Page published 19 October 2023
For a while Diana had been saying she wanted to try a pizza from The Rising Sun at Coltishall. Then, earlier in the week she announced that the weekend weather would be reasonable. This, she had decided, was the right time between her chemotherapy treatments for its side effects to be minimal and why not take advantage of all this and have the weekend aboard Singing the Blues. So it was that after our Friday afternoon music practice we went straight to Coltishall and readied the boat.
It was around 16:40 that we cast off and made our way out of the dyke at Anchor Moorings.
Within ten minutes we were moored at Coltishall Common just ahead of another cruiser. Diana went straight to the pub to collect a pizza.
After we'd eaten I tried taking a panorama image using my phone. It produces a result that looks rather brighter than the reality. Look closely and you can see where the software was not entirely successful in stitching together the series of images taken images it took.
By 17:30 the gloom begins to descend and I try a more natural photograph of the common. We sit and chat for a while before me move off at 17:45.
We arrive and moor at the head of navigation at 18:06. The parish boundary runs down the middle of the river. We moor on the Horstead side.
I decide it's worth getting a better view of the old lock. It's named after the parish on the other side of the river, Coltishall Lock. These days it's just a weir with no upper gate. It has an interesting ridged wooden ramps each side of the lock and and a wide board walk between them to aid the portage of canoes and similar vessels round the lock.
Shortly before 18:25 we leave the boat and walk to the site of the old mill and we ponder for a few minutes watching a guy fishing.
This is one of the information boards mounted within the ruins of Horstead Mill. (You should be able to zoom in or show in a new window to see more detail.)
Key parts of the text on the notice above read as follows
Welcome to Horstead Mill
The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded three mills at Horstead and two at Stanninghall.
The remains of the buildings which we see here today date from 1789, They are the remains of two mills &ndash' a grist mill used for grinding corn to produce flour and a fulling mill used in cloth production. Flour production ended here during the 1914-18 war, but the mill continued producing animal feed, using the millstones until l960, when modern machinery was installed. The mill continued operating until 1963 when it was destroyed by an accidental fire.
The site is open to all for walking and fishing. Individuals and voluntary groups are welcome to use the old mill pool for canoeing and rowing.
It's now after 18:30 and quite dark and we discover a set of steps built into the quay heading. They look as if they are intended for swimmers, but nearby we find another notice that says that for safety reasons "please do not swim in the mill pool or river".
Another information board pictured after finding the steps. (You should be able to zoom in or show in a new window to see more detail.)
Again, key parts of the text are shown below:
History of the mill
There have been mills operating on this site from before the 11th century up until 1963, when the most recent one was destroyed by accidental fire.
This mill (see photo) had two water wheels which drove sets of stones for grinding corn. These were installed in the late 18th century, but by the late 19th century were supplemented by a turbine which drove a small milling plant, which increased capacity and produced higher quality flour.
Today the average flow through the mill sluice is 1,500-1,700 litres per second (Environment Agency 2004) That is the equivalent to the contents of 21,000 fizzy drinks cans per second.
A site for conservation
The Horstead Mill site is a conservation area and the adjacent meadow on the Coltishall side of the river is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The mill site is owned by Horstead-with-Staninghall Parish Council and is managed by them, in partnership with the Broads Authority and the Environment Agency.
In recent years the water quality of the River Bure has improved with great benefit to wildlife. Look out for herons and kingfishers fishing on the river and you may be lucky enough to spot an otter. In summer watch for banded demoiselle damselflies. There are also rare black poplar trees on the river banks
The third information board found at the site. (You should be able to zoom in or show in a new window to see more detail.)
Again, key parts of the text are shown below:
The Aylsham Navigation opened in 1779 and enabled wherries to carry goods between Coltishal and Aylsham. Locks were built to bypass the water mills.
At Coltishall a new cut was dug out a few hundred yards east of the mill and joined the lock that lifted boats five feet to the upper river.
