Page published 11 February 2021
Originally posted on what used to be "The Blog", this page records a visit to the Museum of the Broads made on 8 May 2011.
Last year I went with Ian, home boat builder and my Three Rivers Race crew, to the annual Boat Jumble held at the Museum of the Broads. As Diana hadn't seen the museum and was in Norfolk over the weekend of this year's Jumble Sale it seemed a good opportunity to visit - if you don't mind crowds. For a start, entry is only 50p, instead of the normal £4. Hopefully, the museum more than makes up the difference in charges to stall holders, extra sales at the cafeteria and from trips on the Falcon.
Space inside the museum is at a premium. Stalls overflow the main grounds, acting as a teaser that encourage you beyond the white fence where you have to pay the 50p entrance fee.
It was arranged that Ian would arrive early and we would all get to the museum early. It didn't work out quite like that, and the parked cars were already further down the A149 than they had been last year. However, we found a space that wasn't too far away and were soon inside. The first thing I spotted for sale was a plywood kit to build a canoe. I suggested it as a purchase for Ian, but he turned it down saying only, "Epoxy!". You need to know the story of Deux Chevaux to understand the comment.
The museum's grounds have a water frontage and trips aboard the steam launch "Falcon" are available between 11:00 and 15:00 every day the museum is open if weather conditions are favourable. Falcon was in steam and seemingly preparing to give trips as we arrived at the museum.
Many of the museum exhibits were arranged much as I recall from last year. The jumble stalls are in every available corner of the museum, both outside and in, and certainly add interest to a visit. I'm not sure that it was a good or bad thing that nothing jumped out at me as a "must-buy".
I probably spent most time in the stand of the North Walsham & Dilham Canal Trust. They had a set of large large-scale laminated maps, and maps always interest me, especially if they show an area with which I am familiar. It wasn't just the maps. By chance I was there when someone came into the tent, saying they lived at a farm in East Ruston. This is the closest village to my home and I frequently walk along the old railway line, now known as The Weavers Way, out to East Ruston and then back home looping through the village. It seems he had just bought the canoe kit that I had spotted on the way in. I listened while he explained his plan to build the canoe and launch it in what would have been the small basin at the end of the East Ruston Branch on the canal. Equally fascinating was the tale of his home, once a stable and converted to a dwelling in 1910 by the County Council following the legislation that required the Council to provide small farms for rent.
Inside one of the halls at the museum. Here exhibits include "Maria" one of the fastest boats on the Broads in the nineteenth century and an aerial lifeboat dating from the 1940s that were designed to be dropped from aircraft to ditched pilots.
After that I moved indoors. I particularly remember taking time to look at "Maria" when I visited the museum for the first time, last year. It was a boat that Robert Malster much much of in his book "The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads", which I was given as a present a few years ago.
If you visit the museum's cafeteria you will find a walk-in display of the cabin on a Norfolk Wherry. For those who were only used to the back cabin of a working narrowboat the extra space would have been welcome.
In "The Wherry Building" Ian wanted to find the model of a particular boat. The original lays submerged near his mooring at Barton Turf Adventure Centre. His interest came because someone from the centre has plans to restore the boat. Ian and I were a little cynical about the prospects of him achieving his aim, but after looking in every display case, we did eventually find it, suspended from the rafters above our heads.
In one room there is a constantly rolling video display showing a film made about the broads and its flora and fauna in the early 1970s.
It's always a point of contention amongst boaters about the display of museum boats. Over time wood shrinks. Some argue that wooden boats must be regularly floated in order to preserve them as working boats. They say if their wood is allowed to dry out too much it will never recover and the museum ends up looking after nothing more than a sculpture, or piece of furniture, rather than maintaining their exhibit.
Opposite the inspection launch, which some might say is in danger of becoming more a piece of furniture than a boat, hangs a display cabinet hanging that contains a set of knots.
It's nice to see that some of the exhibits show a distinct sense of humour. Last year I must have missed the display of knots to be found in a display case opposite an interesting inspection launch.
The "Holiday Makers Hitch": It's the only knot in the display to show a "Before" and "After" version.