish and Chips Wroxham ~ Maccy D's, Chinese, Curry, Fish and Chips Norwich and Yarmouth ~ the food world is your oyster!! Potter Heigham ~ Fish & Chips. Although, they aren't the nicest. If you want the most delicious of F & C's in Norfolk, head for Stalham. It will mean a short walk up the other end of the High Street, but believe me, the walk is worth it. The biggest piece of cod, skinned and boned, with a mountain of chips ~ urmmmm :) If pub meals are your preference, try the 'Maltsters' at Ranworth ~ delish! Get there early though cos the Staithe isn't that big and fills up pretty smartish. The Swan at Horning dishes up culinary delights too. Same mooring prob as Ranworth though. KEEP AWAY from the White Lion at Upton Dyke ~ believe me when I say bluerghh! Fried Breakfasts and other foods at the riverside cafe in Potter Heigham will fill the biggest of stomachs. Say Hi to idodoyou's Auntie Sheila too ok? The majority of pubs are rather expensive. They take advantage of their locations, and their clientele. By all means visit them, but if you are looking for a relatively cheap week, get ya booze in. (Main supermarkets too ~ the smaller independents will charge you an arm, leg and a rib or two for you to take booze from them! ~ Stalham, Norwich, Wroxham, Yarmouth, Beccles all have big supermarkets) In fact, I'd advise you to stock up with your groceries before heading into the great big wet yonder. If you are late (start looking seriously about 4 - 4.30ish to moor up for the evening) there may be no spaces left and mooring along side the riverbank with only the reeds as neighbours might be your only option? As unbelievable as it may sound, a boat is not as simple to use as a week in an apartment, or hotel (other holiday accommodation). There are certain things you need to know. Need to do during your weeks, or fortnights holiday. Filling up with water and diesel, and
pumping out being the main chores. Of course, how many times you do them depends on the amount of people you have aboard, how big the boat is, and how long you are aboard for. The water and the diesel are self explanatory I would have thought? You run out, you fill up again. Once, to fill up with water was free, but nowadays you will have to pay for it. The price varies from boat yard to boat yard. The diesel too varies, but neither varies any great amount. Its doubtful you'll pay the earth at one stop, cruise up the river and find that it's almost free. Pump out is basically how you get rid of the crap (literally) toilet, and sink waste is all gathered in a separate tank, that will, over time and usage, fill up. When it's full head for a boat yard and get it pumped out. Again, it?s an easy enough task and you will have to pay for it. I could, could go on and on about the do's and the don'ts of the river. But there are simply too many of them to relay, and apart from some responsible individuals, they are likely to be ignored anyway. To be honest, I'm not sure why the Broads plays hosts to some of the biggest dumbo's on earth between the months of April and September? But it seems to. Personally I'm always amazed when I see boat loads of teenagers/people with no brains. All drunk and generally messing around, with no safe guard for theirs, or anybody else's lives. No respect for the wildlife, the banks, and other peoples boats. A holiday on the river is not cheap. And I would have thought that these groups would be better off in Ibiza or Magaluf?? But, who am I to reason why hey? All I can do, all the rest of the boat owners can do, is to take a sigh of relieve when they have all gone! If of course, when you come, or decide to visit the Broads, and you have no intention of getting bladdered at 11 o'clock in the morning and mooning all the other river users, you are of course, more t
han welcome to come visit. The Norfolk Broads is a national park. It deserves to be seen and admired. However, it also deserves to be treated with respect. The tail end of this op might sound like a rant, it's not really, but more of a worry, and an observation. Anyhoo ......... bon voyage!
