Page published 21 September 2023
We arrived at the yard shortly after 09:00 for our planned initial cruise, which we hoped would allow us to decide on longer term plans on the further improvements we would wish to make to Singing the Blues. After packing the things we needed to have lunch on board we were ready to go. With a little difficulty, I got the engine started. We cast off, with the intention of reversing out to the river.
After stowing various items on board we were ready for departure.
No sooner had we started moving than the engine died. There was just enough momentum for the boat to drift out into the river and there the wind began to push us broadside upstream. Luckily, Kathy was on board the neighbouring boat discussing the work to be done for the owner. We were able to attract her attention and she called for the yard staff to get to their "rescue boat" and tow us back to the slipway.
That took some considerable time, as did getting us back to the slipway. It emerged, during all this, that the rudder on the rescue boat was only partially working. While you could turn almost 90° to starboard there was only about 10° movement to post.
After almost two hour of repeated bleeding and attempted starts, the decision was made to leave the boat with Moonfleet.
Once tied up again both Kathy and Dylan had tried, without any more reliable success than I, to get the engine running. There was nothing we could do other than to leave Dylan to bleed the fuel system once more and attempt to start the engine again. This he did numerous times before we all concluded that there was more to it than air in the pipe from the new fuel tank and at around midday the decision was taken to abandon the planned trip.
We agreed to leave the boat with them so they had the rest of the day and Friday to investigate. Friday was booked for the fourth of Diana's six chemotherapy sessions, so was to be a non-boating day
While all this was going on I happened to notice Singing the Blues old tank in the skip!
However, all went well with the chemotherapy and by mid-afternoon on the Friday Kathy called to report that the engine had been given a good work over. Various things had been tightened and there was now confidence that the engine would now start reliably and run without issue. Accordingly, we were down at the boatyard before 09:30 on the Saturday to find Singing the Blues facing forwards, which was a good start as it would make exit from the slipway easier.
It was 09:29 and by now the boat was loaded with supplies for the day as we planned a sandwich lunch under way.
It's 09:34 and we're just clear of the moorings associated with the boatyard at Wayford Bridge
When we came to start the engine, it sprang into life instantly. Whatever Dylan had done seemed to have made all the difference. We cast off and made our way down the Ant. For the first mile or so the river runs in a south easterly direction and then makes its way almost due south, with a bit of a loop passing by Irstead and a larger one a mile above Ludham Bridge.
Being on the helm in a forward control boat, with virtually no rearward vision, meant that nearly all the photos I took while on the Ant were taken directly into the sun so they are not the best of images. At least things did improve later in the day as the general direction of travel up the Bure is closer to north west, although there are far more twists and turns. But I'm getting ahead of myslef!
On the way down the Ant about a mile and a half from Wayford you pass Hunsett Mill. Back in the 1960s and 70s Hunsett Mill was a joy to behold. although known as a mill, the current structure was built in the 1860s as a wind pump. Alongside the tower, on a sweeping curve in the river, stood a classic Norfolk cottage with the typical single storey lean-to extensions to each end. Behind it, as viewed from the river, was a further two storey building with a dutch gable, often seen in a Norfolk cottages. The windows all had shutters and the 100 yards of river frontage of the garden was always planted to perfection, with flowers in bloom throughout the summer.
All that was destroyed in 2008! True, the building was no longer being kept as well as it once had been but I don't think any casual observer would have guessed what was to come. All the extensions of the cottage were knocked down, to be replaced by a giant black stained wooden concertina-like structure that bent through 90 degrees was erected in their place. All the window in the cottage were replaced with huge sheets of frameless glass to match those in the extension. It ranks with other the "monstrous carbuncles" that the then Prince Charles ranted about. Needles to say, I didn't take a photograph of it as we passed.
By 10:05 we were approaching Barton Broad
Shortly after passing Hunsett Mill we join what is now the main channel leading to Stalham and with its branch to Sutton. This section of the river is much wider as it runs down into Barton Broad. The broad is unusual as the river has been diverted to run through it. Norfolk's Broads are, now flooded, medieval peat diggings, peat being used a fuel for fires in those days. They were dug beside the rivers for ease of transport. Wood tended not to be used for fuel locally as the few trees in the lower parts of Norfolk were far more useful as a material for building houses and boats.
