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Memories from the 1960s & 1970s

1960s History 1960s Memories 1960s Gallery

By Joyce Chesney

Let’s start at the very beginning ....…

It was August 1967, we had been married 7 months when we took our first boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads. A college friend of my husband made all the arrangements and our Best Man agreed to make up the four. We travelled by rail, a fairly long and arduous journey from the North East of England. I remember a stop at Lowestoft before the final leg to our destination, Haddiscoe. The boat was booked with Johnson’s Yacht Station at St. Olaves, a lovely wooden cruiser called “Cumulus”. We got to know the owner, Barry Johnson and his wife, very well over the years but this was our first meeting, their young son, Robert, ran around the yard in his little wellingtons. Cumulus was a beautiful boat with ample accommodation for the four of us, I remember it did not have a fridge, instead there was an ice box.

That week was wonderful, the sun shone all the time, I spent most of the week in a bikini, (remember I was young and much slimmer then!) and we explored much of the Broadland area, both north and south rivers. The first night was spent moored outside Reedham Ferry Inn, still one of our favourite places on the Southern Rivers. The next day, Sunday, we crossed Breydon and joined the Northern rivers. For lunch we stopped at the Stracey Arms (believe it is now called the Pontiac Roadhouse or some such!). The boat did not have a television or any form of heating, not that we needed it, but I remember listening to the Navy Lark on a transistor radio that lunchtime.

On to Horning where we moored opposite the Swan, just before the bend of the river, (yes, I know, you can’t do that today, not sure how we got away with it then). With a dinghy we were able to get over to the Swan for dinner that night and row back in the dark. Subsequent nights were spent somewhere in Neatishead Dyke, above Potter Heigham at Hickling, Thurne Dyke and finally Reedham Village. I don’t know why, but we did not stay at Ranworth or Womack, but there would be many years to come to enjoy all these places over and over again.  As we had a drink in the pub at the top of Thurne Dyke, I overheard a conversation between other boating holidaymakers – one of them said “This is our 13th cruise”; never thinking at the time that we would still be boating when we were drawing our pensions.

Cumulus from Johnson’s Yacht Station, St.Olaves 1967

Cumulus from Johnson’s Yacht Station, St.Olaves 1967

Oulton Broad Incident 1970 .........

In the early days of our Broads boating holidays an incident happened which showed us that we had a great deal to learn about boating, safety and the Broads. Summer 1970, our week began on a boat from Reedham. My husband had not been well that year and indeed was due to enter hospital the month following our return from holiday. (We did not know then, but he was to spend nearly 2 months in hospital and eventually parted with a kidney). Oulton Broad was our destination for the first night, it was our first visit there and I am not sure why we did not moor at the Yacht Station, but it was decided to drop the mud weight in the Broad and swing there for the night. We had a rowing dinghy to get ashore so were able to visit the Commodore for a drink in the evening and row back to the boat.

We had listened to the weather forecast and were told that there would be storms in the Bristol area, with this information we turned in for the night and after the long journey down, we were tired and went out like a light! About 3am I heard my husband moving around and asked what was wrong.

“Not sure”, he said, “but we are not where we were a few hours ago.”

I could hear the wind roaring outside and thought that storm had moved from Bristol pretty quickly!

Oulton Broad was very different in 1970 to the way it is now and the boat had somehow been blown onto the remains of an old slipway and was heeling over and we were on a falling tide! It became pretty uncomfortable as the boat tipped further and further over and we made the decision to “Abandon Ship!” We managed to attach a rope to the slipway. Thank goodness for the dinghy! I managed to get some clothes on but my husband was still in his PJ’s. We climbed into the dinghy with difficulty and he started to row us towards the nearest landing place. This turned out to be a boatyard called Norfolk Knights which, we found out later, had closed for business some days earlier. Although we got ashore we could not go anywhere as we were faced with very high walls. Don’t panic! Too late, I already was. I had a sick husband who was desperately trying to row against extremely strong winds and rain lashed in our faces.

Eventually we found a landing place, I think it was close to the Wherry Hotel, and tied up the dinghy. Well of course at that time in the morning, everywhere was deserted; then we saw a man on a bike. He directed us to the Police Telephone – no not the Tardis – one in a hole in the wall and we used this telephone to ask for help. Within a very short space of time, which seemed like forever, a pale blue Morris Minor police car pulled up and a lovely policeman took us to the Yacht Station where the harbour master, having been contacted by the policeman, opened up for us. I think his name was Solomon and he really looked after us, making us tea, even though there was no milk! He called the boatyard owners who were not at all happy, and who could blame them? As the tide rose the boat righted itself and they were able to go out and retrieve it. There was no damage to the boat, and we were safe but would never again drop the mud weight to spend a night except at Salhouse or Ranworth and only when there was no wind!

Last Christmas, my husband surprised me with a model Morris Minor, pale blue police car – a tiny reminder of a pretty horrendous night nearly forty years ago.

Joyce Chesney 2009

The John Chesney Collection

A large collection of wonderful photographs of the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads can be found within the 1970s Gallery section of the Broadland Memories website.

Much has changed in Broadland in the 42 years we have been boating but the friendships we have made over the years endure. I keep losing count of the number of cruising holidays we have taken, I know it is over 70. We now do 2 fortnights every year and have done since the late 1980’s, April/May and September/October. When we are home we get home-sick for the Broads. Sometimes on lovely mornings here we will say: “This is a Womack morning” and imagine we are back there, or: “Nice day for a trip up the river”.

Completely crazy? There are many like us who are addicted to the peace and tranquillity of the Broads. A very dear friend of ours, who is sadly no longer with us, always said to us, “Put your head back, there is more sky in Norfolk”. She was right.