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My First Broads Holiday - 1968

1960s History 1960s Memories 1960s Gallery

By David Campbell

Back in the dim and distant past of 1968, myself & three friends were pondering where to go on our summer holiday. Alan the eldest suggested going to the Norfolk Broads, where he had been once before, saying that it was a very varied holiday. He reiterated that you were on a boat cruising, there was a seaside resort at Great Yarmouth with an active nightlife, the waterside was veritably littered with pubs and you were also outside in some wonderful countryside. The rest of the party, or should I now say crew, had never been to East Anglia before, so we plumped for it. A decision I have since been eternally grateful for.


We then started to pore over brochures to select a boat, by now the crew had been increased to five as we had been persuaded to take Glenn’s younger brother Alan who was only sixteen. We finally decided on a 27 foot Elysian which would sleep five, if the brothers shared a double bed. The boats’ name was Langwith Avocet number N 524 which we hired through Bradbeer‘s Agency from a Boatyard in Horning called Norfolk Knights. Boat booked, deposit paid, we settled down to wait for the last week in August and the first in September.


The day of departure finally dawned the 23rd August. We all lived in an area just south of Manchester, four of us living in a place called Altrincham, in Cheshire. Travel to Norfolk in those days from I suppose anywhere, was a long drawn out affair and we were to travel by overnight coach from Manchester, a journey that was to take in excess of 9 hours. Not many young people could afford cars in those days, indeed we all had motorbikes. At 7-30 pm on Friday evening we all assembled, complete with luggage, at our local railway station for the 8 mile journey into Manchester where, it was discovered, that young Alan had left his money at home. This of course enraged his brother who was bitterly complaining that this was a fine start to the holiday, “you are going to ruin everything and I didn’t want to bring you anyway”. I accompanied Alan home and then suitably funded returned to the station. This resulted in an hours curtailed drinking in Manchester, which was probably a good thing in light of travelling all through the night. Toilets on coaches were unheard of then. We alighted from the train and repaired to our favourite haunt in town, the Jazz Cellar of the Manchester Sports Guild. At about 10-00pm we arrived at the now long gone East St. Coach Station to begin our overnight journey. Of the journey itself I can remember little, we went I think to Sheffield and I remember stopping at a transport café at about three o’clock. That is all until we arrived outside Norwich Thorpe Station; I do not know what time it was, only that it was light. After a journey round Broadland dropping people off at various places, Stalham and Potter Heigham amongst others I seem to recall, we were finally dropped off, very bleary eyed, at the top of the road to Horning at about 7-30am. The adventure had begun.


We slowly trudged down the quiet country lane, dragging our bags, and a sight I will never forget met my eyes. We had arrived at the bend in the River Bure by the Swan Inn. It was a glorious summer morning; the mist was slowly rising from the river enveloping the varied craft on the water, swans swimming majestically about, the whole tranquil scene being only disturbed by the calling of a coot. I do not know how it affected the others, but, it has remained etched on my memory ever since. I had seen the Highlands of Scotland, the wild areas of North Devon & Cornwall, the Peak & the Lake Districts to name but a few, but had never come across such a peaceful scene as the one I was beholding now. Everything just seemed so well balanced. We carried on to the boatyard, dumped our luggage and enquired about where we could obtain breakfast. We were advised to go to Wroxham, a short bus ride away. Back to the top of the road, through the quaint village of Horning and in no time the bus had whisked us to Wroxham or, as we soon found out, Roy’s Town.

Horning 1968

Horning 1968

Now I grew up in a small market town and was used to all the small shops. My father was a fishmonger and for a time we lived above the shop, I acquired  the obvious nickname at school of fishy that has stuck ever since, so I was expecting the normal mix of varied shops all with different names all selling different wares. NOT SO WROXHAM. The majority of the crew, who had not been to Wroxham before, stood there - I believe the term is gobsmacked! There was Roy’s Butchers, Roy’s Bakers and I believe if we had looked hard enough we would have found Roy’s Candlestick Makers. We found somewhere to eat, not sure if it was Roy’s Café, but it probably was. Hard to believe but forty years later it is still the same, they even have a MacDonald’s in Roy’s now. We wandered around Wroxham, pausing on the bridge watching the Boats that were now sailing up and down the river and thinking in a few hours we would be doing the same. Suitably refreshed and in a very good mood, even after the long, virtually sleepless night, we made our way back to Horning just as the pubs were opening.  We had noted on the way out the New Inn and to this hostelry we promptly retired, being met by the landlord’s very pretty and extremely pleasant daughter. This was going to be one fantastic holiday, I thought, if all the girls in Norfolk looked like her.


After a few drinks it was time to saunter up to collect the boat. On arrival at the yard however, we were greeted by the news that the people who had it before had brought it back in such a state that it was going to take a very long time to prepare. Undaunted, we repaired back to the pub. For the next couple of hours the other customers of the New Inn must have thought we were tied to the public bar by elastic the number of times we rebounded back. Every time we went back to the boatyard we were told the same story, not ready. The people at the yard there were very apologetic, but it was hardly their fault. What the previous crew had done we never found out, but we vowed that when we brought it back it would be spotless as indeed it was. On the final visit of the day to the New Inn the Landlord himself joked that if all his patrons were like us he could retire to the Bahamas next year. Finally, slightly worse for wear having consumed much more than we had intended, only the sixteen year old was stone cold sober, we took possession of the boat. After a quick tuition session on the handling, Alan the elder was more than competent having had previous experience, we were off up the Bure in the direction of Wroxham.