I’ve just come back from a weekend break on a boat in the Norfolk Broads. Yes, that’s right, in October. Thankfully, the weather was pretty good throughout, but we did visit Potter Heigham on Saturday – just one day before it was hit by a tornado! My in-laws have a boating holiday every year and finally convinced us to join them. Being scared of water, I wouldn’t have called this my ideal holiday, so please bear that in mind when reading my opinion. There were eight of us on the boat – my in-laws, myself and my partner, our four kids (aged 5, 8, 9 and almost 11) plus our little dog, Katy. Yes, dogs are welcome, mini life jackets are provided too – just in case those swans look too tempting! We booked our holiday through New Horizon holidays (details at the end of this). They own a variety of boats, from quite basic to luxurious. Some boats have things like microwaves and CD players in them, but ours didn’t. You can look through the brochure and decide what type of boat you want, then consult the table which explains the price system, then you book it (hopefully). The brochure explains all the different options clearly and there are photographs and drawings of the boats and their interior layouts. We had a weekend break on an eight berth boat called Bahama. It is a 42ft by 12ft boat based in Horning, Norfolk. It has three bedrooms (cabins), a lounge (saloon) which can be used as a bedroom, two toilets (one with a shower) and a kitchen (galley). The height of luxury is our boat amounted to a television, a cooker and a fridge. (Whoopee!) It cost £286 for us, with an extra £25 for the dog. The cheapest holiday available costs £174, which is for a weekend break taken between September 22nd and December 15th, or between December 30th and April 7th. An example of this would be hiring a boat called Little Gem, which sleeps two to four people, is 25ft 6in by 9ft 6in, with one t
oilet, cabin, galley and saloon. At the top end of the market would be a short break between July 21st and August 25th, on Majestic Gem. This is 44ft by 12ft, sleeps eight to ten people and includes a 240V power system, remote control colour TV, microwave, CD player, hairdryer, vacuum cleaner (Like you want to hoover on holiday!) and a playstation. It has five cabins, a galley and a stateroom with a settee. It also have two toilets and showers. This would cost £720 for a short break! If you hire a boat for a week, you’re looking at something between £261 and a whopping great £1264! So, as with most things, the luxuries are available – but at a price. So what did I think to it? Well, it was okay. There were times when I enjoyed it – sitting out the back with my dog, reading Terry Pratchett in the sunshine was one time. But there were times I didn’t, especially the first night when the damp bed set off my asthma! I would have liked more luxuries, it seemed small, cramped and very basic. My partner is 6’ 1” and banged his head several times a day, only being able to stand straight when the sun roof was open. I enjoyed driving the boat, that was fun and another highlight of the weekend. You have to know what you’re doing though. Mooring (parking!) can be very tricky and if you bump into someone else’s boat, they can get quite nasty about it. You also have to look out for the yachts. There is definitely an etiquette that it is worth researching before you start cruising off down the river! The kids had a great time, but I still couldn’t really relax and stop worrying. They wore their life jackets whenever they were outside on the boat and we had no accidents, but if you’re like me, you’ll worry until you’re all safely back home. The long car journey to and from Norfolk didn’t help, seven hours is a very long time and arriving on Fr
iday, leaving on Sunday meant a dauntingly long journey was never far away. The scenery was very pretty, with plenty of places to stop with shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and so on. We even found a park with swings, a slide and a roundabout, which kept the kids happy for a few minutes. There are plenty of different types of birds around too, including ducks, swans, geese, pheasants, coots and grebes. So it can be an educational experience as well, especially if you’re into ornithology. For those planning on this kind of holiday, here’s some advice from me… 1) Take a variety of clothes – when it’s hot, it’s hot and when it’s cold, it’s freezing! Dig out those Winter pyjamas, thick socks and thermal undies. Don’t take any glamorous clothes, you won’t need them. Boots, trainers, jumpers, jeans and leggings are ideal. Expect to get wet, muddy and dirty. 2) Take lots to do – books, cross stitch, letters to write, games to play, a pack of cards, Gameboys or whatever. It can get boring. I finished reading one book and got several pages into another. 3) Don’t go with anyone you hardly know or someone you can’t stand being with 24 hours a day. You really can’t get much privacy or space to yourself on a boat. Expect it to get a bit claustrophobic at times. Everyone will seem to be in your face, because they are! 4) If you’ve got a dog, take them along. Mine had a lovely time, once she got over her nerves. She definitely had a better time than if she’d gone to kennels for a weekend! 5) Consider exactly what you want from the boat before you book. Do you really need a CD player to have a good time? Will two toilets be a necessity? I would suggest you hire the most expensive boat you can afford, unless you really don’t mind living on something that resembles a 1960s Butlin’s chalet on water.
