Sunday, 13 September 2009

Will the Ferry Boat live to serve another pint?

THE FUTURE of The Ferry Boat, a much-loved Norwich riverside pub, is again in the balance.
That's a riverside pub, not a Riverside pub by the way. It's an important distinction. The Ferry Boat was the last remaining pub on King Street, a road that used to be full of them. On the other side of the river the "chain store" pubs of the 1990s Riverside development continue to pull in the punters.
We'll come to why this matters in a minute, but first some recent history. Greene King closed The Ferry Boat in 2006. Real ale campaigners CAMRA grew concerned and launched their own website the following year. Greene King responded and promised a £1m refurbishment which won planning approval in 2008. Then last month they announced that they had changed their mind and would instead put the building up for sale. The deadline for sealed bids is a week tomorrow.
OK, you say, why should we care? In a word - History. The city of Norwich grew up from the river ..with King Street arguably its first street. And not only is the Ferry Boat the last pub building left, it is also typical of the kind of pub that existed along the whole of "The Norwich River" during its heyday. Take a look at this photo from Picture Norfolk. It dates back to the nineteenth century when the pub was called the Steam Packet. It shows the building as a boatbuilder's, a ferry and a pub - the classic Broads holy trinity. Coldham Hall used to do all three too, so did a couple of pubs in Reedham. But in Norwich, it's the only one left.
To be fair, the whole redevelopment of King Street has been done sensitively and respect to the past. We just need a reopened pub ...with all those new flat-dwellers as its regulars - to do the same.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

All aboard for the Maritime Festival

I'VE BLOGGED before about the sense of anti-climax at the end of the Wherryman's Way in Great Yarmouth. Thirty-five miles of wherry'n'wonder end in an ASDA car park. It just doesn't hit the spot, although the new monument unveiled earlier this year is a welcome step in the right direction. After all that walking and all that history, you feel you deserve a Yarmouth bedecked in bunting, boats moored from stem to stern along the river and the raucous shout of sea shanties in the air. Amazingly all this is possible ...but only if you time your arrival for the annual Great Yarmouth Maritime Festival. It was my first time this weekend and I was very impressed. It's the nearest my generation will ever get to seeing how South Quay used to look. The place was heaving. I enjoyed the boats and the books and the people; my kids soaked up the freebies in the RSPB and Natural England tents. Not sure about some of those shanties, mind.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Hathor on tour

ROLL UP for the Hathor farewell tour, about to enter its second week on the Yare.
The restored pleasure wherry has been doing the rounds of the Broads this summer prior to an extensive re-fit which will see her confined to quarters for some years. She spends this weekend at Yarmouth before sailing down to Loddon and then returning via Reedham and Berney Arms. (Full itinerary below.) This picture shows a wherryman engaged in the back-breaking work of quanting at Loddon Staithe during a previous visit in 2006. It is amazing that such a huge vessel can make it down such a narrow and winding river like the Chet. Wherrymen - ancient and modern - earned their keep.

Monday 7th YARMOUTH YACHT STATION 10am - 6pm
Tuesday 8th LODDON 1pm - 6pm
Wednesday 9th LODDON 10am - 6pm
Thursday 10th REEDHAM FERRY 11am - 7.30pm
Friday 11th REEDHAM QUAY 11.30am - 6pm
Saturday 12th BERNEY ARMS 11am - 5pm
Sunday 13th BERNEY ARMS 11am - 5.30pm

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

How Lady Julian helps King Street remember

IT WAS the first working day for the newly opened Lady Julian Bridge in Norwich and a steady trickle of pedestrians and cyclists were crossing as I walked by early this morning.
The idea is to help connect a rejuvenated King Street to Riverside, with many of the developers contributing towards the £2.5 million cost. But it also struck me that the bridge will also help King Street reconnect with the river, and in doing so, turn back a page in its own history. Because in many ways King Street was the first Norwich street. The city grew up from the river and it is only in recent years that the two have started to turn their back on each other. The first thing you notice as you cross the bridge from Riverside is the magnificent Dragon Hall (pictured right) - a recently-restored medieval merchant's hall.
But as late as 1900 King Street was home to two breweries, six malthouses and numerous wharves. It teemed with activity. A tram ran the length of the street and there were three separate ferries. A quick flick through Kelly’s Directory - the 1900 equivalent of Yellow Pages - reveals tailors, butchers, boot makers, fishmongers, bakers, the Jenny Lind Steam Boat Company, a cowkeeper, corn merchants, the city mortuary, tobacconists, a lime burner and several hairdressers. Among the 19 pubs, you could choose from the Nags Head, the Boiler Makers’, The Cellar House, The Old Barge, The Green Man, The Music House and the Elephant and Castle. All that new housing has encouraged a newsagent and a cafe to open their doors in recent months, so maybe history will repeat itself - although I think a cowkeeper might struggle.