Friday, 29 October 2010

The perils of Breydon Water


THIS is Breydon Water looking suitably serene from Breydon Bridge at sunset.  But as any reader of Coot Club knows, this three or four mile stretch of inland estuary can be treacherous. The denouement of Arthur Ransome’s 1934 classic children’s book sees the hullabaloos finally run their hire crusier aground here after fog descends without warning. I mention it because Breydon Water is currently providing the Norfolk Broads Forum with its most entertaining thread in a long time. Earlier this month Sunchaser wrote:

“On Saturday 16th October  I took some friends out on the boat, our intention was to take them across Breydon to Yarmouth. My boat a Hampton Safari.
Predicted winds were 25 mph. When we first hit Breydon it seemed relatively calm, but as we started to hit open water it started to get rough. We were going with the tide and against the wind. The boat started to really go down into the water and up again, mud weight banging on the front. My decision was to turn around. When we turned around we were going against the tide and with the wind, the boat was just slidding across the top of the waves like a surf board.
My question is as these are not sea going boats, how much can they take?”

Since then it’s been open season. Forum regular Jenny Morgan basically called him a wuss “I suspect that your Hampton can take rather more than its crew can!” while Strowager in contrast warned of huge wave heights and Breydon’s “nasty moods”. Take a look yourself here. This one will run and run.

Monday, 25 October 2010

1878 and all that


IF you canoe through Norwich often enough you get used to small plaques high above the water line. Invariably they mark the flood level from the summer day in August 1912 when Norwich was hit by its famous flood. Six and a half inches of rain fell in just 12 hours. But that’s not the case with this plaque. This one near the site of the old Bullards brewery on Westwick Street harks back to November 1878, the date of yet another deluge and one I had never heard of. Today’s EDP contains the answer. Or rather the supplement celebrating 140 years of the newspaper contains the answer in the shape of a full report from that very day, together with a dramatic photo of the River Wensum flooded over fields which would later become home to Norwich City. There’s loads of great detail, with the “ferry-houses” of  Horning, Surlingham, Cantley and Coldham Hall all reported to be several feet under water. But it’s Norwich, and in particular what the paper calls North Heigham, where the combination of high tide, heavy flow and heavy rain wreaked particular havoc.

“Before the evening had far advanced the usually insignificant stream of 26 feet wide had swollen into a stream which was more than a mile across it. On the one hand it had poured its waters up the densely populated courts and alleys in St Martin’s at Oak and St Miles, and on the other hand it had converted Heigham Street and Causeway into a deep river and spread its waters up the various streets which ran into them. The thousands of people who dwell in these neighbourhoods seemed to be paralysed, for they were powerless to save their homes….”

In fact reading the whole supplement you are struck by how many of Norfolk’s big stories were weather-related. Two inland floods, the coastal floods of 1953 and the Great Storm of 1987. Let’s hope the  next one is still a long way off.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Last night at the East Anglian Book Awards

IT’S BLATANT self-promotion time. Last night my Wherryman’s Way book won the travel and guidebooks category at the EDP/Jarrolds Book Awards in Norwich. It was a good evening. The highlight, undoubtedly, was Louis de Bernieres reading a story in verse called “A Walberswick Goodnight Story”. As Keiron Pym says in today’s EDP, we were all held absolutely spellbound. This love of books was infectious. By the end of the evening I owned four of the shortlisted/winning books. The Medieval Churches of the City of Norwich you just have to have on your shelves and the overall winner The Widow’s Tale by Mick Jackson shows every sign of being  unputdownable as a novel. The other two are perhaps less-heralded. But in the Poetry section I can really recommend Yes by Caroline Gilfillan and Gedney Drove End by Cameron Self. I bought Yes today at Jarrolds. You can buy Gedney via Cameron’s Literary Norfolk website. It’s probably 20 years since I last bought collections of poetry. But then that’s what happens when Mr de B comes to town. 
* Full story in EDP

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Canoeing the Yare – Harford Bridges to Eaton


THREE horse power this afternoon on the River Yare. Remember two weeks ago I did the stretch from Lakenham up to Harford Bridges? Today I carried on upstream on yet another gorgeous October afternoon. Once again you’re playing hide and seek with the railway track which continues to cross and re-cross the river across Marston Marsh. The big problem this week was Keswick Mill. 049 There’s not an obvious portage point (Portage is the posh word for having to take the canoe out of the water to avoid an obstacle) and I suspect there was a bit of inadvertent trespass when I went back in further up. After that, it opens up a little on the run up to Eaton with Eaton church providing a great focal point for the photos.