This stretch of the Bure proved to be magnificent; there were glorious riverside houses with their manicured lawns complete with ducks or swans, most with expensive cruisers or yachts moored outside, seemingly another world from the everyday one we inhabited. Considering the alcohol intake we were doing surprisingly well, I had hesitantly taken the helm and after an initial period of trying to steer it like a car. I suppose most new people do, I found it surprisingly easy. After overcoming my initial fears that I was going to kill all the waterfowl that came across our path, I soon realised they could easily get out of the boat’s way. The only incident of note was a rowing boat with four kamikaze occupants who seemed intent on ramming us despite repeated attempts by us to avoid them. After a few choice words I think they got the message.

The crew at Horning in 1968

The crew at Horning in 1968

So, we sailed serenely on up the river, until we got to Wroxham Bridge. As I have said earlier, we were in Wroxham in the morning and had watched boats going to and fro and even under the bridge, but not from the river level and not from the deck of a boat about to go under it. All I could see from a distance was an aperture that appeared to be about two feet high, no way were we going to get through that. After being reassured that all we had to do was check the height of the boat (which we had been given at the yard) with the height under the bridge shown on the indicator beside it, I was still not convinced. Right then, here goes, the boat was pointed at the hole which I was convinced was getting smaller by the minute and I closed my eyes to await the sound of breaking fibreglass. Well! I needn’t have worried, we glided through with six inches to spare. I have often reflected since how lucky we were to have a crew member with previous experience; this first time under Wroxham Bridge might have proved tricky for complete novices. There were craft milling about everywhere, some turning round, yachts tacking and horns sounding, all in all a bit chaotic. But, this first hurdle safely negotiated, we cruised slowly up the meandering river Bure to reach Coltishall, our overnight stop, at about 5pm.


After a quick wash and brush up, tea consisting of salad, we were straight into the Rising Sun. A short time in there and we then went round the corner to the King’s Head. In those days it was not the up market restaurant it is today, just a country local. We got chatting to the landlady, who enquired where we came from as she recognised our accents. We told her the location, she said she herself came from the same area and her husband, who was out, but would be back shortly came from the same town as us. We had a splendid time talking to the landlord when he returned. Near the end of the evening Pete said he had to go back to the boat but would only be a short time, however, by the time we left he had not returned. On arrival back at the boat we found out why. He had been wearing a white Arran jumper; he was now sat in the forward cabin trying to remove half the river bank from it. He explained he had returned to the boat, got what he wanted, fastened up the canopy, turned round to step on the bank which, however, was not there as the boat had drifted out several feet and he had ended up in the river. Howls of laughter from the rest of us did nothing to appease him. The next morning two lines of finger marks were clearly visible running down the bank, just as seen in the cartoons featuring the roadrunner and the coyote.


Coltishall was the scene of my first and last swim in the waters of the broads.We awoke on the Sunday morning to glorious sunshine, without more of ado I donned a pair of trunks and dived straight in. The water was lovely and warm and I was having a great time until, on swimming up the side of a moored cruiser, I heard a gurgling noise and well, you can guess what appeared before my eyes. I think I was out of the water in two seconds flat. That was how it was in the 60’s; thankfully today we are more aware about the environment.

Coltishall was the scene of my first and last swim in the waters of the broads.We awoke on the Sunday morning to glorious sunshine, without more of ado I donned a pair of trunks and dived straight in. The water was lovely and warm and I was having a great time until, on swimming up the side of a moored cruiser, I heard a gurgling noise and well, you can guess what appeared before my eyes. I think I was out of the water in two seconds flat. That was how it was in the 60’s; thankfully today we are more aware about the environment. Casting off we set sail down the beautiful sylvan section of the Bure towards Wroxham, safely passing through the bridge with no fear at all this time. On entering Salhouse broad, where it had been decided we would breakfast, I always remember being chased around by the bailiff saying we would have to pay if we moored up. We cooked breakfast going round and round the broad, much to his annoyance. After a leisurely cruise back through Horning we arrived at Ranworth for lunch. Moor up and into the Maltsters, the bar is unbelievable being in the shape of a boat.

Ranworth Staithe 1968

Ranworth Staithe 1968

Few quick pints and off again, quick stop at the bridge stores at Acle for some provisions, then down the Bure towards Yarmouth where we arrived about 3 in the afternoon. Now what happened in the next hour or so may seem like pure fantasy, but I can assure you it did happen and there are photographs to prove it. We had moored up as I was assured against the tide and were watching the comings and goings on the water with interest, when I noticed that there was quite a crowd gathering. On enquiring what was going on was told just wait and all will be revealed. We had arrived in Yarmouth at, I would say, quite high water, well anyway I could not make out any visible current, and then the tide started to go out. I could not believe the speed at which it happened and the corresponding drop in the water level. This is what the crowd, which was now assuming the proportions of something seen at a football match, had come to witness.


Boats were coming down the river, attempting to moor, and were being swept about by the current, bashing into the boats already tied up. Howls of laughter were coming from the spectators assembled on the quayside, on asking a person who was obviously a regular at this event he explained that Sunday was the day to witness this, as changeover day was mostly Saturday in the afternoon and it took the novice crews until Sunday afternoon to arrive in Yarmouth. Obviously this did not always happen then due to tides, but it seems most of the locals new the tide tables by heart and turned out accordingly. Most of this was sorted out quite smoothly, as there were plenty of helpers to moor the boats, until a large cruiser which was attempting to turn got stuck fast across the river. The scene of carnage that resulted from this had to be seen to be believed; now there was nowhere for boats coming downstream to go and about three or four ran into this large cruiser which, I have found out this year with help from the knowledgeable people on the various Norfolk sites, was a Fulmar Class from Richardson’s of Stalham. I wish my friend Glenn had taken more photos of this incident.