On entering the broad I managed to persuade Diana to take the helm for a few minutes and managed to get a set of photos as we crossed the broad.
Looking back after entering the broad, you see the channel on the left takes you to the staithe at Barton Turf.
I feel I ought to remember the logo on the sail of the yacht I photographed. I know its one from the hire fleets that I used to see in the Blakes catalogue each year.
I have not yet looked up the Broads Authority site to see what work is being undertaken on Barton at this time.
I was back on the helm again as we kept to the left of the small island, marked as "Pleasure Hill" on Ordnance Survey maps. As we approached it a large hire cruiser emerged from the channel coming from Neatishead. It beat us to the channel where the river leaves the broad.
We've already passed the houses fronting the river at Irstead and continue to follow the Broads Cruiser we saw on the broad.
We followed the cruiser we had seen on the broad as far as Ludham Bridge where it moored. On the way we passed what I have discovered is the summer mooring for Hathor, the Wherry Yacht built in 1901 for one of the Colman family, famed producers of Norfolk mustard. It's just north of the lengthy moorings by How Hill a splendid thatched house that, in my youth, was an education centre owned by Norfolk County Council but is now managed Trust as an environmental study centre.
Hathor, the wherry yacht built for one of the Colman family.
Passing the extensive moorings at How Hill, now an environmental study centre.
Just downstream of How Hill and on the other side of the river is Turf Fen Drainage Mill.
We are still following the cruiser as we reach the moorings just upstream of Ludham Bridge at 11:05. I warn Diana to be ready to smile as we pass under the bridge as I recently discovered that someone with a YouTube channel spends many a summer Saturday or Sunday videoing the boats that pass under the bridge. It's the first major obstruction that novice hirers encounter after leaving either Stalham or Wroxham and many hirers are not expert at handling their boats.
We catch up the cruiser we have been following and only then realise that it is planning to moor rather than proceed through Ludham Bridge.
I'm kept busy with our boat and don't have time to take a photograph of our own approach to the bridge as there are boats both seeking a place to moor and those about to depart. We pass under the bridge at 11:07 find we are facing a boat in mid-stream that is reversing. It's understandable why the video maker spends his time here. It's not an easy approach for new skippers coming upstream for the first time as there are 90° turns to left and right around a small boatyard on the right and public moorings on the other bank.
We just clear Ludham Bridge to find a cruiser ahead of us in reverse gear.
Once we reach the point where the cruiser is we can see round the first of the 90° bends and find a moored narrowboat and a Mk2 Hampton Safari with a matching colour scheme to ours ahead of us.
We round the second 90° bend and there are more moored boats on both sides of the river.
Once the moored boats are cleared things become less hectic. It wasn't that there were less boats, far from it, but the constant stream of boats coming upstream were, at least, predictable, with no surprise manoeuvres . I catch four of them in one photograph that were part of a collection of six boats. Perhaps I should have called them a fleet or convoy? But I think those terms require that they are under a single command or have the same destination, and these craft most certainly aren't and don't.
There's a continual stream of boats making there way up the Ant.
It's 11:18 and we've reach Ant Mouth. The dayboat crossing ahead of us in on the Bure and we're about to turn to follow it.
My concern that there might be a cluster of boats going to right and left as we reached the Bure proved to be unfounded. As we approached the junction there was just a single day boat ahead and we made the right turn from the Ant to the Bure with no difficulty.
I seemed to forget about the camera for a while after we joined the Bure. I guess that's because there were no craft worth of note passing us going downstream and none overtaking us. I did however, notice that to maintain our speed at a little over 4mph, the speed limit on that stretch is 5mph, I had to increase the revs from around the 1,100 we had been running at on the Ant to about 1,400rpm. I hadn't looked at any tide table, but guess the difference is largely down to the difference between going downstream versus going up river.
I did warn Diana, as we approached it, to look out for the magnificent thatched property "Burefield" that I recall photographing in black and white in the early 1960s. The house, should I call it a mansion, sits, nestled amongst trees, on high ground some 200yds back from the river. Private dykes run back some 100 yards towards the house and they are flanked by low boathouses whose thatched roofs reach almost to the ground, but somehow the building that always catches my eye is the smallest, a brick-built, but still thatched, octagonal summerhouse right on the river's edge.
