It is probably worth me spending a few lines explaining
how I became hooked on The Broads.
As a family we comprised of my father who was
virtually blind through severe cataracts in both eyes, my Mum, older brother and
me. We were a working class family. Because of my father’s disability jobs were low
paid. Accordingly we rarely had a holiday’s but occasionally my grand parents would
hire a caravan on the Vauxhall Caravan Park in Great Yarmouth for a week and we all
went. Crammed in my granddad’s ageing car, luggage piled high on the roof rack, it
was brilliant. As money was tight, as kids we rarely went on the amusements in Bottons
but spend many an evening watching others come down the helter skelter into the big
bowl at the bottom. The one thing we always did however was to go on a ‘road and
river’, trip booked through Seagull Coaches at one of the little booths which used
to be by one of the piers on Great Yarmouth sea front.
We would board the coach on the sea front and after a fight for the front seat we
would journey to Wroxham where we all board the Princess Alexandra (I think it was
called) for a 2 or 3 hour trip down river to Horning and back. I just loved this,
sat at the window seat looking at all the boats, the bungalows and the wild life.
I don’t know what it was and still don’t but it seemed like a whole different world
and I loved it. If Granddad could be persuaded to drive, we would also all go to
Reedham where we would park on the river front, take a walk to Pettits when it was
all feather made butterflies and then back to sit in the car and have an ice cream.
I loved the river more that than Pettits and seeing the Bridge swing open and a
large coaster go by if you were really lucky, was something else.
Many years passed and every year I would say why can’t we have a holiday on a boat
on The Broads. I would spend hours going through the Blakes and Hoseasons brochures
reading the boat details and then having almost total recall on which boatyard a
particular boat came from. These pleas were always met by we can’t afford one of
those and how will Dad manage.
In 1972 as a young 16 year old lad I started work for Nat West Bank and started earning
the princely sum of £584 per annum. Most of this went on bus fares to work each day
and contributions to the household budget. My older brother was contributing to
the household income too and things were not so hard financially. When it came to
holiday decision can we go on a boat, I finally got a yes. Happy, I was like a dog
with 4 sphericals. My brother had already committed to going on holiday with his
girlfriend and her family, so we chose the same week to take our holiday. This meant
a crew of 3. Golden Star (Y931) from Pearson’s of Reedham was chosen for a variety
No interior steps which Dad could fall down
The right bed combination
Steered from the front which seemed like it would be easier being more like a car
(although none of us could drive)
We knew Reedham and thought this would be a good place as any to start.
With no car and no Grandad, we booked a taxi to take from Kent to Reedham. There
was a company that did regular car hire journey’s back then between Kent and East
Anglia. Endless lists were made about what we needed to take, hammer for banging
in the rhond anchors, large screw driver and pliers to undo any knots which pulled
to tight. Mum packed something for every conceivable eventuality (or so we thought).
We arrived at Reedham in this big estate car and unloaded all our luggage in the
boatyard. Golden Star was not ready to receive its new crew, so we had to sit and
wait. Sit I could not, to eager to get aboard. The lady at the boatyard brought Mum
and Dad a pot of tea out to the bench on the grass over looking the river.
Eventually Golden Star was ready and we carefully managed to get Dad on board. The
yard owner I think it was, showed us all the things you had to do each day on the
boat, clean weed filters, screw down the greasing knob on the shaft through a small
panel removed from the floor, how to flush the loo, how to start and stop the engine
etc. I was starting to realise the responsibility I was carrying now to look after
the boat, navigation, steering and mooring. The owner cast off from the bank and
took us a little way down the river and then made me turn her around and take him
back to the bank.
What are the main memories for that first fantastic week afloat
on The Broads all those 34 years ago:
Boats don’t steer going astern. First overnight stop was at St Olaves in a small
basin. My first encounter at mooring stern on, Mum shouting back a bit, back a bit
with me worrying about hitting the bank. Mum not being confident enough to step off
with a rope (she could not swim and still can’t), Dad being unable to help and me
running through the boat from the front to grab both ropes and make fast. What a
The boat was old fashioned, the steering wheel looked like it had come straight off
a Morris Minor. The gear lever was a long pole coming straight through the floor
about 4 feet long.
The loo which pumped straight out into the river and when you pumped the brass handle,
you saw weeds and all flush the bowl. The shower was the same straight out in the
Mum sleeping in her life jacket in case we sank at night.
The strong tides on the southern broads which I had not realised, oh the innocence.
The rivers were brown in colour compared to the green of the northern rivers.
Approaching Beccles Bridge and realising that we might not get through and trying
to turn the boat around against the tide when much too close to the bridge, we missed
Getting stuck on Rockland Broad on the mud because we (I) mis-read which side of
the markers to go.
The smoke billowing out of Cantley.
Mum making a make shift washing line with the boat hook and some string and us forgetting
about it when going under St Olaves Bridge which resulted in me losing my new jeans
in the Waveney.
Mooring up at the Buckenham Ferry, so wild and remote, absolutely beautiful.
Fishing all week and not catching a thing, due largely to Mum not allowing maggots
Mud weighting on Oulton Broad on Thursday night so I could watch the power boat racing,
Mum insisting we move to the bank to moor overnight, in case something hit us and
sunk us at night.
Discovering Beccles, what a lovely place.
Jumping up every few minutes when a boat went by to cross it off in the Hoseasons
and Blakes brochures.
Meeting the Reedham Ferry which never waited for a gap in the boat traffic just pulled
out whenever it was ready to leave.
The trip down the Chet to Loddon, so twisty and windy never knowing what was round
How much boat activity there was then compared to now.
How many boat yards there were then, too many to name, such a shame so many have
Mooring at Bramerton and walking to the pub, having a shandy and a packet of crisps
Closeness to the wild life.
Peace and tranquillity of early morning on the water, absolutely perfect and still
my favourite time.
Saddest thought was always just how much of the beautiful scenery my Dad was missing
with his failing eye sight. We all fell in love with The Broads on this first holiday
on the boat, since then we have followed with:
Silver Arrow (H260) in 1975 from Silverline Marine at Brundall.
from Wilds at Horning
Tropicana 3 (F920) from Mixer Marine at Stalham
from Ernest Collins at Wroxham
Caribou from Ryder Marine at Womack where I fell in
love with Womack and it remains my favourite place in the world.
8 (G819) from Herbert Woods at Potter
Golden Girl (M606) from Summercraft at Wroxham
Moon Stream (J609) from Belaugh Boats at Belaugh
Moorhen (T459) from Moores at Wroxham.
We still talk about that first holiday today, the boats we have been on, the holidays
we have had.