My in-laws love this kind of holiday, I’m not so keen. Would I do it again? I don’t know, the jury’s still out. But my kids would, they really enjoyed it, so I might be out-voted anyway. ************************************** New Horizon Boating Holidays The Staithe Stalham Norwich NR12 9BX PHONE : 01692 582277 FAX : 01692 581522 EMAIL : email@example.com
Just got back yesterday from an Educational with my new job. I work for Blakes Boating Holidays, they also have holiday cottages. At the moment they are based in Wroxham, Norfolk but because at Earby where the cottage section is based, the company thought it was best to re-locate the office to our, then it would be all in one place. Blakes have been going since 1908 and are well established. As we are a complete new section, we all had to go on a boat down the Norfolk Broads last week. Not many of us knew anything at all about boats, not many of us had even been on one. There were four of us on our boat, there were three women and one man, poor him I thought. Actually it was he who did all the bossing about lol. We collected our boat from Brinks Boatyard at Wroxham, whilst the others went to the other boat yards. The Boat ======== It looked like something out of Hawaii 50, if you are old enough to remember the programme. It was called a Cruiser, which is probably what you will mostly see down the Broads along with yachts and the odd narrowboat. We saw one moored up next to us. It had dual steering, this meant you could steer from up above the boat on the sundeck, or if it was raining you could steer from inside the saloon. Now I don't drive a car I'm scared, but I did drive this boat for miles even though it was 37ft and 12 ft wide. The fastest you could go on the river was 6mph, the average was 5mph and sometimes as slow as 4mph. Speed restrictions are set because the boat creates quite a wash at the back, this means the keel throws up loads of water and creates tidal movements. This can damage the waterbanks and also disturb fishermen when they are trying to catch a fish. Inside ====== There were three bedrooms, one was at the bow of the boat (front), it had two single beds with an ensuite bathroom and a little wardrobe. The middle one was like a coffin room, none of us slept in there
, if you are claustrophobic, I wouldn't advice sleeping in there. At the Stern (back) there was another room which housed a double bed and a single bed all in one room. It also had it's own bathroom and wardrobe. In the saloon/kitchen area there was a dinette table which we made into a bed for one of us. We didn't get it right, so we dragged one of the other mattresses off the other beds onto that area. it was a right effort every night. Each bedroom had duvets, sheets, blankets, pillows etc. All you took is towels and t- towels. Kitchen ======= In the galley/kitchen area, this was quite small in our boat, the others got a much nicer boat which we looked at later and was very envious. We more or less had everything we needed, there was a full size oven, a mini fridge, the others had full size fridges, we had a little tv. A sink with plenty of hot water and plenty of cutlery, plates etc. Only thing we had missing was a tin opener which we bought further up the river. Everything was clean and tidy, there was a fire blanket, a fire extinguisher, an even a mop and bucket to wash the deck. We had to do that several times as it was a bad week for us, we had torrential rain. The kitchen area also had a table with seating round it , you could easily fit 6 people round it, 8 at a squeeze. The unfortunate thing for us was it rained that hard , that rain came into the boat and for four nights we slept in damp duvets and sheets. We seemed to think it had some cracks in the boats, we all thought they could have given us a better boat seeing as though we had to sell their holidays. Like I keep saying, the others had beautiful boats, so don't let me put you off. Bathroom ======== On our boat, they were tiny. They had a toilet which looked like any other toilet but maybe a bit smaller. But once you had done your business you had to push a lever to fill the bowl with water , then there was a pump
handle at the side and you had to pump it away. The bowl area is only small so you could only put little bits of loo paper down at once. We used to wait until we got to the pub then all hell would break loose, pardon the pun. As I say, the others boats had proper flushing toilets. There was a basin with small vanity area. The shower was a shower head on the wall, but the area was that small you had to take it down off the wall and just stand still whilst rinsing your body down. You had to put the toilet seat down so not to wet it. The water drained away through a wooden grid beneath your feet, it was like something in Greece, no shower curtain or rail etc. But I made a do. Some of the other boats had bathrooms which were much larger and even had hip baths in them. Outside ======= There was an area for the pilot, it had a comfy seat, there was also seating for your shipmates, if anyone was nervous of steering the boat on their own, you had plenty of seats for someone to sit near you. I did this as I was nervous at first. After a while the others left me to my own devices. Everybody who passes you on the river smiles and waves at you. Why can't it be so friendly in a car. There was an area at the front where you can sit , it looked a bit like the titanic. To get to there though you had to walk round the edge of the boat around the rails. Remember if you are doing this to have one hand for the boat and one for yourself. I was also nervous about this, but as time went on I became very confident. There is also an outside light, just incase you can't see your boat after a night out at the pub. This boat was a very high boat which would have been no good for the disabled or infirm. It did have ladders at the back, but most of the time we had to moor sideways on so we had to clamber on any way we could. If mooring next to another boat, sometimes you have to climb on theirs to get to your. Atmosphere
