Friday, 26 June 2009

Back to the future for Yarmouth's third crossing?

HOW should people in Great Yarmouth cross the River Yare? We seem to keep changing our minds. Back in April I was talking to regulars at Ye Olde Ferry Boat about the ferry (seen here in the 1950s, pic: Jack Harrison) which used to run between Gorleston and South Denes Road. It came to an end in 1997 because the local council said it could not justify an annual subsidy of - if memory serves - £30,000 a year. Now that same council is preparing to spend either £80 million on a bridge or £180 million on a tunnel, just upriver from where the ferry used to ply its trade. So here's a radical idea to save a few quid. Ditch the bridge, ditch the tunnel and subsidise a modern ferry. Allow bikes on board, cut down on traffic, encourage people to walk, talk about carbon footprints ....all that sort of stuff. And be true to Yarmouth's history in the process.
* Read the full story and see a video demo of the proposed "third crossing" here.

Monday, 15 June 2009

After the storm

A FURIOUS summer storm swept through Norfolk tonight. It was the kind that leaves a pack of Brownies screaming as the electricity fails - step forward my eldest and two dozen of her excitable mates.
But as the rain rumbled eastwards the setting sun reappeared in the west, leaving the countryside around Loddon bathed in a warm evening night. I headed up to Langley and then chased the sunset through the back roads of Claxton and Carleton St Peter - familiar enough territory for those who have done the Wherryman's Way circular walks. For a while it seemed impossible to take a bad photo - everything was in super-focus and rainbows kept appearing behind me. Reaching back twenty-five years into my A-level English Lit course I seem to remember poet Gerard Manley Hopkins calling it "blade light". That felt about right tonight. The other difference was an almost complete absence of birdsong. Perhaps they get scared - much like the Loddon Brownies.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Wherryman's Web milestone

THIS is self-indulgent so I'll keep it short. But this week saw The Wherryman's Web's 1000th hit. Or at least the 1000th hit since Statcounter started counting in mid-March. 95 per cent of you are from the UK, with the US, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany and South Africa sharing the remaining 5 per cent. Within the UK, London scores the highest, with Kent, Essex and Derbyshire all higher up the league table than Norfolk. It's been good fun, but I don't see Google quaking in their boots just yet.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

The search for "Surlingham Inner"

MY CANOE covered a lot of new water today and I was feeling quite pleased with myself until I came across an annoyingly knowledgeable website on my return.

I launched at Coldham Hall and headed up river, turning into the channel signposted to Surlingham Broad. Surlingham is the only Yare Valley broad which the Wherryman's Way is forced to ignore. Indeed to my knowledge it is impossible to get to by foot, although I am sure there is a local or two out there who could prove me wrong.

Anyway I headed down to the open water they call Bargate, (or is the The Bargate?) where a collection of people on a collection of boats looked supremely happy doing very little in the sunshine. Then it was on to Surlingham Broad proper where the "Shallow Water" danger signs deter all but us paddlers. It seems to go on for ever down there: lots of channels and - according to the OS map - lots of turnings. It's probably quite easy to get lost.

But it turns out that next to Bargate is another stretch of water known as "Surlingham Inner" with its own secret entrance. The website says it is "visited only by canoeists willing to get scratched by tree branches, wade through duck poo and get stung by nettles in the process of getting to the inner broad."

It's got to be done one day hasn't it? If you fancy the challenge, you can find the details here.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Wherryman's Way: what's your favourite stretch?

HUMPTY Dumpty brewery partner Stephen George has been in touch. It turns out he and his family have become big fans of the Wherryman's Way over the last few years. For him the best bit is the stretch between Loddon and Reedham. "I love walking over those country lanes coming down to the ferry," he writes.
Which got me thinking. What's your favourite spot? Breydon Water, Wheatfen or maybe the newly-restored Hardley Mill? For me, the best places also happen to be the most inaccessible. All those windmills in the middle of nowhere between Reedham and the Berney Arms for example. Or The Slaughters, hidden until Rockland Broad until low tide. But having toyed with the ruins of St Saviour's Church and all that history bound up in Reedham Ferry, I'm plumping for Hardley Flood (pictured). It's stunningly beautiful, especially at dusk, and yet there's never anyone else there.