Saturday, 26 June 2010

A greener Ferry Boat


THOSE new owners of the old Ferry Boat in Norwich really mean business. You’ll recall they want to convert what was the last pub in King Street into an eco-youth hostel, charging as little as £9.50 a night, and hiring out bikes and canoes. Well now we’ve got a little more flesh on those green bones. “We're looking at things like straw bale building, wooden frame structure, whole-roof photovoltaic, solar panels to heat all the hot water,” Jason Borthwick told the Evening News. “We're hoping it will be something really quite different and what we're looking for at the moment is interesting, innovative ideas.” There’s much more on this at

Thursday, 24 June 2010

A new Abbey habit down at Langley


IT’S about two years now since I first wandered around the ruins of Langley Abbey, amazed at how much medieval history survives there. The church from this once huge complex may have long since disappeared, but substantial buildings remain amid a much larger farming estate. Back then a visit was a treat offered to very few of us – indeed for my book I was specifically asked to say that it wasn’t open to the public. But now all that has changed. And how. Since the beginning of the month it’s been open to everyone, six days a week. The atmospheric lighting and classy information boards make it unrecognisable from the dusty old buildings I previously encountered. Less than 500 years ago this abbey would have been simultaneously the commercial, spiritual and cultural centre for miles around. It’s great to see it being cherished and restored.

Team photo - warm

Manager Natalie Wilson (pictured centre with colleagues Lisa Wilson and Ann Morris) told me it was the culmination of nearly ten years of effort. Much of the funding had come from Natural England via their Higher Level Stewardship scheme, which encourages farms to preserve historic buildings. And as well as the abbey, there are tea rooms and a shop which sells Langley Longhorn beef – the cattle are of course grazed on the surrounding fields. For me, it’s yet another indication of the  Wherryman’s Way effect. The walk attracts walkers. The walkers need feeding and watering. But they’re a discerning bunch who like proper history and a bit of geography and natural history too. Slowly but surely they are attracting a similar breed of business people. From Whitlingham to Coldham Hall from Langley Abbey to the Humpty Dumpty Brewery, a new generation of high quality attractions is starting to flourish.

* Langley Abbey open 10am to 4pm. Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays. Admission £4, concessions and children £2. Much more on the Abbey’s history in my Wherryman’s Way book which is on sale in the abbey shop.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

This weekend: a rare Yare frolic


EVER been to a water frolic? No me neither, but I do know they used to be all the rage in Victorian times. Think a fete on water and you get the general idea. This weekend the Yare Sailing Club holds its  third frolic in the 25 years since it was reformed in 1985. It all takes place at Surlingham Ferry House (pictured) this weekend. Among the attractions; canoe demos, topper racing, folk music and a hog roast. And given that we’re on the Wherryman’s Way, it’s great to learn that the wherry Maud will also be in residence. Lots more on this page of the club’s own website. I’ll be signing copies of my book there on the Sunday between roughly 10am and 1pm.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Wherryman’s Way reviewed

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NEED an independent review of The Wherryman’s Way before you splash out? Cameron Self from Literary Norfolk has obliged. Click here for more details.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Thank you


A HUGE thank you to everyone who came along to our book and beer launch at Hardley Mill on June 6th. No-one counted, but I’m going to guesstimate that more than 120 people were there to enjoy the  selection of real ale, real cakes and real folk music. I sold 84 copies of my book - meaning I can hand over a cheque for £252 to the windmill trust. Donations from the refreshments combined with the raffle to make another £200. In addition we made £37 profit from ice cream sales which will go to Loddon White Dolphins Swimming Club. Stephen George from the Humpty Dumpty Brewery reckons he sold about 100 pints on draught and dozens more in bottles. (Five pence per bottle will go to Norfolk County Council to help them maintain the Wherryman’s Way itself.)  Thanks to Frances Kirkpatrick and everyone involved at the mill for making us so welcome, including Nigel who got dozens of you there and back by minibus. Thanks too, to the band Rum Kelter, my family for running around all weekend and Gaby and Harry Horsman for great work as gatekeepers

* For more pictures try flickr. My ones are here. Cameron Self from Literary Norfolk took many more here.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

A Rum ol’ do down at Hardley Mill


IS the world ready for Wherryman’s Way folk? The Norfolk band Rum Kelter have just confirmed they’ll be playing our book’n’beer launch tomorrow at Hardley Mill. Check them out at their myspace page. There’s Heidi on the whistle and French Pipes, Darren on guitar, Nik on bodhran and Pete (pictured) on the fiddle. And yes I’ll work out what a bodhran is tomorrow too. It all kicks off at 2pm. Details on the sidebar.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Wherryman’s Way whatever the weather


YOU might just have noticed that the weather forecast doesn’t look quite so clever for book launch day on Sunday. But have no fear. Hardley Mill might be in the middle of nowhere but it has a large, dry visitors centre and we are also erecting a large tent next door. And if that walk from Hardley Staithe doesn’t seem quite such a good idea, remember that a shuttle bus will be running direct from Langley with Hardley Village Hall.  I’ll be signing copies of my book, while Humpty Dumpty are launching their new Wherryman’s Way IPA. (More than a pint of that stuff at 7.4 per cent and you won’t know what the weather is anyway….) All that plus free tea, coffee and cakes. I look forward to seeing you there between 2pm and 5pm.

* My reading of the latest windguru data is that we’ll be OK till about 4pm. Get in early I say.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Wherryman’s Way book hits Loddon

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THE WHERRYMAN’S Way book is available on the Wherryman’s Way at last.. Copies have been available at shops in Norwich and various other locations for while, but now you can buy it at Church Plain Stores in Loddon too. Alternatively, there’s the launch at Hardley Mill on Sunday afternoon. The details are on the sidebar…..fingers crossed on the weather.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Welcome to the Woods End

phil and paula

FROM dealing with demanding away fans at a hotel in the centre of Ipswich to an idyllic riverside pub on the Norfolk Broads, it’s been a big change for the new couple in charge at the Woods End. Phil George and Paula Kirk took over here a month ago, but spent the first two weeks on a thorough clear out. In came the plumbers, out went the carpets.Ten skips have been filled with the detritus from this huge, magnificent boozer on the banks of the Yare. Longer term, says Paula, the plan is to extend the kitchen and have a second restaurant in a big function room upstairs. But for this summer at least they’ll concentrate on slowly but surely getting the word out. And what about my “boots as well as boats” manifesto? In other words will they look after Wherryman’s Way walkers who tend to arrive at a closed pub during the morning, gasping for a cup of tea? Well Paula’s on the case. Once all the paperwork is done, she says, they’ll get a licence to open up early. Good stuff eh? Oh and they bought a copy of my book. Well, with the Woods End on the front cover, it would have been rude not to….