========== I've never known so many helpful people along the way. We went from Wroxham, moored at Horning outside a pub, then a man came rushing out to tie the boat up for us. We realised then that he was the landlord of the pub and wanted us as customers. We weren't bothered though, he was still helpful. We had to always tie the boat up by two ropes , they were both at the back and there was one at each end. We also threw in the mud anchor which stopped the boat from swaying. The Broads are full of mud, the mud anchor is one of the ways to keep the boat still. Afterwards you hoist it up, then bang the anchor against the boat to shake the excess mud off. I couldn't do it, it was very heavy, luckily we had a man on board. When you moor there is always someone to help you, so don't panic. Sometimes it can be quite hard to find a place to moor for the night, some places are very popular. There are some places where you have to pay about £14 to moor, but we always found a free spot. The odd time, we had to go up and down the river then turn round to see if anybody had left us a space. The boat we hired would have cost about £500, or maybe a bit less for a 5 day break, but seeing as though I work for the company we got it free. If you were to divide that with how many people it birthed, which was 8 altogether, it wouldn't be expensive. We were unlucky to get bad weather, but on Thursday/Friday, the sun decided to come out and it felt good to be alive. It really is a relaxing place to be, there are some scenic villages to see, there is always a pub with good food along the way. It really is a chilling out type of holiday, just take a book, lie there , then think of England. Oh yes, don't forget to drive down the left hand side of the river, and give way to yachts when tacking. Next trip is a narrow boat, either on the Thames or the Kennet and Avon canal. Will follow it up with an
Sorry, but this is going to be a Mykreeve sized epic, so stay with it - I've tried to convey what a typical Broads boating holiday is like and as you can only really appreciate the Broads from the water, well, just read on... I managed to book summer half term off! Hooray. Now what. Somebody, probably not me, had the bright idea of maybe hiring a boat. I was cool with that, I'd spent loads of holidays on my Grandad's boat as a kid and Mrs O. and I had spent a week on the same stretch of the Great Ouse that Grandad sailed, back in the 80s. That was settled then, we'll do it. But where? Scotland was out as being too far away (we're Kent) and we'd already done Huntingdon and Cambrdge and the Thames was too well, local. It's the Broads then. Brilliant - In 40 years I'd never even been to Norfolk let alone the Broads, so it would be a completely new experience Trying to get away from the major hire boat operators, Blakes and Hoseasons, we attempted to find something on the web but it soon became apparent that all the yards have operating agreements with either of the two so we just ordered the catalogues. Both companies can be accessed online (www.hoseasons.co.uk and www.blakes.co.uk) although at the moment only Hoseasons will take bookings online. We went for Blakes because of a special offer. Why not! We had a budget of around £500 for a week - boating is not cheap - so we plumped for the bangs for bucks option, i.e. what facilities could we get for the dosh. In the end we settled on a 39' Caribbean class sleeping 4-6 in 2 separate cabins and with sinks in each, a shower, fridge, a telly and radio/cassette player (which made my daughter's Shania Twain tape sound like Nick Cave) The Caribbeans are rather similar to a bateau mouche in that they are low, long and wide. They look wider than they really are which is 9'6" and are also equipped with a forward enclosed cockpit; something I
was not used to, having previously driven either an aft or centre cockpit craft. The boat was based at the Kingfisher Cruisers' yard at Thorpe St. Andrew on the Yare, on the eastern edge of Norwich. There are several other major hire bases, Reedham and Brundall, both on the Yare, Loddon on the Chet, Wroxham and Horning on the Bure, Stalham on the Ant and Potter Heigham on the Thurne among others. The booking went very smoothly, Blakes only required a £20 deposit with the balance to be paid 6 weeks before the holiday. You also have to contact the boatyard 2 weeks prior to the holiday to confirm that you are arriving and at what time. When you have booked so far in advance details like this can be easily overlooked so keep it marked on your calendar. Takeover was Saturday, any time after 2pm. We couldn't wait. Come the day, we loaded up the car with well over £100 worth of groceries for the week, plenty of underwear and socks ( no laundry facilities and we're on hols so we don't want to do it anyway!), plenty of games and books, pumped up the tyres and set off. I even took my sketch pad which hasn't been seen in years. Some boats have videos and a 240v circuit but not ours, we were good old 12v so we had to take loads of batteries as well. What we didn't realise was that half the food would have to be eaten very quickly as, being a gas fridge (and very small) it was not as efficient as an electric one. Note for the future, buy en route and take tins! Actually, the legislation changes for next year. The rules surrounding the venting of gas fridges are becoming more stringent and a lot of operators will change to electric if they can sort out the battery storage problem. Most boats have three batteries - one for starting the motor and two for domestic use. The motor has to run for about 4 hours to recharge the domestic cells so you can imagine the palaver involved with an extended system. One private owner I spoke to h
ad 7 batteries hidden about his much smaller boat and these things are about twice the size of an average car battery. We got to the yard at 3pm and were shown our craft. We were a little taken aback, it did seem a little shabby compared to some of the others and smelt a bit musty but I suppose you have to put up with that on hire craft. We had to pay an additional £40 fuel deposit and I also bought a map and some diver insurance for £3.50 (in case the prop gets fouled - not unknown and I can remember my dad diving under once and unhooking someone's rope from around our prop). What I had asked about was a 'phone charger. I misunderstood and assumed there was one on the boat but I should have picked one up at the yard. In the event, I had to have one brought out to me. But I'm glad we had it as will be seen. A short induction course involving the daily engine checks and a very short and incomprehensible introduction into steering this huge thing followed. The guy had obviously