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A Week on Panda - May 1957

By Joan Lowe

1950s History 1950s Memories 1950s Gallery

The following account was written by Joan Lowe in 1957, and documents a holiday taken aboard the motor cruiser “Panda” from H.T. Percival of Horning with her husband Ken and their friends Bill and Vera.

Saturday 11th May 1957

7.30am Ken and Joan set off to pick up Vera and Bill from Burton, excellent progress made to Pastures Hill, then about turn, Joan had forgotten her windcheater. The week had started!


Again start for Burton, arrive at 8.50am Vera and Bill ready, pack luggage and grub in boot then away we go. A very good journey, Rag Day at Leicester, saw a good “Leg Show” as we drove through. First stop was at Wansford Cross for coffee. This is situated at Wansford Cross Roads, time 10.30 am. Next stop lunch at “Castle Hotel”, Downham Market, good meal.

Arrived Horning 3.30pm. Bill and Ken went to find boat yard, Vera and Joan bought postcards and salad stuff for tea. Pile on to “Panda” with our luggage, more luggage than space. (Cor! Where shall we stow it all). Bill picked up grocery order from the boat yard. Engineer arrives to ask if we are ready for trial run, Bill says “Yes, except that the grocery box will not go through the door”. Engineer suggests opening double window!! Ready to start at the same time was yacht “Kittiwake”, we go off first and wish one another good luck and hope to see them again. Drop off engineer after about ten minutes, then tie up at the “Ferry Inn” and take on liquid supplies.


By this time we are almost tidy inside. Have tea. Cast off and tie up for the night in the entrance to “Cockshoot Broad”. (Bills favourite name). Bill took Joan out in the dinghy, got in the wash of two boats, did a “Rock’n Roll”. Sat outside and had our beer, very pleasant until the midges came. Went to bed early. Vera and Joan made the beds, but soon realised Ken and Bill were better at this job, onwards this was one of their chores. No-one had a very good night, some had headaches others heard “Rats” on top of the boat. All awake at 4.15am broad daylight, chatted a bit then had a cup of tea.

HT Percivals boatyard Horning 1957

Sunday 12th May

Breakfast 7.30am. Cast off at 8.00am and proceeded to Ranworth. The broad is “Malthouse” and the village Ranworth. On arrival could not moor to the staithe as folks were not on the move yet, so dropped the mudweight and rowed ashore for the milk. Vera did not fancy this, but once in the dinghy was alright. Must explain at this point that we had all learned to “pedal and pump” the toilet and anyone who had to journey to the bows to do this had got “The Message”.


Having purchased the milk we rowed back to “Panda” and scrambled aboard. At this point we met “Death” who was the occupant of the boat next to us, he got worried and told us we should be at least one boat length away from him, we were, but he was swinging about quite a bit. 10.30 we were able to move and moor at the staithe, this we did and stayed there until Monday morning. “Kittiwake” was also in this Broad and we had a word with the crew, they had been stuck on a mudbank the previous night, but found it exciting. Nest to us was a marvellous cruiser named “Dijack”. The skipper of this boat spent all the morning brushing his carpets and blancoing his fendoffs, quite a friendly type, told us the prettiest places to visit. Went ashore again and bought morning papers and walked to the shop. Phoned Bill and Margaret from Ranworth and arranged to see them at Thurne “Lion” the following evening. Got fresh water during the morning, then Ken and Bill went to the “Maltsters” to try the “Local Waters”. 12.20 Vera and Joan prepared dinner. 13.00, dinner is served. Occasional thunder showers during the day. Spent the afternoon sitting in hot sunshine. 15.15 Brewed up. 16.15 Walked to the church and had a look round, Bill and Ken went half way up the tower the rest of it was closed off. 17.15 Tea. 20.30 Went to the “Maltsters” very crowded so did not stay long. 22.00 Bed.

Monday 13th May

Brewed and tea served at 6.15 by morning watch (Bill and Ken). Rose, swabbed down, breakfasted and left Malthouse Broad at 9.00. Proceeding to Thurne. Pleasant sail, passed St. Benedictin’s (sic) Abbey. Weather good. Tied up at Thurne Staithe 10.00. Vera thought we hit the boat in front, but “not to worry” all was well. We went to the shop and purchased food and milk. Took this on board then set off for a walk round the back of the village, found some very tall reeds, Bill had one as a “tickling stick” and Ken used one for a “wireless aerial”. Saw the first of many Delta Wing Aircraft. Called at the “Lion” Bill and Joan played darts, had a job to get “double one”. 13.00 Lunch. 14.30 Ken and Bill attempted to turn the boat around, very strong wind, could not do so, would not listen to Joan’s suggestion which was the right way to do it and which they eventually tried with complete success just because a “sailor chappy” told then the same (MEN!).

