THE SLAUGHTERS is the graphic name for the remains of 13 wherries sunk on Rockland Broad sometime in the middle of the 20th century. I’ve blogged before about how a few sodden timbers emerge at low tide if you’re in the right place at the right time in a canoe. But which one’s which and how do we know? This diagram is, I think, the only solid evidence. I’ve got this copy from Broads fan Chris Bird. He’s pretty sure that it was made in the 1950s by members of the Wherry Trust who went around the broads seeing what could be salvaged. It is very precise – even to extent of naming which boats formed which islands.
Because while some of the wherries sank, others seem to have collected enough soil above the water line to become homes for first small plants and later fairly substantial trees. They are perhaps the world’s largest plant pots with the roots of the willows forming more permanent anchors for the wherries than anything man ever established. Today as this picture makes clear they provide excellent nest sites for swans.
I love the Slaughters. Sometimes I think there might be a case for excavating and preserving them; turning them into a floating, boardwalking museum. But most of the time I just enjoy their mysterious isolation. There’s plenty of history tied up above and below the surface of Rockland Broad. But seeing less means you can imagine more.