done it so many times he was more than a little blase. What he did say was that she was very controllable and steered well. Hurr hurr. Off we went. Eastwards along the Yare on the first leg of our epic journey into the unknown! The Broads are a network of natural rivers and man-made lakes between 1000 and 1500 years old. They were originally peat workings which flooded over the years due to the high water table and proximity of the sea and as such are quite shallow and navigable in parts only by shallow draught craft. Dredged channels are provided for cruisers out of which you stray at your peril. Some of the broads, notably Oulton and Hickling are quite large covering a couple of thousand acres. Most are small and quiet and some little more than widish dykes. Others such as Ormesby and Rollesby cannot be reached from the main rivers. Most of the Broads network can only be seen from a boat, road access being limited to a few crossing points and major town
s. The whole network encloses an area roughly the size of greater London. What many people don't realise is that it's also tidal which can cause problems when mooring, especially on the southern Broads. As they flow into the sea and most of the water is within 25 miles of it, they are also slightly brackish which means you can catch all sorts of brackish water fish such as flounder and bass in the lower reaches. They were worked mainly for reed cutting up until the late 19th century when the tourist industry started to grow in prominence. There are still reed cutting operations and good use is made of this as tourist attractions. Not wishing to go too far on the first day we tootled along at a sedate 3 mph passing Brundall, a large private and hire boating centre. As we had left quite late, we had to be confident of reaching a good mooring for our first night and there were not many within reach. Not knowing how far we could go we decided to take the first opportunity to moor up after Brundall and headed off down to Rockland Broad where a public mooring was shown on the map at Rockland St. Mary. The broad is reached via a narrow dyke and it seems as if you are heading off into the unknown. After about half a mile it opens up onto a beautifully calm, shallow lake. This was our first view of a broad and it was impressive, especially as it was now early evening on what was still a warm and windless day. The whole effect is enhanced by the odd dead tree sticking up out of the shallows. The route across the broad is marked by posts and buoys and you go outside these at your peril. Turning posts are yellow so when we saw this we had to look for our turn off into Boat Dyke and down to Rockland Staithe where we would find the mooring. A staithe is what used to be the village quay back when most goods transport was by river. Most are now public moorings. We soon came across our first problem. We arrived at the staithe to find that it was crowd
ed - all the moorings had gone. What's more, there wasn't much space to turn our mini liner around in. Luckily, someone decided to leave so there was now a space but we still had to turn. The trick I found was to keep the tiller on full lock and shift through forward and reverse - this would bring the boat round in little more than its own length but does seem a bit noisy and probably looks really stupid. What you have to be aware of is that steering is from the rear and that that the boat turns roughly around the centre i.e the bow does the opposite to the stern. Not such a difficult concept but when you can't see the rear,as in our case, it becomes almost impossible for the novice. Anyway we made it and moored up for the night, making sure we had left enough line to cope with the low tide. It is not unknown to wake up with one end of the boat out of the water so an awareness of the tides is vital and all skippers are issued with tide tables. In our case the drop was in the order of 2-3 feet which we coped with easily. Some friends of ours phoned and we arranged to meet them further downriver at the Ferry Inn at Reedham the next day. The Reedham chain ferry is the only crossing point on the Yare outside Norwich and as it is next to a pub it seemed an ideal meeting place. They duly arrived, albeit later than intended as the queue for the ferry was immense. We decided to head into Reedham proper to refill with fresh water (which must to be done daily), turn round and then head off down the River Chet to Loddon where all the kids could run around. I mentioned the tides above. At Reedham the current can be very strong, get it wrong and you can be sent cartwheeling into the swing bridge downstream. You should also attempt to moor against the current as it makes manoeuvring easier. Casting off is done away from the current, i.e. if you're pointing into the current, you untie the stern first. Hmm. Easier said than done! We filled up
with water and tried to start. Nothing. Nothing at all. So we phoned the boatyard. We were mended within an hour and it also gave us the excuse to request the phone charger which I'd forgotten. During this hour the tide had changed direction and what followed was just about the most embarrassing thing I've ever done. Ever felt you were in a situation where you just didn't know what to do? My mate untied us and pushed us out. We then got caught by the strong current and a gust of wind which immediately spun the boat around and sent us broadside into another moored craft. Frantic running and leaping by the harbour master and the boat owner minimised any danger but I had visions of crashing into the bridge pier. We finally got under control and headed back up river as if nothing had happened. It doesn't look too serious written down but believe me, never underestimate the power of the water. Next morning we had the same problem as before. We had lost power and couldn't start the motor. Another call to the yard and a frantic repair was undertaken. I'd worked out that the emergency electrical cut-off switch had failed but the chap from the yard was able to by-pass it to enable us to enjoy the rest of the week. We had intended just to keep to the southern Broads but it soon became apparent that we would cover these fairly quickly. What we had to do now was some detailed planning. To get to the Northern and most beautiful parts of the Broads, we had to travel through Great Yarmouth. This meant getting there at the lowest possible tide and as these were early in the morning, we needed a good run from wherever we had been over night. You approach Yarmouth from the south by way of Breydon Water which is I suppose, a tidal lagoon (and nature reserve) about 3 miles long. It helps to do it on the ebb tide and this will also not only mean maximum clearance under the two low bridges within Yarmouth but save fuel and time. Breydon Water is
