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Memories Of Broadland Holidays

In The 1950s & 1960s

By Gordon Parker

1950s History 1950s Memories 1950s Gallery

My lifelong love of the Broads must have begun in about 1957 at the age of three, although neither I or my big sister Christine can string enough evidence together to precisely date the holiday, photographic evidence puts me around the age of about three and big sis Christine to about nine.  We stayed in a houseboat called Sunny Days at Horning, photographs show this was just off the main river opposite the boatyard of H.C Banhan, which I believe is now Southgates.  Neither Christine nor I can recollect much about this holiday and most of the memories are from the photos father took at the time. I do however have vague recollections about a great amount of fishing and sailing taking place. One clear memory is however of Father asking a young girl in a rowing boat to pick up a swans feather from the water and then crafting it into a fishing float, I still have that float in my tackle box to this day, I would love to use it for reasons of pure nostalgia but know I would be mortified if I lost it.


How we came to go on that holiday is a mystery to both my sister and myself, whist it is obvious that it was inspired by my Father, a keen angler and sailor, who had also been on the broads as a young man, neither Christine or myself can imagine how Mother sanctioned it at the time bearing in mind that I was such a liability with a fascination for water and the firm belief that I could swim. On an earlier holiday, which must have been the previous year I had run into the sea in Cornwall, to be fished out by Father coughing and spluttering, held upside down to drain out only to run back into the sea and repeat the exercise.

Later that year I had been scrubbed up to go out and then jumped into father’s duck pond, mother cleaned me up with clean cloths and shoes and I promptly got back into the pond and Mum had to borrow some shoes to take me out.  Christine and I can only think that she had no idea how deep and wide the Bure was and that Father somehow managed to keep the information from her that it was filled with water.Somehow they kept me out of the Bure and we were back again the following year, this time on Hickling in a houseboat called the Kitty, this was moored, or probably resting on the mud in a corner in the reed beds, reaching the Kitty involved a very muddy path through the reed beds behind the existing Whispering Reeds Houseboats and into the bay in the corner.

Gordon Parker at Horning in the late 1950s

A daily ritual on this boat involved rolling the mats back and lifting some boards to gain access to a hole in the floor, which we had to bail out regularly.  I remember being told that this hole had housed an engine in an earlier life, even in those days I thought that this would have been a mighty strange shaped cruiser.  Another memory of this holiday was being forced into a bulky and very uncomfortable canvas life jacket, I was virtually spherical in shape in my early years and this completed the “Michelin man” image I probably had to remain in that thing 24/7. I also recall the purchase of a plastic lifeboat in Woolworths on the way which father attached to line and a stick and I had many hours playing with it off of the front of the houseboat, it was not so successful when towed behind a sailing or rowing boat.

The next broads holiday which was a year or two later has really stuck in my mind, my memories of this holiday are probably the clearest of any memories that I have of my early childhood years, and I think it was on this holiday that I caught the lifelong ”Broads addiction”,  It all started with a visit to the offices of Hoseasons in Lowestoft and at the time was one of those tiresome ordeals that adults impose on already tired children after a days shopping, we lived in the woods at Dunwich and visited the “ big city” about three times a year.  I recall the negotiations and I guess that even as a tired bored kid something good was going on and I started to take interest, Father was trying to hire a sailing boat, hey this was magic I had seen the yachts and cruisers in earlier years both on previous holidays and on our regular trips to Beccles for fishing and had asked “why can’t we have a boat that moves” It would seem that all the four berth boats were gone and the only boat left available was the Stella Genesta a very sleek looking 30 foot Gaff rig yacht.  I recall the following from the discussions yes they would get the boatyard to put in an extra mattress and yes it would have an outboard.

The Parker Family onboard Stella Genesta 1960

Various things stick in my memory from that holiday, the first was that we had not got far down river before we went aground, neither the forward only seagull and much grunting and swearing by Father as the manned the quant pole did anything to shift us. A kind holiday maker with a big cruiser came to our aid and towed us off and I recall Dad saying after they had gone that they had ripped the cleat out of the nice new cruiser. The Stella had a very long forepeak ahead of the mast, one of Dad’s requirements back in Hoseasons was that he did not want a boat with an eyepoker (bowsprit), so you guess where Gordon and Christine got to sleep, not for long though, the two mutinous rebels declared that they were not going in that dark smelly hole and so we were squeezed onto the main cabin floor between Mum and Dad. Other memories included the coasters traveling up the Yare. This had a profound affect on my education, as at sometime in the following year our village school mistress decided that she ought to teach us some science and tried to tell us about displacement and in the course of that told us that the amount of wash generated by a boat was proportional to its size, clearly I thought that she has never had her tea spilt by a passing dayboat yet barely rippled by a coaster. When I raised the factor of speed I was given a very swift and firm rebuttal, so I sat down, shut up and resolved never to trust anything she said that did not involve the three R’s, and that distrust remained through my next two primary schools.


