Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Half pint, half sunk




IT’S ONE of those where a picture tells a thousand words isn’t it? The first shows the impossibly ugly “Half Pint” at Rockland Staithe a couple of weeks ago ..when it was already attracting sniggers on the Norfolk Broads Forum …. OK and on this blog too. The second shows it today, half submerged. I’m no boatbuilder, but heavy garden decking doesn’t appear to be the best material for a cabin roof. The regulars at the New Inn have a ringside seat of course. I bet they know the inside story….

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The return of the Ferryman?


OK here’s the scenario. You run a riverside pub in the middle of Norfolk nowhere. You hope to attract waterborne custom in the summer and you’ll work hard to build a loyal local following. But just across the river is a much bigger potential clientele. They can see your pub, however they can’t easily get there.

...But of course you’re miles ahead of me. We’re talking about Coldham Hall in beautiful, backwater Surlingham – directly opposite richer, yacht-ier Brundall. And the historical answer has always been a ferry as this photo shows. I met new landlord George Linder on Thursday and he raised the possibility of reinstating a shuttle service across the river if things went well. Clearly it can’t be the Linders’ top priority at the moment, but it is a tantalising thought.

*According to my sources the ferry ran until 1973. This picture is clearly earlier. Anyone over 40 got any memories of it? Anyone over 60 out there to help with the identity of the ferryman?

Friday, 12 March 2010

WW pub crisis: now The Woods End closes down


YOU might recall my theory a couple of weeks ago that one Wherryman’s Way pub was always in crisis. The Loddon Swan was in the limelight then because its management company had gone into administration. Well right theory, wrong pub. Last Sunday – the very day that Coldham Hall re-opened – The Woods End at Bramerton closed its doors. Another classic riverside pub falls victim to the economic slowdown.Landlord Martin Wormell was holding a clearout bonfire in the back garden this lunchtime. He blames a combination of two wet summers and one cold winter for failing to make ends meet. He has also noticed a big reduction in the number of hire cruisers making it this far up the Yare. So what will the pub’s owners do next? “Well it’s too important a pub to leave closed for the summer,” he told me. “They’ll get someone in, but I’m walking away with nothing.” Perhaps the next landlord has got to go down the Coldham Hall route; modernise and aim at the locals. Oh and they might want to glance at my “Boots as well as Boats” post too. The pub market is changing, fast.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Coldham Hall is back


MEET the new landlady and landlord of Coldham Hall, flush from a busy first few days at their reopened, refurbished and revitalised Surlingam pub. The doors opened on Sunday – a gloriously manic first day which saw Natalie and George Linder serve 120 meals with another 50-odd people coming in for a drink. “We thought we’d be able to walk round, have a chat, get to know people” said George. “In reality we were pinned down behind the bar from 11am till 10pm there were so many people. We had a few teething troubles. The extractor fan broke down, taking the gas supply with it for a while and the fire alarms kept going off too. But the great thing was that people were very understanding, they knew it was day one.” Things were quieter tonight of course, but I was impressed. This was very much a reccie. What did the food look like? Could I bring the missus here? Have they torn the heart out of it? Very good, yes and no. So who are they aiming at? Well George knows his river and knows his boats. (Yachtmaster badge, Brooms of Brundall, year in the Caribbean, enough said.) But it’s the locals he wants to woo …the 12 month a year people that he clearly thinks will make the difference between success and failure. “Too many pubs rely on the summer trade from the river and that makes them lazy. We’ve got quite strong views on how we want it to work. We want locally sourced food for example. We’ve been to so many pubs on the river where you wouldn’t want to return.” Well this one’s well worth a second visit. Here’s a toast (with a pint of Humpty Dumpty’s finest Reedcutter) to a reborn Coldham Hall.


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Judging a book by its cover

Layout 1

SO HERE it is. It won’t hit the bookshops for a while, but I’ve had a sneak preview of the front cover from Halsgrove. The ins and outs of this publishing lark are still rather obscure to me, but as I understand it the designer has finally pressed save on her Adobe software. Now it’s winging its way down the fibre-optic cables to join an orderly online queue in darkest China. In other words it’s too late to change anything – prompting a dozen anxieties on facts and figures, names and places. Roll on May and a hard copy at last.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Half-pint, half-monster: Rockland’s ugly duckling

half pint2

FIVE elegant timbers symbolically rise from the ground at Rockland Staithe to symbolise the submerged hulks of 13 sunken wherries on Rockland Broad. The wherry was of course one of the most graceful, beautiful vessels ever to be designed. And then just across the staithe, there’s this. Not exactly Brooms of Brundall is it? You might call it a monstrosity. But actually it is so spectacularly, hideously awful it’s almost a masterpiece. Closer inspection reveals the roof to be made of garden decking while the windscreen is a household window. Various other pieces of wood combine with angle-irons to keep the whole contraption together. Inside there’s even some loft insulation wedged against the uprights. How? Why? Who? If you know who Half Pint belongs to please drop me a line. I have so many questions for the designer.

* Thanks to Tony P for the tip-off. There’s more on this at the Norfolk Broads Forum.