also mainly mudflats, stray outside the markers and you'll be stuck until the next high tide. We saw one crew being evacuated from a marooned hire craft so it is easily done. We overnighted just outside Beccles, a charming town with a 12th century church and separate 90 foot bell tower. Climb into the centre and you have some stunning views. The town architecture is also fantastic with some beautifully maintained houses and gardens. The kids could also have a good run around on the common and in the playpark. It has a very low bridge in the centre of town under which we were unable to pass but the limit of navigation is only a mile or so further on anyway. Next day and the big dash towards Yarmouth. Mrs O decided she would take the helm through Breydon and Yarmouth which she accomplished expertly. You do feel very small crossing Breydon Water but you are usually in a small flotilla attempting the same thing, so you can all look silly together. Yarmouth is a fine town I have absolutely no doubt. However the port authority is no friend of the boatman. Moorings in the region of £14 or water at £4 being more than exorbitant prices. Water usually being either free or about 70p in an honesty box. We decided not to honour the town with our presence. This meant we had to accomplish one non-stop run of about 20 miles as the next free mooring would be at Stracey Arms windpump on the Lower Bure. The ageing Perkins diesel was certainly up to it and we did the whole journey in a little under 5 hours. I won't mention what happened here, just see my op on the Three Feathers at Acle and you'll understand. There is however an animal rescue sanctuary and a windpump (windmill, used for draining the marshes until about the turn of the 20th century) restored and open to the public.There is a trust dedicated to restoring the old windpumps and there are now quite a few open. The sanctuary had some adorable Shetland ponies, complete with foals, some don
keys, a couple of blind pot bellied pigs and an extremely rude goose, all of them very well maintained and who kept our kids enthralled for a couple of hours. There was also a grocery where you could stock up on pizzas and sausages. You can buy tickets for the mill at the shop ( very reasonable) and the view from the top is stunning. We then found the most idyllic mooring for the night and this for me was the highlight of the trip. We headed off up the River Thurne hoping to find a public mooring. We turned into Womack Water as there were 2 places marked. It was about 5pm but still very hot and also very still; it felt like a scene from Apocalypse Now, albeit on a smaller scale and without Kurz at the end of it. Trees shrouded the water and the surface was broken only by the bow of our boat as it idled along the deserted waterway to its unknown destination. We reached the end to find the moorings taken so turned round and headed out but took a different route, going the other side of Womack Island. What luck, an empty mooring on our own little island! Fantastic. There were plenty of coots and ducks for the kids to feed and the setting was sublime. This was what I had booked the holiday for and this is the one really memorable impression from it. Next day, up the river Ant towards Stalham, intended destination, Neatishead, just off Barton Broad for lunch at a pub. We stopped at Ludham Bridge to water and have a look around. There is a decent looking pub and a local artist has a small gallery of very competent pictures in the courtyard. Ludham's main claim to fame though is that the vilage store once appeared in Eastenders although I struggle to remember when (about two years ago, apparently). Another beautiful day and another excuse to just gently cruise along on millpond smooth water. This time, the may had decided to fall ( those white seeds) and it was laying atop the dark water like icing sugar on a chocolate sponge. The houses a
nd gardens fronting the Ant around Irstead are a sight to behold and if you ever go, make sure you've got enough film in the video; you won't want to switch it off. The advantage of the flat top boat is that everyone except the helmsman can climb on top and take advantage of the height to be nosey. It's also great for sunbathing and doing Leonardo di Caprio impressions. For the first time we came across a radar speed trap warning - on a river! Some of the householders and private boat owners are fiercely protective of the Broads and quite rightly so. They frown upon speeding and will not think twice about informing the Broads Authority. The fines for breaches of the laws are horrendous (including piloting a boat while drunk) usually running at about £2000. Anyway, Neatishead was full so we turned round and headed for Gay's Staithe which was another peaceful and sheltered mooring and also had a hose for a water fill up. The northern Broads are certainly more beautiful than the southern. There are a few more open stretches of water and more trees. The scenery on the Yare and Waveney in the south is more open marshland. The Yare is navigable by quite large coasters as far as the sugar refinery at Cantley, several miles inland so this gives you an idea of its character and although largely featureless, the sense of wilderness caused by this and the high banks only adds to its charm. However, there is a downside to the beauty of the north; it is more crowded and you sometimes have to scramble for a mooring. Don't set your heart on stopping outside that idyllic looking riverside pub, either. It probably only has about three moorings and they're all taken. Best take a few bottles and just sit there enjoying the view. We set off back down the Ant towards Wroxham on the Bure, passing through Horning. This is a strange town when viewed from the river. We are now in serious tourist country and there are a lot of day boats on t