©2008 Ian Capper
Burefield, a magnificent house I recall photographing in black and white in the early 1960s. In this photo the distinctive summerhouse is almost lost behind vegetation.
Burefield is about two thirds of the way between Ant Mouth and the edge of the village of Horning. We reached the village a little more than thirty minutes after joining the Bure. The first properties you see are some of the more recently built ones, most of which are available to rent as holiday homes rather than being anyone's permanent address. Next you pass Ferry Marina, a huge complex of dykes, moorings and waterside homes that stretch some 400yds back from the river, followed by the Ferry Inn.
The first properties you see as you approach Horning are available as holiday bookings. The large building to the left, with the white roof, are the offices of the Ferry Marina.
After that there are some further impressive properties. The development is exclusively on one side of the river in Horning, so apart from moorings and passing boats, you see only the trees on the opposite bank from the riverside houses and bungalows.
Three of the more imposing places in Horning, two of which are holiday lets.
Once the river straightens you find yourself on the half mile approach to the tight turn by the Swan Inn. The nature of the property changes. It's very much the older part of the village and the buildings become more tightly packed, almost urban. There are two pubs with water frontage along this reach and the rather more traditional, Southgates boatyard.
Half a mile ahead is the Swan Inn and an increasing number of moorings on the Woodbastwick bank.
There's a terrace of houses built in the 1970s just you approach the commercial heart of the village. As a larger cruiser passed
It's now shortly after midday and the river has become very busy.
You can see what happens when I try taking too many photographs while on the helm. It looks as if I gradually drifted towards the wrong side of the river and found myself with a day boat coming straight at me. I put the camera down and began concentrating on the job in hand.
Once you reach The Swan and make the 90° turn to the left past the base of the Horning Sailing Club the character of the river changes again. You find a succession of what used to be smaller older bungalows of the kind that might first have been built between the wars, but are increasingly being replaced with swankier places, some with two storeys. And it's not just a single row. Behind the riverside properties there's a dyke that runs parallel with the river where a second row of holiday places are built.
White Moth, built as a pleasure boat but still with the traditional, single loose footed sail that was a wherry trademark.
Once beyond the village, the river becomes more rural again and it was a delight to see White Moth, one of the few remaining wherries still sailing. These days most, if not all of the wherries, are run by trusts and charities that run educational tours of one kind or another. Wherries were a form of sailing barge developed for the Broads, but as roads improved and motor vehicles came to dominate transport, some were converted to take holiday makers, when they'd be rented out , complete with crew. White Moth, however, was one of the few that were built for the leisure industry and never carried anything other than a human cargo.
Clearly a very relaxed day for those on board. In the light airs of one of the hottest September days ever recorded the bat was barely moving
Having passed the wherry we kept going. I'm always a little intrigued by Dydall's Drainage Mill and the way the cap has been converted to something more akin to a light house. A Look at a map and there seems to be no road or track to it, so I assume it's only accessible from the river. Like so many old mills these days it is surrounded by trees, but that wouldn't have been the case when they were working. Old photographs show that, since the decline of sailing craft as the main means of transport, trees are no longer cut back well clear of the river banks
©2018 Richard Humphrey
The one obvious land mark between Horning and Salhouse Broad is Dydall's Drainage Mill.
©2015 David Dixon
We moved across the river to run alongside the channel marker posts as I'd planned to go through Salhouse Broad...
I didn't check the map!
After Dydall's Mill the river takes a right angled turn and heads virtually due south. We reached Salhouse Broad at 11:30, that was a little early to stop for lunch and I didn't read the sign to see if mooring by mud weight was chargeable. Mooring on the banks certainly was!
It's been a long time since I passed through the broad ans I didn't check the map before deciding to enter it. Part of my reason for wanting to see it was because the Hampton Safari Boat Club usually organises its annual get together on the Broad with in excess of 20 boats attending and I thought it worthwhile familiarising ourselves with it.
However, I should have checked the map as I had forgotten that, unlike Wroxham Broad, both entrances are at the eastern end and as we wanted to press on towards Coltishall we exited the broad before we reached the main body of water.