The only ones we have are just the one boat stuck across the river and not four or five. Eventually, with a bit of organisation, the boats coming down were held further up river by the Yacht Station and everybody got down to try to free the stricken boat. Again this will live long in my memory; ropes were taken off every available boat and at least fifty people were pulling and pushing, some even in the water on the Suspension Bridge Tavern side. Brute force prevailed, and with rousing cheers from the assembled crowd the offending vessel was tied up for the night. Brute force prevailed, and with rousing cheers from the assembled crowd the offending vessel was tied up for the night. This incident, which I think typifies the British attitude to pull together in the face of adversity, pardon the pun, had generated a party atmosphere. People who half an hour earlier were complete strangers were laughing and joking with each other as though they were lifelong friends. The other point that comes to mind is that there was very little if no damage to the boats involved. Excitement over, we cooked a meal and then set off for our first visit to Great Yarmouth.



Grounded at Great Yarmouth Yacht Station in 1968

Grounded at Great Yarmouth Yacht Station in 1968

The first port of call was a pub on Fullers Hill, which would be the Crystal. A few drinks and a game of darts, then we were off down Regent Road to the front. Yarmouth turned out to be like a mini Blackpool, a far cry from the 19th Century when it was the premier herring port in the country. Still it was very pleasant strolling along the Promenade in the evening sun. We ended up in what appeared to be the liveliest place in the town, the New Beach on the corner of Regent Road and the Promenade; this was one of the then relatively new disco type pubs which, naturally, attracted all the young people. We had a couple of hours in there and then returned to the boat. I remember noting the curious inclined ramp leading up to the box girder bridge over the Bure which we had to walk round to get back to the boat. Even though it was now quite late, the moorings were still busy with people everywhere clambering over boats, the sound of laughing and joking interspersed with noisy whistling steam kettles as the returning revellers brewed up. It was a fact in those days most people did their drinking in pubs and the sight of people consuming alcohol on the boats from cans and bottles, the odd party four excepted, was almost unheard of. We were quite late in getting to sleep that night due to the continual thumps on the cabin roof as someone returned to their boat moored on the outside of us. We were moored against the quay and the boats were four abreast across the river, so it seemed everybody moored on the outside was using our boat as a stepping stone.


Monday dawned, overcast, with a slight drizzle. Undaunted, we made cups of tea and mulled over the map to decide where to go next. Our decision was to go down the Waveney to Oulton Broad. I went to find a newsagent to get a paper, noting on the way the old buildings on the quayside one of which was a chippy which turned out to sell the most superb fish and chips we had ever tasted when we frequented it on our return visit. After extricating our craft from the quayside which involved quite a bit of manoeuvring of other boats, all done in a very good natured way, we set sail in the direction of Oulton Broad, passing under the two bridges with ease. The good point about the Elysian we found was the air draught, this being in the region of six feet, so we were able to pass under most bridges at fairly high water. I started busying myself preparing breakfast, I suddenly looked up out of the window and to my horror all I could see was water. I rushed over to the other side, the same again, water. I ran on deck shouting “you ------- idiots, you’ve gone the wrong way we’re out at sea!” Hoots of laughter told me of my mistake, we were on Breydon Water, with the overcast and rainy conditions the sides were not visible from down below. It was quite a sight; I postponed the cooking and came up top to take it all in. It is very hard to put into words the effect Breydon has on you the first time you see it, I suppose you could call it an inland sea, but on that first sighting with the rainy, misty and slightly windy conditions it was magnificent. It was full you could not see the mud banks on either side, the waves were banging against the side of the hull making the boat roll a bit, this was the only time we had it flat out so I suppose we were  going against the tide. It certainly did seem a bit like the sea especially with all the seabirds wheeling overhead.


All too soon it was over and we were cruising down the Waveney with jokes about baked beans being bandied about as Waveney was a brand name for some Coop foods at the time. Past Burgh Castle and St. Olaves, noting the piers of the disused railway bridge in the river at Haddiscoe, past the distinctive smock mill at Herringfleet to arrive miraculously at Somerleyton just as the pub was opening. We sauntered up the sunken lane to the Dukes Head which we thought was a marvellous pub. On entering we saw on the bar what, to everybody but me, was a completely new pump. One of the lads asked the landlord what it was, to be told it was Heineken Lager from Holland and this was going to be the future of things. Now I worked for a Brewery Company at the time and realised full well that this was probably what was going to happen and that there would be a turn to continental type lagers rather than the traditional British beers of the past. A trend I myself viewed with trepidation. I find lager bland, fizzy and totally lacking in body, but that is only my opinion. So we ordered up four pints, from the look on the other threes faces after the first gulp I realised they shared my opinion of the stuff. This was compounded by the fact that the price of it was nearly twice the price of the bitter. Needless to say we didn’t have anymore and just had beer which, I think, was maybe Whitbread, as they had just taken over Lacons. In fact I don’t think I have drunk Heineken since.

We wended our way back to the boat, by now the weather had brightened considerably and we had lovely journey to Oulton Broad in fine sunshine and moored up in the Yacht Station about 3 pm. Oulton Broad turned out to be a very nice spot, we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the town and shopping, chiefly for food. None of us were married at the time and, living at home with parents to do all that kind of thing, we didn’t realise just how much food you had to buy for three meals a day.


Another thing in those days was that, apart from a visit to the chippy, very few people on holiday ate out. Most pubs survived by just selling drink, a far cry from today where if most of them did not provide food, especially in holiday areas, they would be out of business. We spent the evening in the Lady of the Lake and returned to the boat fairly early, a considerably quieter night was had due to the fact with being moored stern on nobody had to jump over our boat to get to their own.