his stretch working out of Horning and Wroxham. There are lots of private inlets, new houses, small boatyards and numerous holiday homes each vying for attention. Every garden is impeccably groomed but the overall effect is of total artifice and overkill. My one outstanding memory of this place was of the late middle aged couple sitting in their little gazebo by the riverbank proudly gazing out on their perfect garden, impressive only for the amount of white picket and croquet hoop fences, manicured bushes and flashes of fuschia pink erupting from the dozens of terracotta pots spread over the lawn, that they'd managed to squeeze in. Totally revolting but strangely compelling (in a compellingly strange kind of way). The mooring that evening was a toss-up between along Salhouse Spit, an isthmus leading to a small island between the river and Salhouse Broad or the broad itself. The Broad was fairly full and there were already a few just moored on the mud anchor (a large concrete weight of about 30lb which you attach a rope to and chuck over the front. It's surprisingly effective but really only for use in the still water of the open broads. We ended up along the spit with about 30 others. On the other side of the river was Hoveton Great Broad Nature Reserve which I think is National Trust and which operates guided tours by boat. Unfortunately we didn't have the time but I would have loved to have gone. There is a black swan resident in this area; we'd seen it in Salhouse Broad as we moored. Next morning we awoke to find it outside our boat. Cue rapid scrabbling for bread and duck food by the kids (and me). I've never seen one so close by before and I found it absolutely beautiful. It was also so gentle. Usually swans snatch food but this one just carefully took food from your hand keeping us enthralled. It was difficult to leave it but we had to. Next day we had to think about making the return journey, timing our attack on Y
armouth and getting to a suitable mooring before the Friday night race began (everyone tries to get as near to their yard as possible as handovers are usually at 9am). So it was into Wroxham and out the other side for lunch. Wroxham is Horning but on a larger scale. On the approach is Wroxham Broad, home to the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club which I wanted to motor through but it appeared a bit exclusive. Wroxham is the unofficial capital of the broads and makes this known to all. It is a confusion of boatyards, moorings, holiday flats, private dykes and riverside commerciality which is a bit scary to a newcomer and best explored when more time is available. It also has a very low bridge. Mrs O, confidant of her prowess after Yarmouth, attempted it but we had only a few inches clearance and her approach wasn't perfect, bless her. Suffice it to say the clearance has been increased marginally. The Bure from Wroxham through to the limit of navigation at Coltishall is another very picturesque stretch with church towers appearing over the tops of trees and gardens sloping steeply down towards the river's edge. The area on the left bank going up river approaching Coltishall is called Little Switzerland although I could not fathom out why - on the map it appears to be a marshy area with a network of dykes. There is a large mooring at Coltishall Common with a couple of riverside pubs a short walk away. One of which, the Rising Sun, does some very reasonable food. The proximity of RAF Coltishall means there is an ever present roar as training flights take place overhead. We had to head back to get a mooring near enough to Yarmouth to make the tide the following day so were unable to hang around and explore. The return journey was accomplished without difficulty. The toilet (the head) was getting a bit pungent so we got the system pumped out which cost £6 and I proved myself by taking the low bridges without any trouble although I did somehow manage to bo
ttom out on the approach to Yarmouth. Querying this with the booatyard later, it appears there are certain areas of the lower Bure where shoals, or sandbanks can develop and it may be that I had run across one of these. I also managed to hit a tree when I took my eyes off the water for a second or two while navigating a narrow dyke. Hilariously funny and fortunately no-one saw it. The only major problem for me now was the approach to the boatyard at 8am the next morning. This had been playing on my mind somewhat and had actually caused me lost sleep. A stern mooring was necessary and I had very cleverly avoided these all week. I knew the tides would be against me and I had been going over the approach but still wasn't happy. To make matters worse, Saturday was wet and windy. I thought I had lined her up perfectly but evidently not. I think I made a complete mess of it although it wasn't a disaster like Reedham. Some yards fit their forward cockpit boats with rear-view mirrors, ours relied on the skill, judgement and luck of the skipper. Guess which two I'm not blessed with. We are definitely going again. We have to as there are so many places we wanted to visit but because of our unfamiliarity with the tides and the distances, we couldn't. The children loved waking up to a new garden every morning and somehow managed not to drown each other (lifejackets are supplied). Talking to several people, private owners and boatyard workers, it appears that things may not be the same for next year. Several yards are finding it difficult to survive as the owners have no-one to pass the businesses on to. One of the yards, Richardsons, is concentrating on the Broads and replacing its fleet with its Thames fleet of boats and another, Harvey Eastwood, who run some superb vessels from Brundall, are pulling out altogether after 16 years. Which is a shame as we had earmarked one of theirs as our boat for next year. (It had a dinghy which would h
ave been brilliant for getting to those out of the way parts of the shallow broads). What this uncertainty means is that we can't book as early as we would like to. Our yard told us we could contact them directly and get a special deal but we would be apprehensive as the guarantees of Blakes and Hoseasons would obviously not be valid. We'll find a way! If you want to see some beautifully atmospheric pictures of the broads, go to www.katysgallery.co.uk (Jill, I honestly went there before I realised it was one one your faves!) Are you still awake? sorry about the length - we had a great short break, I just wanted to share it with you.