The end of the Navigation came with a flood in August 1912 that destroyed all of the locks and silted up the river.
It was now quite gloomy and we returned to our boat, playing a board game we'd bought with us and listening to the news before retiring to bed.
It was a little after 08:30 when I got up and took this view of the river downstream from our mooring. We didn't set off immediately.
It wasn't till shortly after 09:50 that we cast off after having breakfast and doing our various pre-start checks.
A minute later we are approaching one of the boats moored against the grounds of the Norfolk Mead a hotel and restaurant in Coltishall.
By 09:57 we have are at the junction where the new cut to bypass the mill rejoins that main river.
Just 10 minutes after setting out we are back at The Rising Sun.
Forty minutes later we are passing the point where we moored briefly on our Anniversary Cruise to allow the engine to cool. When going upstream it's the first site where you can find exposed trees to which to tie up after passing Castle Staithe
We arrived at Castle Staithe just before 11:00. It's the third of the places where we had seen crowds enjoying the heat wave when we first moved Singing the Blues to Coltishall.
I took a "panorama" photo with my phone while we brewed coffee and tea and before we set off to explore the area that had attracted so many during the September heatwave.
The first thing I stopped to read on our excursion was the local information board. (You should be able to zoom in or show in a new window to see more detail.)
Key parts of the text are shown below:
CAEN MEADOW - LOCAL AND NATURAL HISTORY
The village‘s name is an old English one derived from ‘roc‘ meaning huzzard and ‘ham’ meaning Village. Thus Wroxham is ‘the place where buzzards are’. Not any more unfortnnately. Church Lane was once the main Village Street, long before the A1151 came to he built.
Here can he seen several old houses. A 1700‘s map shows the maltings at the bottom of Malthouse Lane (previously known as Malsters Hill)
There were Riverside cottages on the spot near where the staithe is now and also cottages down Malthouse Lane. At the top of Caen Meadow. where modern Caenyard House now stands, foundations were discovered which, it is believed, was part of an Abbey. Many roads in the village are named after past landowners and benefactors such as Trafford Walk and Paston Close. The peaceful residential area of The Avenue has many large and unusual properties and the attractive Charles Close is also named after the man who owned this land. It is well worth walking to the Medieval Church of St Mary's to admire this lovely building which boasts a Norman Archway. Wroxham Broad, just one mile’s pleasant walk away, has it's awn Ghost story where it is said an army of Roman Soldiers hold court in the centre of the broad, which turns into a peat amphitheatre.
Caen Meadow, its banks and the river Bare is a haven for wildlife Rabbits, Voles, Squirrels and Foxes are often seen. Take a walk down Skinners Lane to view the riverfront an elevated position and you may be lucky enough to see a family of Deer. The river is home to Mallards, Coots, Moorhens, Herons, Greylag, Canada and Egyptian _Geese Swans, Grebes, Black Headed Gulls and Oyster Catchers to name just a few.
There is a delightful variety of wildflowers. In February the glade is carpeted in white snowdrops and in May Bluebells abound. A survey of plant life on Caen Meadow identified Red Campian, Ragwort, Creeping Thistle, Meadow Buttercup. Ground Creeping Ivy, Rosebay Willow Herb, Great Willow Herb, White Dead Nettles, Bracken and Wild Rose. Butterflies such as Peacock. Painted Lady and Red Admirals are summer visitors.
This is an area of great delight for bird watchers. As well as the usual garden birds. there are Tits, Blue, Great, Coal and Long Tailed varieties, Black C ups. While Throats, Chaffinches. Green Finches, Tawny Owls, Barn Owls, Fieldfare, Green and Spotted Woodpeckers, Kingfishers and many more.
We hope you will enjoy this interesting village and will visit us again.
The second sign I looked at is a map of Wroxham. (You should be able to zoom in or show in a new window to see more detail.)
Diana was perhaps a little fed up with my photograph taking and was witing for me to follow her through the shrubbery to when we now knew was called Caen Meadow.