Oulton Broad Yacht Station 1968

Oulton Broad Yacht Station 1968

Another thing in those days was that, apart from a visit to the chippy, very few people on holiday ate out. Most pubs survived by just selling drink, a far cry from today where if most of them did not provide food, especially in holiday areas, they would be out of business. We spent the evening in the Lady of the Lake and returned to the boat fairly early, a considerably quieter night was had due to the fact with being moored stern on nobody had to jump over our boat to get to their own.


Tuesday morning was another glorious sunny day, this proved to be the first instance where the boat didn’t move. We spent a leisurely day sunbathing, watching the tooing and froing on the Broad and strolling around, in fact a thoroughly restful time was had by all.In the evening we decided to walk down by the side of Lake Lothing, noticing the commercial shipping on the way to Lowestoft, where I must admit we found little of interest and promptly caught the bus back. Another splendid evening ensued in the Lady of the Lake where there was a stage, entertainment being provided this evening, even some of the boaters doing a turn. I remember one chap, who was in a party of lads from Leeds, doing a hilarious impersonation of Chick Murray who was a Scottish comedian of the day.


After an unhurried breakfast we set off on the Wednesday, on another fine, morning, for Beccles. I must say, so far the weather had been extremely kind to us with only day of drizzle on the Monday; we turned off Oulton Dyke onto the Waveney in glorious sunshine. The Southern Waters were proving to be far less busy than the hectic Northern ones around Horning, Wroxham and the area near the Thurne Mouth which were literally teeming with boats. The Waveney here was very quiet, the only thing disturbing the tranquillity being our transistor radio. I can still remember the most popular ones played by the local radio station. Hey Jude had just been released, this was constantly being aired, others included I Say A Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin, Dream A Little Dream Of Me by Mama Cass and a one hit wonder called Little Arrows by Leapy Lee. It always brings a smile to my face when ever I hear them played now. The journey to Beccles was a delight; all of us were just enthralled by ever changing scene along the banks, just so peaceful. I think that the quietness, more than anything else, is what has left is mark forty years on, just so relaxing.


We arrived at the Yacht Station, a quick tea and out into the town, Beccles proved to be what we thought was a very sleepy place until at about 8 pm we entered a pub in front of a very impressive church. We were just taking the tops off our first pint when the pristine silence was shattered, to say the pub shook was an understatement, the sound of the loudest bell I had ever heard reverberated through the room. “What the Bloody Hell was that”, we asked the Barman, “Bell ringing practice”, he announced reaching for the cotton wool, “that’s why there’s only you idiots in here, nobody else locally can stand it”. We put up with it for about fifteen minutes, the sound itself was lovely it was just the loudness, it really was deafening. On walking further away to a pub nearer the moorings it became a pleasure to listen to. On getting our hearing back when the buzzing stopped we laughed and joked about this for some time, saying it was an awful long way to come to get deafened.


I think the Thursday morning was quite dull, but it certainly wasn’t raining when we cast off for Yarmouth again, my only regret looking back on all these years was that we hadn’t heard of the Locks Inn at Geldeston as we would have certainly paid that a visit, but Yarmouth it was. Back up the Waveney. Over Breydon, low tide and a flat calm and into Yarmouth. No dramatics this time, in fact compared to the previous visit the moorings were virtually deserted, although I suppose it was midweek. A quiet evening was spent playing darts in the Crystal topped off with some excellent Fish and Chips from the chippy opposite the box girder bridge. An excellent nights sleep followed, no bumps and bangs on the cabin roof, a lot to be said for mooring midweek if you wanted peace and quiet.


It was Friday already, time flies when you are enjoying yourself and we all agreed that we certainly were. Todays’ destination was to be some where on the Bure, just cruise and see where we got to was the plan. In the end we got as far as the Thurne, which we turned up and got to Potter Heigham, but we couldn’t get through the bridge, even with our small boat. We moored up, went to the now demolished Bridge Inn for a pint and a chat where to go next. Back down the river to Thurne Dyke was the decision; Hickling Broad would have to wait for another day (IN FACT NINETEEN YEARS). So back down the river, five minutes out of Potter Heigham the Heavens opened, we had hardly seen any rain at all but we certainly got it now. It came down like stair rods, for you people old enough to remember what they were, I remember the panic to get the canopy up cups plates and everything else being knocked over in the sheer rush to stop the interior of the boat becoming awash. We were used to rain, well we did all come from Manchester, but this was something else, we couldn’t try to moor up because we couldn’t see the bank and no brave soul was going to go outside and have a look. Creeping down the river at about two feet an hour we were just hoping we did not run aground or run into another boat, then as suddenly as it had started it stopped and in two minutes the sun was out, veritably cracking the flags.


