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.
Let’s start at the very beginning .......
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.
Cumulus from Johnson’s Yacht Station, St.Olaves1967
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
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
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.
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
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.