Keeping to the river bank, you can understand why the area is so popular with locals. The river bed here really can be described as a beach, given the river bed's firm sandy bottom.
We then made the steep climb to the top of the meadow. Who says Norfolk is flat!
Once at the top of the hill you can understand why the several benches have memorial plaques on them. It must be a favourite place for many.
©2022 David Pashley
When we were there the gates appeared closed rather than open, but some attention was needed as they could not be properly shut as one or both drooped and they overlapped.
©2007 Nick Smith
The path to the South Door.
From Caen Meadow we walked through a wide access way between two houses to reach Church Lane and decided to walk towards the church as the information board had said it was well worth it, although I didn't think we'd get excited about the Norman arch that it mentioned.
On the way we passed by the Vicarage, a modern house with an near identical one next door. Perhaps this indicates that an old building was knocked down and was replaced with two, with the sale of one helping to fund the new vicarage.
For some reason, once we reached the church, I forgot to take any photos, so those you see here were found on the Geograph site, an excellent source of pictures of UK locations. I also looked at the Norfolk Churches site as I have found it useful in the past, only to realise that site looks only at a building's architecture and says nothing about the impression you get when walking through the door about its congregation and how it serves its neighbourhood. The Norfolk Churches site says of one recent feature, "The west end of the nave was reordered in the early 1960s, and a large, rather dominating screen placed as an entrance to the main part of the church". Summing up, it say sof St Mary's, "All in all a pleasant enough if perhaps unexciting space".
In contrast Diana and I were quite impressed. It wasn't just that the church was clean, obviously well cared for, and as comfortable for worshippers as it could be with a plush deep piled blue carpet that looked like new in the main aisle running through the nave and chancel, there was also evidence of relating to current issues, such as notices about the local Food Bank.
It is clear that much money has been spent over the last fifty years. As the Norfolk churches site suggests, most obvious when you enter, is a glazed screen that reaches from floor to ceiling, which must help keep the church draught-free and warmer for worshippers in winter. At ground level glazed panels in the screen concertina to open up the space completely, while above, you could easily fail to notice in the photograph, the incredibly thin light wood framing to the glazing of the screen above those concertina doors.
Another expensive purchase will have been a recently built organ, not even mentioned by the Norfolk Churches site, and a worthwhile illuminated display of stained glass, occupying the north aisle. These old windows replaced with clear glass mean that the building as you now find it is a bright place that feels very welcoming.
You can just make out the glass screen
©2008 John Salmon
The organ is an impressive modern instrument.
Emerging from the church we walked the length of Church Lane returning to our boat down Malthouse Lane, a narrow track.
While the residents of Church Lane appear to have a most pleasant environment, clearly not all feel that way.
Part way along Church Lane between the church and old school building
At first we weren't sure where this was the old school or, perhaps, the old Vicarage. We now know it's the old school, converted a few years ago into a number of dwellings.
Diana took the lead on the way back to the boat while I took this photo of Malthouse Lane that takes you down to Castle Staithe.
At the bottom of Malthouse lane you emerge onto Castle Staithe where our boat awaits us.
It's 12:24. I take one more picture before we cast off.
Some 15 minutes later we are into one of the parts of the river I refer to as Amazonian, as there is so much growing out from the banks that you can't make out where the river ends and land begins.
It's 12:46 as we leave the river, where it makes a sharp left turn and carry straight on through a short channel into Bridge Broad, Wroxham. It spite of being so close to all the pandemonium that is the capital of the Broads, apart from the sound of trains every 30 minutes of so it's an extremely quiet spot.
We spend two and a half hours on the broad, having lunch and generally taking in the peace an tranquillity of the place. The photograph was taken immediately after lifting the mudweight. Ahead you can just see the other channel out of the broad that takes you to the Broads Authority Hoveton Viaduct moorings.
Taken at 16:17, we are within 10 minutes of reaching our mooring. We are still trying to work out what it was that was so attractive to the cows, who all seemed to be trying to get their heads down at one spot.