Hidden Pub

I always love reading people’s memories of boating on the Norfolk Broads in years gone by and this week I received an email which gave me a good chuckle, but it also threw up a bit of a puzzle which I’m throwing out to a wider audience. Pete Reynolds recalls visiting a mystery Broadland pub in the early 1960s:

In 1964, I came with a group of male friends, all in our early twenties, feeling like a flock of “cocks of the walk” and hired a boat from Blakes….was it ‘Vestella’…the name rings a bell? We enjoyed ourselves, as only young men of that era could do….but that’s another story”…….my question, no my ponderance, is this: Blakes armed us with a large paper navigation map of the Broads, marked with boatyards, bridges, mooring places and of course…pubs! One day we found ourselves, well, somewhere. I have no idea where it was on the expanse of the waterways but there, on our map, in the middle of nowhere, just along a short cutting off a main river, was identified…..a pub.

Is this Pete's mystery pub? Geldeston Locks Inn photographed by Ron Harrison in 1961

Being single minded and resourceful males we set off to find this hostelry. To picture the scene, think of the film “The African Queen”!  Got that in your head? Good. I have no idea what these narrow cuts of waters are called but I do remember that there were many of them inviting amateur boaters to ground their craft”……..we did exactly that. We had an advance party ‘hacking’ at the reeds before the boat, we had a rearguard party pushing it and we had an onboard party poling her along. We got there eventually, to nowhere, anywhere, to find a small grey cement rendered building…..and noting a sign above the door, identifying a licensee, we entered a square, equally grey room, bare apart from benches around the wall and a small, square hatch in one wall. We knocked on the hatch, waited, bought, imbibed. Beer from a barrel, cider from something. It was time-warp for us city folk, an insight into a past world…….perhaps it didn’t even exist.

Did it? That is my question. Was there indeed a tiny public house, somewhere near Wroxham I imagine or suppose, back in the 60’s, close to the river but not exactly accessible by boat?

My first thought on reading Pete’s description of the pub was that it sounded a lot like The Locks Inn at Geldeston, but given that it is about as far away from Wroxham as you can get on the Broads it got me wondering. Pete concedes that his memory of the whereabouts of the mystery pub is rather vague, but says that they did cover almost the entire system during their trip. So was it indeed the Locks Inn (seen photographed above by Ron Harrison in 1961) and was the cut to the Locks that overgrown back then? Or was there another pub on the northern rivers which fits the description?

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