©2015 David Dixon
But then returned to the river immediately afterwards.
We entered Wroxham Broad through the southern entrance at 11:45.and intended to stop and have lunch. It didn't work out that way!/p>
©2015 David Dixon
We turned into Wroxham Broad with the intention of dropping our mud weight and having the lunch Diana had prepared.
Our excursion into the Broad. The "knot" in the river indicates where we moored.
Once in the broad I turned sharply. My plan was to run round the edge and drop our mud weight over the bows somewhere near the Wherry Solace. That part of the plan worked well. However, unlike the photograph here, where Solace is pointing to the south east, when we entered she was facing more to the west. In order to get a view over the broad I wasn't sure whether to stop short or go beyond her.
We were almost directly behind her when I took Singing the Blues out of gear and went forward into the well to lower the mud weight over the bow. It touched the bottom. I hung onto the line taking up the tension to bring the boat to a halt. The rope, as thick as the base of my fingers, appeared to dissolve in my hand, leaving a thousand strands of nylon a few millimetres long on the deck and in the water.
I took a length of the remaining rope in my two hands and tugged. It disintegrated in the same way. I had no idea a nylon rope could rot in that way. A rope as thick as my finger couldn't lift a pound weight.
With the mud weight lost on the bottom of the broad we had to change our plan so I returned to the helm. put her in gear, and turned to leave the broad. The Broads Authority have constructed a couple of spots along strip of land separating the broad from the river where you can moor. The first is very short and was occupied. Luckily, the second had just enough space for us and we moored there.
I left the tracking software I was running on my tablet while we had lunch and it left a jiggly trace on the map, indicating the level of accuracy that each plot has. We cast off just before 12:30 to continue our journey to Wroxham.
©2014 Alan Reid
I dropped the mud weight a few yards off the Wherry Solace.
I failed to take any photos between our lunchtime mooring and the approach to Wroxham Bridge, which we reached just before 13:50. We'd been through it a couple of times last year on hired day boats, but they were lower than our Hampton Safari and I wasn't clear how much headroom there'd be.
In theory we should fit under Wroxham Bridge without too much difficulty, but will we?
This photo was taken standing in the doorway at the front of the boat with perhaps a foot of cabin top and sun roof above my eye level.
I began to panic. The gauge beside the bridge said there was 6' 6" of headroom. The old hire boat warning sign by our helm says our height 6' 6". We did clear those hanging bits of pipe meant to indicate if you'd hit the bridge but they seemed rather old with most showing signs of curling up. Did the whole thing indicate a couple of inches more room than actually existed. I'm not sure how much space there was above us but can confirm that no scraping sounds were heard. We were through!
It's amazing the different kind of craft you can hire at Wroxham!
Between the road and rail bridges at Wroxham there are a range of places offering boats for hire, some are conventional motor launches, but others are less common, such as giant pedlo swans and cycles mounted on floats.
As you might have gathered from the photographs, our journey took place in excellent weather. It had been a week of record breaking September temperatures with England having places with temperatures over 30° every day. Given that, it may not surprise you when we found what some might have thought was Wroxham's entire population swimming in the Bure.
The first site we passed with crowds of people at play in the river.
A few yards further on there was another crowd in the water and picnicking on the bank.
Another smaller crowd was to be found a little further upstream at the Broads Authority 24 Hour moorings.
The crowds were stretched out in three distinct areas, perhaps surprisingly, it was the one with the official Broads Authority moorings and picnic benches that was the quietest of them. Maybe there had been a recently departed moored boat that had kept people out of the water in that area.
The last couple of times we came up this way, in hired day boats with visiting family members, it was noticeable how popular stand-up paddleboards had become popular, overtaking the popularity of sit-on kayaks and open canoes. I was taken with the girl we saw with her dog. She seemed much more competent than some of the others we've seen.
As seen amongst the crowds paddleboards were popular, but a few were found a little further upstream.
Once beyond the obvious launching points for canoes and similar craft the river becomes much quieter.
If you look at a map of the river above Wroxham you'll realise that when passing under Wroxham Bridge you were travelling almost due north and then in a series of twists and turns you end up travelling generally southwards, parallel with the Norwich Road, as it climbs out of the village.