057I had to pull out just a few yards downstream of the Eaton-Cringleford bridge as the river became too shallow. On the way back I took another channel which skirts the back of some of Eaton’s posher houses with rolling lawns backing onto the river. And back to the car in time for Final Score, can’t be bad.


But do they show submerged stakes?


REMEMBER Hamilton’s Navigations? The indispensable guide to the Broads for all boat owners? It ran for 34 editions between 1935 and 2001. In between local info and historical titbits, it helped you discover where it was safe to moor. You cross-referenced between sections of a pull-out map and notes in the book to discover “Reeds up to within 150 yds of Surlingham Ferry Inn, where there are submerged stakes and therefore bad moorings.”

Hamilton's cover

(That’s a quote from the fifteenth edition – pictured - priced seven shillings and sixpence, just so you know.) Anyway the Broads Authority might just have unveiled the 21st century equivalent. Click on Boating and then hydrographical survey from their website and you get offered the entire sweep of the Yare from Norwich down to the Berney Arms, reach by reach. The section I’ve cut and pasted above shows the river looping past Surlingham and Brundall. Quite apart from their usefulness for boatowners, I think the maps also look good, artistic even, in their own right. What would Claud Hamilton would make of them I wonder?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Andrew Marr on bloggers


“A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting…’

BBC legend Andrew Marr at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

Damn, rumbled at last…..

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Half pint, half mended

Half pint

REMEMBER this little beauty from Rockland Dyke in the Spring? She’s Half Pint, the boat with the impossibly heavy cabin made from decking. We all laughed and said she’d sink. And then she sank and we all laughed. Well it looks as if Half Pint is about to be reborn. The new owner – at least I think it’s a new owner – posts as Half Pint on the Norfolk Broads forum. He’s ditched the decking, made a new driver’s seat and hopes to be on the water by November. Whether any of us will actually recognise her without that, err, distinctive, cabin is another issue altogether.

* Thanks to Tony P for his help with this one.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Southern Bypass – by canoe


THE MORE you look, the more you realise what a great city Norwich is for canoeing. While the websites might point you to the Broads or North Norfolk, I think the young Yare has got an awful lot going for it, especially on a stunningly beautiful October morning. I started at Lakenham, making use of a gap between houses on Old Lakenham Hall Drive. Heading upstream against a strong-ish current, the houses soon disappear on your right while the railway looms on the left. But in between is an undeclared nature reserve, full – this morning at least – of heron, cormorants, long tailed tits, jays and one particularly blue kingfisher. Later the rooftops reappear and you realise what great views the council houses of Theobald Road have across this valley. You then have to do a canoe version of the limbo dance to get under a very low railway bridge before shooting the spectacularly high Lakenham viaduct (pictured).


One of the many joys of canoeing is that unique “Access all Areas” feel. And from the viaduct onwards you are in country accessible to no-one but the landowners. Just me and two swans shared the stretch down to Harford Bridges, although two marsh harriers provided aerial support. Next time I’ll go in at Harford and try to make it to Cringleford. And then perhaps Cringleford up as far as Colney. For a river that essentially follows Norwich’s southern bypass, it’s amazingly serene.

Friday, 1 October 2010

The official Wherryman’s Way sock ..apparently

trekker sock

I’M LEFT scratching my head after looking up my Wherryman’s Way book on Amazon. Apparently customers who bought it, also bought Bill Bryson’s “An informal history of private life”, the latest biography of the Queen Mum and a pair of “Bridgedale endurance trekker men’s socks”, yours for roughly a tenner. What can it all mean and should they be selling them in Jarrolds?

Is it the end for The Swan?


THE LODDON Swan is likely to be closed until at least Christmas, according to its owners Enterprise Inns. The pub closed its doors in a hurry two weeks ago and now its entire future seems in doubt. When I’ve approached pub companies after other closures, they have always stressed how keen they are to get new people in quickly. Not so on this occasion. Enterprise Inns’ message today was that The Swan won’t be re-opening any time soon and “all options are still open”. One of those options presumably, would be selling this old coaching inn off for housing. So why here and why now? Well the final straw seems to have been a burglary a few days or weeks before the pub shut its doors. The pub was being managed by London Taverns. Their man tells me thousands of pounds were stolen. That prompted LT to hand it back to Enterprise Inns …And that’s prompted Enterprise Inns to start wondering what’s best for the future.