INSTRUCTIONS: Park as close as you can to the Halfords roundabout in Norwich. Yomp your canoe across the inner ring road and along the riverside path towards the New Mills pumping station – the head of navigation on the Wensum. Just downstream there are some steps down to the water’s edge. Float your boat and set off on a journey through Norwich like no other. The first thing that strikes you is the absence of noise. Traffic is hurtling past Toys R Us just a few yards to your right, but here on the Wensum you might as well be in another world. Next, as you paddle down under St Miles bridge you realise how low you are. Three-storey town houses (and boy, do you realise how many there are in Norwich) tower over you. Further on you start to unintentionally eavesdrop on other people’s lives as riverside dwellers leave their windows open. There was quite a row going on in one of the ground floor rooms at the art college as I drifted silently by. And everything seems closer. Duke Street becomes St George’s, becomes Fye Bridge very quickly. Before you know it you’re sweeping past the courts and on to Cow Tower to join the hire boats south of Bishop’s Bridge. There is plenty of plant life in this river. To my amateur eye, it feels a lot healthier than those stretches of the Yare I’ve paddled along. Damsel and dragon flies mobbed me wherever I went and I also spotted two kingfishers in full flight. It was inner city alright, just a Broads kind of inner city.
* Picture shows the canoe on the return journey just south of the medieval Bishop’s Bridge.