Then it sweeps westwards before turning north again towards Belaugh. By this point, because traffic levels are much lower and because of the many bends you lose sight of any other boats. although much smaller, you could almost imagine yourself on some upper reach of the Amazon.
Although Norfolk has the reputation of being flat, that's not really true, except for the coastal plain behind Great Yarmouth and parts of the extreme west bordering the Fens. Certainly, it isn't a rugged landscape. There are no high crags. Rather, most of Norfolk is better characterised as gently rolling hills and the view, which we saw just after 14:35, as the buildings of Belaugh came into view, is much more typical.
On first seeing Belaugh you notice cottages at the crest of the rise and the top of the tower the church, the rest of which is hidden by trees.
As you draw closer to the village you find well tended lawns and quay headed boat docks and a boat house or two.
The next major landmark that a passing boat sees is the boatyard. This is the original home of Moonfleet Marine, now based at Wayford from where we had set out. When passing by it's unclear how many of the boats are under repair and how many just use the yard as their mooring.
In approaching the boatyard you see a number of wooden boats ashore and presumably being worked on.
Once closer you see a few more GRP boats.
Just beyond the boatyard is the parish staithe, a short length of mooring with a park bench and the expected Norfolk village sign. After that it's just under another mile and yet more twists and turns before we reach our destination, Anchor Moorings. A couple of hundred yards before we get there we cross the parish boundary from Belaugh to Coltishall
The 20 mile route we took from Wayford to Coltishall to reach our mooring.
There is yet another kink in the river as you cross the boundary. Once through that you see the buildings at the end of Anchor Street. On reaching them the river takes a very sharp turn to the left. Although we had originally expected a mooring on the river bank, Frances, the owner of Anchor Moorings, had forgotten about us after our long delay in getting Singing the Blues to Norfolk and, in the immediate future, we've only got a stop-gap mooring in one of the dykes cut into the bend in the river.
I say "stop-gap" as, unlike the river bank moorings, it doesn't have shore power and we plan is to keep the boat available for cruising at any time of year. With shore power we would have the facility to keep anything inside the boat from freezing but without it we'd need to "winterise" the boat. That involves draining all water from the boat, both cooling water for the engine and the domestic supply to sink and shower, etc, and once winterised, you can't use your boat until you recommission it the following spring. The hope is that one of the boats with a rover bank mooring will leave allowing us to move there.
As we entered the dyke, I heard a voice cry out, from somewhere on the bank, "You're going the wrong way"! That was understandable. I can imagine that quite a number of people make the mistake of assuming that the buildings front the river and you should keep close to them rather than turning to head off towards the marshes.
It's just after 15:05 and our boat is at our chosen spot at Anchor Moorings at last.
A few yards in, the dyke opens out into a square. Buildings on Anchor Street wrap around two sides of it. There's a short jetty on one side leaving not much room to turn, but with the helm hard to port one can swing the stern round and approach the bank nearly head on. Then, with the engine out of gear and the boat gently drifting to wards the bank it's a straight forward manoeuvre to leave the helm through the cabin door and step ashore over the bow with a line in hand. You then complete the turn by pulling the bow along the bank and securing the bow to a post. Meanwhile Diana has gone to the stern and is ready to through a line to me so I can pull the stern in and complete mooring.
Singing the Blues, overseen by cottages on two sides of the bay, is now facing towards the exit of the dyke.
As we begin to pack up the remains of our lunch and other items we need to take home, a couple on the other side of the square returning to their cottage, shout an apology to us saying they did not realise we had a mooring in the dyke. I told them not to worry as the mistake was understandable as they weren't to know we were a new arrival. I didn't say, but thought, it was reassuring to know that locals might take notice of anything untoward happening on our boat and it might be an advantage to be close to the houses rather than on the river bank and out of sight of the cottages.
Apart from the loss of the mud weight, we counted the day a success. There are certainly things to be done. We haven't fully made up our minds how to equip the boat, but we had, for example, loaded on board a certain amount of cutlery and crockery and bought a couple of new pots and pans that we'll use at home, moving the old stuff to the boat. No doubt they'll me more to think about over the coming weeks.
Next read about some TLC applied to Singing the Blues.