The lads pictured at Thurne Dyke in 1968

The lads pictured at Thurne Dyke in 1968

Calm restored we motored on down to Thurne Dyke to moor for the night. Mooring up on the left hand bank, I don’t think you had to pay then, in fact the only places you had to pay were Yacht Stations and Salhouse Broad.We had noticed on the way into the dyke a sign for the Lion Inn advertising showers, these would be very welcome as nobody had had one all week, we had just made do washing using the small basins on the boat. The showers were excellent, we had arrived at a quiet time and so there was no queue. A strange thing about these showers was that going ahead forty years on my visit to Thurne Dyke this year, when in the Lion for a drink I popped my head in to have a look. Lo and behold it was like entering a time warp, they were exactly the same, even down to the coin meter on the wall. I don’t think it took sixpences though. An enjoyable evening was spent in the Lion which was packed due to it being a Friday, the same applies today, and most boaters if they are on the Northern Waters tend to call in. The same thing with the showers applies to the pub itself which, apart from the window seats in the bar being ripped out, has hardly changed in the past forty years. Back on the boat we reflected we had been here seven days already. The weather had been excellent apart from today’s rain, everybody had thoroughly enjoyed themselves and there had hardly been one cross word between us, and we still had another week left.  (David Campbell 2008)

The second Saturday arrived, another beautiful morning. Where should we go to today? As so far we had had a relatively quiet time regarding entertainment, being happy enough just to sit in the local pubs enjoying the atmosphere, we decided to have a late night out in Yarmouth. Back down the Bure, I cannot remember where we stopped off at, but, we must have done as we did not arrive in Yarmouth until mid afternoon. Again no dramatics this time, in fact all the mooring up I watched that day was exemplary, really disappointing after all the fireworks the previous week. Most of the crew decided to go to the beach, this not really being my style I went to look round the town. Heading towards the seafront I stumbled across what I immediately recognised as a former railway station, being an avid railway enthusiast I suppose it was not a difficult assumption to make. It was being used as a coach station; even some of the platforms and canopies were still intact although devoid of rails. I realised this was Yarmouth Beach former terminus of the Midland and Great Northern Railway, which had closed in 1959, I wondered how many holiday makers from the past had alighted here from the Midlands and the North eager to enjoy what Yarmouth had to offer. Now though busy with road transport, it did not present the same aura that must have pervaded the place in the past with all the comings and goings of the holiday trains, steam and smoke oozing atmosphere everywhere. The buildings were demolished in 1986, a sad loss to Yarmouth in my humble opinion.


Not particularly wanting to go to the seafront, I made my way back towards the market area and had a walk around the impressive St Nicholas Church and its grounds, which I found out years later is the largest Parish Church in England, although I believe Holy Trinity in Hull also claims to be. The market was extremely busy and I spent a pleasant hour just wandering around looking at all the stalls. It never ceases to amaze me what little snippets of really useless information remains locked up in ones sub conscious just waiting for some incident to bring it back to life. Just so whilst writing this one little memory came flooding back to me, that I went into a shop and bought several Vesta Paellas .These were freeze dried you just had to add water and boil and simmer for twenty minutes, ideal really when on a boat, they did beef and chicken curry varieties too. In all the intervening years I had never once recalled this until now.


Great Yarmouth 1968

After cooking a meal, we set out on our jaunt into Great Yarmouth. Being a Saturday it was extremely busy. We headed for an establishment, which I believe was called the Long Beach, which somebody had overheard being spoken about. This place was supposedly quite lively; it certainly was it was heaving. I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but during the course of the evening I got separated from the others, no mobile phones then so there was no way of getting in touch, unless we ended up running into each other in the course of the evening. How things have changed, if somebody had said in a few years time you would be able to pull a tiny box out of your pocket and instantly speak to anybody you wanted you would have thought them insane. I was not particularly bothered as I was used to going places on my own. I had an interesting evening and early morning going round pubs & discos on the front, being a Saturday it was extremely busy, with everybody intent on enjoying themselves. After getting something to eat I decided to make my way back to the boat. Back up Regent Rd, through the Market, I was beginning to know this route like the back of my hand. On arrival at the North Quay there was nobody on the boat, or so I thought, the down side of having only one set of keys I reflected. Still it was a nice morning not too cold, so I sat on the top of the boat watching the water. A few people passed, strange how everybody exchanges greetings in the early hours of the morning when later on in the day nobody says a word.


Eventually Allan, Glenn & Pete arrived. I was asked what are you doing out here? I haven’t got the keys I replied. Glenn said I gave them to my brother, we had a bit of an argument and I told him to go back to the boat, he should be back by now. Well I haven’t seen him I replied, just then one of the window curtains moved ever so slightly. He’s in there shouted Glenn, open this door you so & so. The scenario now develops into pure farce. Repeated banging’s on the cabin door and roof, all to no avail, led to a muffled voice emanating from the interior of the boat, which  literally translated said, no way am I coming out there you’ll kill me. All this kerfuffle had naturally woken up quite a few people in the nearby boats who, quite understandably, were none too pleased about being disturbed in the early hours of a Sunday morning.


Great Yarmouth 1968

 Eventually young Alan was persuaded to open the hatch on top of the cabin. Don’t let my brother in through that, he wailed, there was not really much chance of that, Glenn was of quite ample proportions to put it succinctly. Being at the other end of the weight spectrum myself, you couldn’t see me if I turned sidewise, I crawled in. It took five minutes at least to persuade Alan that Glenn would not throw him in to the River Bure before he would let me open the door and we all got in. It was decided at this late hour not to say anything else as I think any more noise would have really incensed the rest of the moored boats.


I was up early the next morning, grabbed hold of Alan and said come on we’re going swimming. On being asked why, I said to let this lot calm down, pointing to the rest of our crew and the nearby boats whose occupants were seemingly less than pleased about the previous nights events, there were quite a few mutterings and fingers being pointed. After a nice dip in the baths at Yarmouth we returned to the boat, the atmosphere had improved considerably, the sun was shining, kettles were whistling, pots rattling and the sound of laugher was filling the air. I hate to think what would have happened had it been pouring with rain. The previous nights’ incident proved to be the only note of discord in the whole fortnight and with this forgotten we “set sail” for the River Yare. Breydon Water was a flat calm and we were soon over and cruising past Berney Arms. It was about 11 O’ clock and in those days of restricted opening hours the pub was shut, Sunday lunch being 12 till 2. Every time we had passed Berney on the holiday it was outside opening hours, we considered this a real pity as we had been informed it was well worth a visit. In the next few days we were up and down the Yare like fiddlers’ elbows and we never did get in the place.