Thurne Dyke Mill

Generally lounged about the rest of the afternoon, Joan had 40 winks, Vera and Bill had walk to post box. Ken was quiet, don’t know what he was doing. Tea 18.15. Tidied up for the evening, Bill and Margaret arrived at 20.00, came on board and talked, grand to see them again and so much to chat about. 20.45 adjourned to the “Lion” for a session and more talk until 22.45. All went back on board and had supper at the “Captians Table”. Brought out the “Gorg”. Bill and Margaret left 24.20. Beautiful night, total eclipse of the moon. Bill (visitor) left his pipe. (This was forwarded to him from Derby)


Tuesday 14th May

Tea 5.45am (still same morning watch, does not change aboard this vessel). Rose, breakfasted, swabbed down. Went for milk. Took on more fresh water. Ken and Bill filling the tank up thought it was taking a lot, Joan and Vera in the galley wondering why the tap was running and no one pumping it. Penny dropped tank must be full so popped out and told them (quite a few choice words used about wasted energy and brainless females). Saw cuckoo right outside the boat. Cast off at 9.20 in slight rain, proceeding to Potter Heigham to the famous bridge, lowered canopy and went under without mishap. Tied up outside the “Bridge Hotel” and did shopping. Cast off again 10.50 and proceeded to Horsey Mere, pretty journey, very nice bungalows along the river. Saw various kinds of duck, all with broods of young. Joan had her first try at steering, not too good at beginning, still it was nice to see both banks at close quarters. Tied up for soup. Proceeded to Horsey and tied up at staithe 12.00. Horsey Mere very weedy. Lunch 12.45. Vera had headache so went to rest. Fellow came to borrow dinghy, three girls in a yacht stuck in the reeds, got them out O.K. Helped to turn a boat round in the staithe, operation successful but male crew of “Panda” left themselves on the bank opposite, so Joan went for them in the dinghy. Brewed 14.00 Vera recovered.

Walked to Horsey village, nice to see the sea. Had paddle (cold) Joan had bought sweets in the village shop these fell out of her pocket into the sea, slightly salty after this but were consumed. Walked back, (long way) tea 18.00. 20.30 Set out for the local, real old country one this was. Met Dean and Doris, had a lovely evening exchanging yarns. Talking about the “Vestella”, skipper of “Oyster” telling us they could not go far if they had gone to sea in it. From the expression on the landlord’s face he also had an amusing evening. Two locals in, could not tell a word they said except the “swear” words. All walked back together, heard Vestella had been found abandoned at Ramsgate. Rat ran in front of Joan on tow path. 22.45 Bed.


Wednesday 15th May

Weather beautiful. Getting later risers now, tea 7.30. Cast off from Horsey 08.40. Tied up 09.00 for breakfast in a quiet spot. Underway again at 10.10. Tied up again at Potter and took on more stores. Negotiated bridge with 12” to spare. Proceeding to Womack Water, this was a lovely place and we met again a couple we had seen at Ranworth. Had a chat with them and they told us to walk through the Fairy Garden to Ludham village, this we did and were enchanted. Talked to Billy, the cockatoo, also the “cranky” woman from the shop. Went into Ludham village, Vera bought a pair of socks and Joan asked for “cold cures”, they said they did not stock “corn” cures, would have looked well with one on the end of her nose. Went in the “Kings Arms” for a quick one and then looked round Ludham church, this had been burgled the previous Saturday.

Paddling at Horsey in May 1957

Lunch 14.00. Bad thunderstorm. Joan got head soaked helping with the canopy!! Left Womack water at 15.30 for South Walsham. By this time we knew we had enough petrol to do what sailing we wanted. Many yachts tacking on River Thurne, quite good sport giving way to them. Went into the first part of South Walsham Broad had a “Tizzy” round (Bill’s expression) then circled back to River Bure and turn up River Ant, tied up near Ludham Bridge at 17.20. Tea at 18.00. 19.30 Joan went with Ken in dinghy, changed over half way and Joan rowed, scared Ken, he was glad to get out said she did not know her right oar from her left, needless to say Joan enjoyed it. 20.30 Set out for the “Dog”, passed what looked like a barn, heard strange music, discovered from a poster on a tree it was the night they had a cinema show. Pleasant evening in the pub, 22.25 arrived back at “Panda” having negotiated a very bumpy tow path. Kip 23.15.


Thursday 16th May

Weather warm, showers. Tea 07.20, breakfast 08.40. Left mooring 09.20 Vera and Joan went to shop for milk, Ken and Bill took on fresh water, tank completely dry. Continued up River Ant to barton Broad, passed through riverside village of Irstead, very pretty, had another “Tizzy” round Barton Broad, quite a wild place, wind strong and water quite rough. Turned round to go to Horning. Tied up for soup, put on wireless and received “gale warning to ALL SHIPPING”. Cast off and tied up at the Ferry Inn again, when, after a wash we went in for a quick one. Cast off and found a quiet spot for lunch, another heavy thunderstorm. Cast off 15.10 and tied up at Wroxham, stretched our legs and cast off. 17.00 for Coltishall.