If you fancy the idea of just bobbing along the waterways of East Anglia, then it's a good job the Norfolk Broads are there otherwise you'd have no chance. Flat expanses of water that are easy to navigate (especially since there aren't any annoying lock gates to grapple with), the Broads makes an ideal place to take to the water on what may be your first attempt at spending a holiday afloat. Lets start with 10 handy tips before discussing where to go, what to see and do. Tip 1. You drive on the RIGHT on the water. Most important unless you like filling out insurance claim forms. Tip 2. The maximum speed to travel at is 5 mph. I remember thinking how friendly people were as they were waving frantically at us, until I realised they were also mouthing the word "F I V E", as the wash from our boat was sweeping across the lower part of their manicured gardens. Tip 3. Remember that it can take a while to actually stop a boat as you don't have brakes. Just reverse thrust. This makes mooring up in tight squeezes a bit of a nightmare and shouldn't be attempted unless you're a seasoned mariner or you're physically too big for people to threaten effectively. And if people do accidentally bump you because they're trying to keep their speed under control when mooring, then please remember that they could have been acting on the advice of this op and taking the plunge (so to speak) with their first holiday on the Broads. You shouldn't thump fellow Dooyoo members as it definitely affect your read rates. Tip 4. Squeamish people may not like the idea of having to pump out the week's worth of poo from the boat, so find a yard that has a nice worker who will do it for you. I recommend that this is done on a reasonably regular basis to stop any unwelcome aromas from hanging around in the living quarters. Especially if someone isn't pumping the
handle hard enough to flush properly. Tip 5. Check your map routes before hand. Some places have really small bridges that require a pilot to get you through ie, Potter Heigham - which is a pretty place and busy anyway so you may have to wait. There are also dead ends to worry about, so remember that as the water peters out, the shallower it becomes. There is a distinct danger of running around which negates the whole point of spending a holiday afloat. Also you should calculate your distances. Arriving at the mouth of the Broads at Great Yarmouth just in time to start battling with the sea's tides is a fruitless and tiring exercise. Tip 6. A lot of the crafts need swabbing down on a regular basis to stop the surfaces from deteriorating as well as just keeping them clean. Boat lenders will expect you to do this, so delegate the job beforehand to someone within the group who has recently annoyed you. Tip 7. Water and children don't always mix. Make sure that young ones wear a lifejacket or some kind of floating device at all times they are on the boat. Tip 8. Fishermen be warned. Some sea tides can sweep far into the broads killing off the fish leaving you to catch bucket upon bucket of eels. Great if you're a pearly-suited cockney, but not much fun otherwise. Tip 9. Don't moor up next to thick vegetation if it can be avoided. You'll just be providing a food delivery service to the local mosquito population and spend most of the night slapping yourself. Tip 10. Kids, avert your eyes for this bit. Frantic bonking makes more than the bunks squeak, the boat can rock quite alarmingly which will make the men look good, but increases the chances of the kids getting seasickness. I swear it wasn't us that found out this tidbit of information, but we were the couple that it woke up because of the manic swaying. We never did tell them...
NORFOLK BROADS IN GENERAL. Astoundingly, the Broads are a man-made phenomenon. Previously thought to have been the remains of some great waterway to the sea, they are in fact flooded peat workings from the medieval period. This makes it even more astonishing when you consider their impact and modifications to the natural landscape. The land is composed of marshes and winding reed-lined rivers which flow into wide and shallow lakes. Silting up has reclaimed some of the land, reverting it back to it's original condition of producing peat. Mother nature doesn't link being tinkered with for too long. However, this land provides lush and thick vegetation plus some lovely wildflowers. This in turn means lots of wetland insects, butterflies and general bird and animal wildlife. The species to try and spot are things like coypu (yes, it's a rat but it'll keep the kiddies occupied), grass snakes, marsh frogs, Grebes, Sedge Warblers and Bearded Tits. There are more than 30 Broads - Sutton Broad, Hickling Broad, Ormesby Broad, Horsey Mere, Barton Broad and Oulton Broad are a few of the larger lakes, and you can travel down the following rivers - River Ant, River Bure, River Yare or the River Waveney. There are many villages and towns to stop off and see that have the usual picturesque fare of churches and fine waterside pubs. Acle is popular, as are Wroxham, Reedham, Stalham and Coltishall. Near Ranworth, you will find the Broadlands Conservation Centre, the Bygone Heritage Village at Burgh St Margaret, Thrigby Hall at Thrigby, the Stracey Arms windpump near Stokesby, the ruins of St. Benet's Abbey near Horning and the many windmills on Horsey Mere. That's not to mention the leisure facilites generally on offer at the larger towns you'll pass along the way. We managed to moor up alongside a large swimmer's paradise with jacuzzis and big slides which was excellent fun. At first you
think you're just going to spend a lazy holiday in a boat... bet you don't!