Uncannily enough we arrived at Reedham at 12 O’clock on the dot and prepared to enter the Lord Nelson, in this we were thwarted as the doors did not open. I have a very fuzzy black and white photo of three of us pretending to break the door down. After fifteen minutes we gave up and carried on to Reedham Ferry. Another beautiful riverside hostelry, thankfully not much changed today, I vividly remember the stone flags in the bar. As it was a sunny day we sat on the lawn in front of the pub watching the chain ferry going back and forth across the river. Nobody had ever seen one of these before, although there are four or five in other places in England, the King Harry Ferry in Cornwall springs to mind. We wondered why it was so busy but a quick look at the map showed us of its importance, it is a long way round otherwise. In glorious sunshine, the weather had been really kind to us so far which we considered a real bonus, after all, anybody taking holidays in the U.K. expected it to rain at least half the time, we motored on past the sugar factory and the Red House as it was called then at Cantley, to arrive mid afternoon at Brundall.


Outside the Lord Nelson at Reedham

Outside the Lord Nelson at Reedham

We found a wonderful, secluded dyke to moor up in, virtually in the garden of the Yare Hotel. You could not do it today; it has been swallowed up by the Marina at Brooms where all the multi million pound vessels are berthed. I believe the tongue in cheek term used today by some members of the boating fraternity is “Gin Palaces”. However in 1968 it was a very tranquil scene, it seemed very popular with the local ducks, we spent an entertaining half hour trying to trap some between the boat and the bank with the half hearted intention of catching one and having it for dinner, needless to say we didn’t get any. After a meal we sauntered up the road, past the Railway Station, alas no steam trains any longer, steam had finished on British Railways in August 1968 although it had been eliminated in East Anglia quite a while before this. We crossed the main road and entered into the White Horse. This was not a pub we particularly liked, although I cannot remember the reason. I must say though, I would dearly like to go in it today, unfortunately it was demolished in the early 2000’s and when I passed the site this year it had been replaced by modern housing, a fate that has befallen a lot of pubs just lately. After twenty minutes or so in the White Horse we strolled back down the lane to the Yare Hotel, which we found much more to our liking, it having a very relaxed atmosphere, the regulars in the vault making us extremely welcome.


Monday already. After a leisurely breakfast, the beauty of being on a boat with no set itinerary, we departed for Norwich.  We had not travelled very far when the peace and tranquillity was well and truly shattered. On coming round a bend we were confronted with the largest ship I had ever seen, well that is what it looked like from our position low down in the water. It was bearing down on us fast, there was a man on the bow pointing his arm in the direction he wanted craft to go, we certainly did not argue unlike another vessel behind us who totally ignored his directions and was tossed about like a cork on the ocean before being unceremoniously rammed into the bank by the wash. Where the hell did that come from we all exclaimed, unaware of the fact that at that time Norwich was quite a thriving port with trade from all over Europe. I understand now there is no longer any trade such as this due, I believe, to the clearance under the A47 Postwick Viaduct. That is what those signs about not mooring on bends due to danger of being hit by coasters were for, someone said, thought they were what you put your cups on not bloody big ships.


With no further mishaps we arrived in Norwich and moored up near to Foundry Bridge, conveniently tying up to some large concrete bollards some kind soul had provided. After a pleasant stroll around the city we arrived back at the boat to be confronted by a rather irate gentleman who wasted no time in telling us that we had no right to be moored where we were, did we think that the bollards we were tied up to were for the use of fiddling little cruisers such as ours. We tried to calm him down by saying there were no signs telling anybody not to moor up here, all to no avail, he kept ranting on about a large vessel coming to moor here and if we did not move we would be crushed against the quay. We moved the boat and set off back in the direction of Brundall, all the time looking carefully for the large vessel that was supposed to berth in the spot we had occupied, needless to say it did not materialise. Just another case of somebody being officious when there was no need for it.

A leisurely cruise back to Brundall and again we were lucky enough to find our mooring next to the Yare Hotel unoccupied. After our evening meal, which had been another excellent repast, we were certainly not living on beans on toast and most main meals had been something quite substantial. The galley was very well laid out with everything you needed apart from a fridge, but they were to come in later years, so it was no real bother to do proper meals, we had even had a full roast dinner on a couple of occasions. I was relaxing on top of the boat on a glorious late summer evening with the sun shining, the birds singing and the water gently lapping on the side of the boat; again the recurring thought of the holiday came into my mind, the calm and tranquillity of the whole area.


Another very pleasant evening was spent in the Yare Hotel, it was nearing closing time when one of us went to the bar and with the round ordered some bottles to take out, “what’s the rush” said the barman, “it’s a Bank Holiday we have got an extension you won’t be wanting these”.

The Yare moorings at Brundall

The Yare moorings at Brundall

You can probably guess the reply, needless to say at the end of the evening we still had our take out. I am afraid to say that this resulted in quite a raucous singsong on the boat afterwards, going on until the early hours, luckily we had no others vessels moored near us although the Hotel staff might have been kept awake. This singing was probably the nearest we got to being antisocial in the whole fortnight, not really bad for five young lads. Another curious fact about this August Bank Holiday was that it was one of only two to ever fall in the month of September. Earlier in the decade the Holiday had been moved from the first week in August to the last, initially for a trial period which 1968 encompassed. The date was made permanent a few years later.