The weeks holiday on the Stella was followed by a week in a houseboat beside the Bure Court Hotel at Wroxham, this holiday included a rather fine rowing boat called the Little Duck and a lovely clinker built cabin sailing boat of I guess about 22 feet. Father had told me that he had booked an Enterprise dinghy, I guess that was because they were the latest things then and I had a young lads obsession about them, that never went away and about 40 years later I bought one for myself. I learnt to row in Little Duck and spent hours rowing back and forth and around the tree that was in the cut where the houseboat was.

The following year the mould was set and the catalogues were ordered early and as a result we hired Golden Dawn from Dawncraft at Wroxham, Golden Dawn was a larger more comfortable boat where you did not have to cook out in the well and we got proper berths. As well as the yacht we also had the standard clinker lugsail dinghy. An amusing episode happened one morning, well Christine and I found it a good laugh. Mum and Dad had sailed over to the little store on South Walsham to get some groceries and in turning to come alongside Golden Dawn capsized the dinghy, probably something to do with Dads obsession with always leaving the centre board fully down at all times and Mums wish to always move in a lady-like manner rather than moving sharpish to balance the boat.  Help was swiftly forthcoming from various people in boats the dinghy was righted and tied to Golden Dawn but Mum and the dog, Lass, were still in the water.

Golden Dawn

Mum could not be convinced to let the poor dog go and was convinced that her new “Marksway” was holding them both up. That was a good thing because it cemented her faith for ever in that lifejacket, the fact that she never got wet much above the waste suggested to the rest of us that in fact the dog was holding her up rather than the other way round, no one ever said anything to shatter her faith though. The question was however how to get this very correct and dignified lady out of the water in an appropriately dignified manner.


Dad thought the answer lay within the rigging of Golden Dawn in the form of the main halyard, Mum made it quite clear that it most certainly did not, we don’t remember the outcome but it must have taken the form of a gallant gentleman or two who came to the rescue. For the next hour rowing boats kept turning up with assorted rescued fruit and veg. This week was followed  by a week on one of the houseboats near the staithe at Hickling, Sun something or other, it was the one nearest the cut and indeed over the subsequent years that same boat was hired by our family for a number of years. Determined not to do things by halves we also had a half decker and a row boat complete with Seagull. At that time Whispering Reeds had a couple of lovely open Canadian Canoes, real Red Indian, wooden boats none of the modern plastic stuff so we hired them a few times. I also recall having an inflatable canoe, toy job from Woolies, the first time I tried this was in the middle of Salhouse, that was scary and I yelled at Dad to help me out, however Hickling was much more suitable near the houseboat and I grew to love sitting in it surrounded by ducks and swans.


Having had those fantastic holidays the next couple of years were an anti-climax, Grandfather had died and it was decided that the annual holiday for the next couple of years must be spent at Grandma’s in Essex. The rebels were well miffed and thought this was the ultimate depravation; a day in Southend was no substitute for a fortnight on the broads.  Normality slowly returned to our lives and Dad bought a load of camping kit and after a few years camping  the rebels declared” fine but  when are we back on the broads”, fortunately Mum and Dad were of a similar frame of mind and we were back on Hickling in Sun-whatever near the cut with a Silver Streak Dinghy, Whispering Reeds had two of these for hire, Christine and I though t this was the ultimate fun and I recall taking great delight in sailing it so as that it was just taking in water and letting the main out a bit just in time, and no I never tipped it over once, it was close though a few times when I let everything go and the mainsheet was wrapped round my feet.


Many subsequent trips followed by various members of the family over the years. Unfortunately with the passing of our father we have lost the opportunity of a memory from the 30s or 40s, however he did relate the tale which must date to before the war of going on the Broads on a cruiser named Pilades, I never knew who with, however they managed to drop a borrowed camera into the river at Yarmouth, father as a rather foolish young man dived into the water, managed to recover the camera and was surfacing just as the raw sewage outlet pipe delivered its load.

Gordon Parker 2007

See more of Gordon Parker’s photographs in the 1950s Gallery and the 1960s Gallery

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