Saturday, 18 December 2010

Minus 11 in Loddon

Abbie's 1212 044

MY BACK garden in Loddon registered minus 11.8 overnight, certainly the lowest recorded temperature during our seven years here. As this picture shows, the Chet duly froze, although in most places the ice was less than half an inch thick. Our old friend “cardboard ice” was back on the dykes – that’s the layer of ice left hanging in mid-air as high tide retreats to low. Everywhere looked stunningly beautiful in the weak morning sunshine.

Friday, 17 December 2010

No room at the Inn

kings head and new inn 1110 008

THE DOORS at the New Inn at Rockland St Mary look like they’ll stay firmly shut for a while yet. You’ll recall that this beautiful riverside pub closed in November. At the time its owners Punch Taverns told me that they were in discussion with the leaseholder and “hope to resolve the situation as soon as possible.” A month on and it’s clear that the leaseholder is not returning and Punch has yet to find anyone willing to take it on. The company’s latest statement runs as follows: “It's always our priority that our pubs remain open and trading and serving the local community. We are looking for the right partner to drive the business forward and we are currently talking to interested parties. We will re-open as soon as we recruit a new licensee.” There are some pubs along the Wherryman’s Way which I always half expect to be in trouble, but not this one. To me The New Inn seemed to have everything going for it – good moorings for both boats and cars and a decent reputation. They have to get it  open by Easter …don’t they?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Raise a glass to Half Pint …and her proud owner.

Halfpint is on her way!

IF YOU read my last post you’ll know that the undisputed stars of the Norfolk Broads Forum at the moment are Callum and his boat Half Pint. In summary Half Pint was already semi-famous in boating circles for a very dodgy cabin made from decking timber which meant it sank ignominiously on a dyke off Rockland Broad last summer.  But since the autumn Callum has got hold of it and is steadily renovating it. It’s his first boat and money is tight so there’s lots to learn, but the online community has come together with great generosity. This picture comes thanks to one of his NBF fans who also writes:  “Callum is blown away by the help people are offering him, giving him leisure batteries, paid work cleaning boats, the odd gift toward halfpint and help finding an apprenticeship.”  All in all it’s a story to warm the cockles of your heart at Christmas! Check out the latest NBF comments  here.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Half-pint and the joys of the internet

THE AWESOME power of the internet has been front page news this week. The revelations from Wikileaks keep coming. And the tit for tat attacks followed with online hackers managing to disable major financial websites. Is this the first Online War, commentators asked. In response let me take to a kinder part of the world wide web; the Projects page of the Norfolk Broads Forum.  For the last two months Projects has been dominated by Callum and his boat Half Pint. Since the autumn  Callum has been giving Half Pint a complete makeover. It’s his first boat, he’s working on a budget, but he’s got the bug. Like all good engineers, Callum can’t spell for toffee, but that somehow adds to the charm as he tells us of his latest breakdown on Rockland Broad because the “torttle cable had gone brittle and dicintigrated”.  Early on one member of the community had a pop at him, but everyone else quickly put the critic in his place. Since then he has been carried along on a wave of online goodwill. From a new engine and anti-fouling paint to a great “curved paint job on the bow” a fleet of older boaters have rallied round offering their advice and enthusiasm.  So far 6,800 people have had a look and 133 have added their suggestions. Wikileaks? You want to get a better bilge pump, mate.

* The picture belongs to Callum.

Friday, 10 December 2010

A silk Sargasso in Reedham Marshes

A BROWSE through the backwaters of Cameron Self’s Literary Norfolk website always produces something interesting. Like this poem entitled Reedham Mashes. It was written by Edwin Brock (pictured) on his experiences of being stranded aboard a cruiser. Brock was that rare thing - a policeman-poet. He died in 1997 and is rather better known for  Five Ways to Kill a Man and Song of a Battery Hen. But this poem is excellent too.


They say the water's salt here
as though the North Sea's fingers
are at our belly, tickling us like trout.
Dozy from blue and bottle-green,
we wallow in each passing wash
like a long drunk on a hot Saturday.
The reeds sigh and part as we enter them,
then zip us up behind like some
silk Sargasso It is an old fantasy.
Sick from a seized engine, we sit
in this sanctuary of seabirds where
at night the crocodiles slip from holes
in their reed bed to jostle us
like hissing logs; and we confuse
the red rising moon with its setting sun.
Now no longer water-borne we drift
on this night mist which dreams us:
there are sharp cries, quiet splashes
and the voices of fishermen in an old pub
where a hand pours a White Shield Worthington
as clear as a bell and without a hint of mud.

Anyone who has ever been enveloped by reeds (that’s me in a canoe, and usually involuntarily) will know that “zipped up” feeling very well. Perhaps now I know it’s a “silk Sargasso” I won’t find it so eerie. There’s much more like this at Literary Norfolk.

Friday, 3 December 2010

When the Bure had locks


THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY of the 1912 floods might still be more than 18 months away, but it’s already got some people thinking. Among all the loss of life and damage, the floods also brought an end to the Aylsham Navigation on the River Bure. Long forgotten, this waterway dated back to 1779. It meant that the people of Coltishall, Horstead, Hautbois, Oxnead, Burgh and Aylsham were all connected by river to Great Yarmouth for the first time – a huge boon when it came to getting cargo in and their produce out. Essentially – as a new website says – the navigation was a series of locks designed to get around pre-existing Mill streams. It mostly used the River Bure for its 9.5 miles but it did include some canal cuts. But all that was pre-flood: 

“When the flood came on August 26th 1912 all of the locks and some of the bridges (including the one pictured between Coltishall and Horstead) were washed out. The navigation was already in decline as the coming of the railways in the 1880's had dramatically cut the trade. After the flood the Navigation was never re-opened. Trading wherries caught upstream were abandoned with the exception of the Zulu which was man-hauled around the obstructions to gain her freedom.”

Now a new group wants to “raise the profile of our beautiful river” and it will use the 100th anniversary as a focus. There are already some great stories, documents and pictures on their website and the next meeting will take place in January. This painting is pinched from the website too.