Friday, 23 April 2010

A book, a beer, a walk and a windmill

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FANCY a stroll along the Wherryman’s Way with a pint of Wherryman’s Way IPA and a good book to read? Funnily enough, I know just the place. After five years, this book of mine is finally getting launched ..with the help of the Humpty Dumpty Brewery and the Friends of Hardley Windmill. Hardley Mill is the venue – I think it’s a suitably windswept, isolated place for a walk that celebrates the wild and the wet. The recently-restored mill will be open for the afternoon just for us. I’ll be signing copies of my book (£14.99, £3 goes to the Friends) and Humpty Dumpty will  launch their new beer from an open-air bar. (The word is that it’s pretty strong, so there’ll be another “session beer” on sale as well.) All that plus free tea, coffee and cakes.

* See the right hand panel for all the other bits. I recommend the half-hour walk from Hardley Staithe.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Breydon and Beyond

SH's book 0410THIS blog started life as a means of publicising my book, so in some ways it’s a little bit strange to plug someone else’s. But here goes anyway because Sheila Hutchinson has just published her ninth. Sheila specialises in detailed histories of out-of-the-way places. Her first was on the hamlet of Berney Arms where she grew up. Over the last ten years or so she has also chronicled The Halvergate Fleet, Burgh Castle and Haddiscoe Island. Each one has been a labour of love with her husband Paul. A local, she sits down and draws the stories from the old timers, while Paul does the research and checks the records. She held her book launch at The Ship in Reedham today. And it was great to see so many people with such a love of the area and its history – from wherry skippers to Breydon birders. Her latest book covers a wider brief than usual – the Yare from Breydon Water right up to Trowse. In other words much of it is Wherryman’s Way territory. It’s as good a read as ever, well worth the £9. …..Just make sure you buy my book too, if only to see the piece I’ve written on her remarkable contribution to east Norfolk’s local history.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Don’t pay the ferryman …with Visa


SAT-NAVs are of course the work of the devil, but nevertheless I chuckled when I heard how they’re boosting takings down at Reedham Ferry. Apparently the GPS software regularly takes people along the route which connects the back end of Loddon to Reedham courtesy of the wonderful vehicle ferry.

The trouble is that people brainlessly follow the instructions …not realising there really is a ferry.They are genuinely gobsmacked to find a huge river between them and the next bit of road. It’s a brilliant example of the dangers of turning off your brain and not looking at a map. (Note for sat-nav users: rivers are helpfully marked in nice wavy blue lines.) Best of all, most of the hapless victims are businessmen and sales reps; the kind of people who are all suited and booted, but struggle with the concept of loose change. And then they offer the ferryman their credit card …which always goes down a storm.

*For full details on why you really shouldn’t have a sat-nav, try Map Addict by Mike Parker.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Defeated by the Slaughters


OK I give up. This is the photo I’ve been trying to emulate. A haunting image of the remains of some of the 13 wherries on Rockland Broad. Or rather within Rockland Broad. The wherries were deliberately sunk, meaning that their rotting timbers only emerge at low tide. They go by the dramatic name of The Slaughters - except that they never look quite as dramatic as in this photo. I know I was there at low tide this evening because a hire crusier was comically stuck on the putty in the middle of the Broad. (“Give us a tow mate,” they asked, as I paddled by in the canoe.) I find the timbers fine – you can see photos in my first blog entry – but they are just never as clearly exposed to the elements as in this wonderful shot, borrowed from the Wherryman’s Way leaflet. Still it was a good night to be on Rockland. I went down Rockland Dyke to the Broad, across and up Short Dyke to the Yare, past the old Strumpshaw pumping house and then back down the Fleet. All in all a good workout on a still Saturday evening.

* I see Simon Barnes has got the canoe bug. Read today’s The Times column here.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

An old mill with no name


FOR every windmill that’s been restored or converted I would guess at least five or six have disappeared. But what about these forgotten stumps ..often in the middle of nowhere. This one is on the Reedham Ferry road at Nogdam End .At least as far as Ordnance Survey is concerned, it doesn’t have a name and it certainly doesn’t have much of a use, despite the corrugated iron extension. But it’s a beautiful spot on a crystal clear spring morning. The dyke next door throbs with bird life; today reed warblers were squabbling in the branches of the stunted trees. But best of all a pair of barn owls live inside. Be prepared for them to swoop out as you clamber in. Some places don’t need to be either restored or knocked down. They’re great just sitting there, quietly surviving.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Woods End: nothing till at least May


WHAT next for the Woods End pub at Bramerton after it closed a month ago? Well the pub is one of 850 to be owned by the Wellington Pub Company down in Buckinghamshire. Their man tells me that it was under lease until May …presumably complicating plans for the future. However “we are currently making plans to re-let and re-open this site as soon as possible,” he says. He promises to keep me posted …which is exactly what he did when Coldham Hall – the company’s other Wherryman’s Way pub - got into trouble a year or so back. Of course Coldham Hall has since risen from the ashes under a new team. Let’s hope for a similar result up in Bramerton.

Monday, 5 April 2010

When is a wherry not a wherry?


SO how many wherries are there left in existence? I’m ashamed to know that I didn’t know the answer until I came across the Wherry Yacht Charter website a few weeks ago. Mind you it depends what you mean by a wherry, so stand by for a short history lesson. The original wherries were of course waterborne HGVs, transporting huge cargoes up and down the Broads network. Two of these so-called trading wherries survive. Albion I’ve spoken about before, it’s looked after by the Norfolk Wherry Trust. Then there’s Maud, which was resurrected from the murky depths of Ranworth Broad by Vincent and Linda Pargeter in 1981. Trading wherries have black sails – they are often known as Black Sailed Traders. Next there are the white-sailed pleasure wherries. These were made to pretty much the same dimensions as the trading wherries, but they were fitted out – largely in Edwardian times – to cope with a growing tourist market. Hathor is the most famous of the three surviving pleasure wherries, the other two are Solace and Ardea. Finally there are the wherry yachts, which are much smaller and more manoeuvrable. Three of those have made it into the twenty-first century: Olive, Norada and White Moth. The Wherry Yacht Charter charitable trust owns Hathor, Olive and Norada – pictured above. There’s much more good stuff on the history of all eight on their website.

* I’ll be giving a talk to WYC members – and signing copies of my Wherryman’s Way book - at Surlingham Ferry House on June 11th. All welcome. Kick off 7.30pm.