17.55 reached Coltishall. Beautiful place and moorings. Cost 2/- to moor for the night. The moorings belonged to the “Anchor” which was equipped with hot and cold showers if one wished to use them. Joan took out the dinghy (alone this time) and discovered where the “Anchor” was situated. Vera getting washed was bobbing in and out to see how she was doing. Went for a short walk and then into the “Anchor” where we tried to get a Pimms, but they did not make them. A lovely pub, very contemporary and a marvellous buffet grill. Back on board 22.25 and so to bed.

Friday 17th May

Weather sunny and warm. Tea 7.30. Vera’s birthday so we were singing birthday greetings early. Vera had a lovely Wedgewood brooch from Bill. Had breakfast and then moved further down the river to empty the bit box and the dust-bins. Bill pushed her off and got left behind, this was a very reedy bank and we got stuck a bit, Bill could not jump on because there was no firm ground for him to jump from. Moved a few yards and then tied up again. Ken and Bill went to Coltishall Hall to book lunch for 12.00. This was a birthday celebration so Bill “stood treat”. Had coffee 11.10 and sat idly talking until it was time to set off for lunch. Had a lovely meal in lovely surroundings. This place is used by the R.A.F. officers from Coltishall. Delta Wing Aircraft over most of the time practising.

Rowing at Coltishall

Cast off again for our final sail at 13.00, tied up at Wroxham 14.10 and did necessary present buying, not a lot of choice but did quite well considering the size of Wroxham. Shop assistants very lax serving, always left boat people to serve regulars, took Vera ages to get served. Cast off 15.20 sailed through Wroxham Broad, the approach to the Broad was very nice, some most impressive houses and adjoining boat houses, especially those with thatch. George Formby has a house on this stretch of the river, but we did not know which one. Wroxham Broad was another wild one and again rather rough, we just sailed through this and proceeded to Salhouse Broad, en route we saw a heron in flight, this was a splendid sight and one we had been looking for all week. Arrived at Salhouse Broad and dropped the mudweight, this was a very pretty place and we lazed in the sun, fed the swans, one Bill was feeding could not wait for the bread to be broken for him so snatched the whole crust from his hand.

15.45 Brewed. We saw river buses full of school children having a tour round, these are lovely boats and seat 100 passengers, the latest one is “Her Majesty”. The children were a happy crew and waved as they went by. “Up Weight” at 16.50 and went through Horning to tie up at the Ferry Inn, so as to be near to the boat yard to hand over on Saturday morning. Arrived at the Ferry to find there was just enough room for us to moor, Ken brought her towards the bank, Bill having jumped off with the mooring rope, but the wind was strong and she drifted out again. The dinghy got between the boat and the bank and there was a most terrifying “CRR-UNCH”, we all thought that we should see the dinghy in convenient lengths suitable for firewood.

Salhouse Broad May 1957

Bill observing from the bank said the timbers parted and then, fortunately, went back into shape. Bill had words with the man on the boat already moored there who said we would not get her in against the wind, but Bill told him we were coming in against the tide, this we did and made a neat job of it. To keep the dinghy from swaying about we tied the rope to the mooring rope, next time we looked “Misery” next door had found a bit of string and done the same. After all this we had tea, then Bill and Ken took the empties from the beginning of the week, back to the “Ferry”. Vera and Joan got changed into town clothes again and felt most uncomfortable after wearing sweaters and slacks all week. 20.10 Set out for the “Swan” for our last drinks, again we could get no Pimms. Back again 22.00 and so to bed.


Saturday 18th May

06.30 Fine morning. Tea. Breakfast 08.00. Cast off 09.20 and handed over at Percivals, everything intact. Ken had boat checked for petrol and collected 31/- refund. Vera and Joan walked round the village and bought pennants. Left Horning in the car at 10.05. Passing through Wroxham Joan saw “Dijack” again. First stop was East Dereham for coffee then on to Downham Market for lunch at the “Castle Hotel” again, another good meal. Encountered a stupid motor cyclist who stopped at the roadside and without looking just started to walk his cycle round, Ken clapped on the “anchors” and all was well. Emergency stop made at Wisbech for Joan. Lovely market, Vera bought lettuce etc, stopped at roadside stall for tulips.


Cup of tea at Uppingham 16.00. Emergency stop at Leicester for all and then on to Burton, arriving at Vera’s mothers 17.30. Strange to be in a house again, everything seemed so big and roomy, but lovely to turn on a tap again. Lovely tea ready for us (thank you Mrs Woolley), after which Joan and Ken took Bill and Vera up to 109 where they unloaded luggage from boot of car. Usual goodbyes and expressions for a most enjoyable holiday from both sides and unanimous decision to hire a “Vesta” in 1958 all being well. Joan and Ken then departed for no.9, everything OK there, terrific welcome from Pimm.

Joan Lowe 1957

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The full set of photographs from this holiday can be viewed here