Yare Moorings At Brundall 1968


Tuesday was one day I really do not remember a lot about, it is strange how some events stick in your memory and others, no matter how hard you try to recall them will just not come back to you. I have a hazy recollection that we went to Reedham, up the New Cut and then back to Reedham via Berney Arms, thence back to Brundall. I cannot remember which way round we went either, i.e.to St Olaves or Berney first, all I am sure of is that at some point in the holiday we went up the New Cut and this is the only day I can fit it in.


The next day it was decided to go to Yarmouth. After an early breakfast I wandered off to the delightful waterside shop by way of Brooms boatyard which, although quite large, was nothing like the huge concern it is today. Essential supplies such as bread, tea and milk were purchased from the said emporium, which sadly when I last visited Brundall in 2009 had closed its’ doors, hopefully only temporarily. Another delightful cruise followed in the glorious early September sunshine, past Reedham and up the deserted part of the Yare near Berney Arms and into Breydon Water. This was quite busy with most craft seeming to be coming from the Yarmouth direction, probably due to the state of the tide. At this time there were three fixed bridges in Yarmouth to negotiate, the first when approaching from the Stracey Arms direction was the M & G N railway bridge, now demolished. Next came the Callender Hamilton box girder bridge, which has been replaced with the present structure, this in itself (the box Girder one) I found out in later years was a replacement for a suspension bridge, which I remember puzzling about at the time as to why the pub should be called the Suspension Bridge Tavern when this obviously was not of that type. Again, in the 1980’s, when looking into the past history of the North Quay area I discovered that this suspension bridge was in itself a replacement for an earlier one which had collapsed with a tragic loss of life in 1845. Finally Vauxhall Bridge, still there today. We were however too late to see the fourth bridge, the Breydon Viaduct which was a railway swing bridge located roughly where the Breydon Road Bridge is today, this had been demolished a few years earlier in 1963. After a smooth crossing we arrived in Yarmouth which was still quite busy and the only available free mooring was right under Vauxhall Bridge. We soon found out why, nobody it appeared was prepared to put up with the continual dripping of water coming off the girders. We hastily put up the canopy, there were a few shouts and the inevitable swear words as one or other of us got some of the water down the back of our necks and got on to the bank as quickly as possible.

I had decided I needed to go to the bank as funds were running decidedly low. Now, trying to get money out of a bank that was not your own branch and two hundred miles away to boot was not in those days the simple task it is today. No ATM machines, no debit cards, in fact electronic technology had just not been invented. I had in my possession a cheque book. I duly made out a cheque for the paltry sum, by today’s standards, of £5 and presented it to the cashier, the horrified look on his face when he looked at it I can still see to this very day. He gasped, spluttered, can’t give you this he said and promptly disappeared, coming back immediately with a gentleman in a pin striped suit who was obviously the manager. Now sir, why do you want such a sum of money from a branch that is along way from where you live? My reply was I am on holiday, I am running out of funds and would like some of my money, not an unreasonable request is it I snapped. I was now beginning to get rather irritated.

Do you have any means of identification, said the man in the pinstripe suit, NO, I said, I am on holiday on a boat. Oh, we will have to phone up your branch and get permission and, very matter of factly he said, you will have to pay for the phone call. Do what the bloody hell you like I only want some money to continue my holiday I replied. After about ten minutes the clerk beckoned me over and said we have permission to give you your money, sorry for any delay etc. I took the money and walked out, nearly turned round and went back in to tell them exactly what I thought about their stupid system, but the sun was shining and the river beckoned and I thought better of it. On arrival back at the boat I was greeted by shouts of where on earth have you been, in some pub or other probably was the general consensus of opinion, I was going to explain at length at what had just happened but in the end just said yes, in a pub. I don’t think I could be bothered to relate it all.


We cast off from Yarmouth and in hindsight I now think it would have been better if we had gone north as we never did manage to navigate up the Ant to Barton Broad and beyond, but back to Brundall we went. Over Breydon Water again, the scene seeming to change with every crossing, this afternoon it was slightly choppy with a strong breeze. Past the Berney Arms, shut as it was about four o’clock, through Reedham, going past another three Inns we never called in, the Red House at Cantley, the Beauchamp Arms at Claxton and Coldham Hall, arriving again at the dyke by the Yare Hotel just in time to prepare our evening meal.


Thursday morning arrived with another pleasant day in prospect weather-wise; we had to go today to make sure we got onto the Northern Rivers in plenty of time for returning the boat on Saturday and so we bade farewell to Brundall and set off up the Yare for yes, Yarmouth again. It must be said however that nobody had seemingly got fed up with this journey as there had been no complaints from any member of the crew. Every one seemed to find something different to do, obviously someone had to steer the boat but then another might be looking at the scenery and the craft on the water, somebody might be in the galley making tea or washing up, the other two members either reading a book or having a post meal nap. Past Reedham Ferry and through Reedham itself for the final time and up the stretch of river leading to Berney Arms. I always liked this part of the Yare, maybe because of the sense of isolation it seemed to impart to the observer, the wind always blowing, the grazing cattle in the water meadows and the sky seeming to stretch for ever. Another fairly calm crossing of Breydon Water and we were soon moored up on the Quay adjacent to the North Tower, a remnant of the days long gone when Yarmouth was a walled town. We wandered into Yarmouth and said our farewells to the place, finally ending up in the Crystal pub on Fullers Hill playing a new game of darts we had learnt from the locals called Mickey Mouse which you could play with two on each side. It was then back to the boat for an early evening departure for Stracey Arms where it was decided we would moor for the night. It was a very calm, still evening when we “set sail “from Yarmouth arriving at Stracey in maybe an hour and a half with the evening shadows beginning to lengthen and the sun a huge red ball in the western sky. The moorings were very busy as, then as today, it is the last available mooring before Yarmouth. We found a spot some considerable way up the bank from the pub which in those days was still a traditional style one, not the establishment that is there nowadays. We had something to eat and ventured off down the bank to the pub. It was packed, we had an enjoyable evening conversing with the varied clientele and then made our way back in the dark, tripping over quite a few mooring lines it must be said.

Great Yarmouth Yacht Station 1968

On descending into the Church, I noticed a young lady restoring the Rood Screen and went to have a few words with her. I admire people with that kind of skill tremendously, probably because my efforts at art are pathetic to say the least. She has done a tremendous job I must say as, looking closely at them in 2009, they are absolutely beautiful. A quick visit was made to the Maltsters on the way back with, again, admiring glances being directed at the wonderful boat shaped bar and then it was time to be off. Turning left out of Ranworth Dam the Ant Mouth was soon reached, I felt it a pity that we had not explored this river, but you can only do so much in the time available. Up we went past the entrance to Wood’s Dyke, where sadly we would have to leave the boat tomorrow morning, past the Swan and under the bridge at Wroxham.We went as far as a bend in the river near Belaugh where we turned the boat around and headed back to Horning, where we arrived at a little after 3-30 and moored up at the public staithe right by the Swan itself. The pubs were shut, so we bought a Watneys Party Four and drank it sat on the side of the boat. When ever I look at the photographs now they always make me chuckle, as we are all pretending to be under the influence.


Posing with the Party Four!

Posing with the Party Four!

We dined early and were in the public bar of the Swan dead on opening time at 5-30. The thing I remember about our brief sojourn in the Swan is the bar billiards table, I think it was the first time I had clapped eyes on one of these and to this day I have not the foggiest idea of how you play. I was, however, intrigued by the mushroom over the hole in the middle of the table. We wandered up the road to the New Inn from where our adventure had begun nearly a fortnight ago. By now the mood of the party was becoming decidedly sombre, as we were beginning to realise that we had to go home tomorrow, even the sight of the Landlords pretty daughter did not cheer us up. By the time we had moved on to the Ferry and sat down in the seats overlooking the river we were positively downcast, nobody said hardly a word, all of us I suppose were just reflecting on what a fantastic time we had had and really did not want it to end. But back down to the New Inn we went, somewhere along the way the atmosphere changed and by the time we turned up at the pub we were our normal happy selves again. So by the time we arrived back at the boat it seemed as though were starting our holiday not going home in the morning.


Saturday morning dawned, a glorious early September day, with blue skies and no breeze to speak of. The sadness of the previous evening was forgotten as we busied ourselves with the task of tidying the boat and made sure it was in a suitable state to return to the yard. With this done, we politely asked the two boats moored abreast of us if they could move to let us out and we set off on our last little cruise up the Bure to the boatyard. There was hardly ripple on the river that morning as we slowly chugged past the Ferry Inn and turned left into the wooded recess of Wood’s Dyke, the sylvan setting of yesteryear has been replaced with a totally open view and, as I write this, I am looking at the photograph taken the moment Langwith Avocet entered the inlet. It is one of my favourite pictures and every time I look at it the memories come flooding back. We moored the boat on the right hand side of the dyke and went into Norfolk Knight’s office to retrieve our luggage. Soon all the cases were packed, the staff had come to inspect the boat and dip the fuel, surprisingly there was some left. We were complimented on the cleanliness of the boat, something that we had prided ourselves on, and then with last farewell glances at the vessel that had been our home for two weeks we were off up the lane into Horning Village and to the bus stop at the main road. The bus arrived, we all piled on and of the homeward journey I remember only two things, one was going through the centre of Grantham and the other was when the coach stopped at the then brand new services on the M1 at Woodall, where I met an old school friend Ken Haslam who was on one of the other coaches from Norfolk. He said he had been on his honeymoon on the Broads. I offered him my congratulations; I have never seen him since. Then we were home.


So ended the finest holiday I have ever had. We were going back surely, we all agreed we had to go back, but with ever growing commitments like marriage, holidays with girlfriends etc. we never did. Of the other members of the crew I do not think that one of them has since set foot in the County of Norfolk. I have been back many times in the intervening years; such was the effect the landscape had on me. However it was to be another nineteen years before I had another holiday on the boats, but that as they say is altogether another story.


David Campbell 2010

Friday dawned, bright and clear. There was a slight breeze rippling the water of the Bure, it was our last full day already. Where the time had gone I do not know, it had simply flown by and for the first time in a fortnight I thought back to work on Monday. We departed Stracey Arms after breakfast and headed up the Bure past Stokesby Ferry, under Acle Bridge with the delightful thatched Bridge Stores on the right hand side, round the ninety degree bend at Thurne Mouth and past the weird remains of St Benet’s Abbey with what appears, to my eyes anyway, to be a gigantic upturned flower pot in the middle, and down Ranworth Dam, across Malthouse Broad to moor up at the staithe at Ranworth.Wandering up the road we came to St Helen’s Church and we were soon climbing up the steps to the top of the tower, which a lot of visitors to Ranworth have done over the years and are still doing to this day. On emerging into the sunlight the superb views across Broadland made all the puffing and panting well worth while. Malthouse Broad with all its’ attendant craft either moored or milling about was glistening in the sunlight on our right, in front was Ranworth Broad and I think even back then no boats were allowed on it, and behind us were all the fields and countryside going south to Brundall where we had so recently been. All in all a tremendous view which put us all in good heart.

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See more of David’s photographs from this holiday here