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Back for the 40th year: the power of the Broads

PUBLISHED: 13:18 31 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:58 16 September 2010

BRIAN Hensby's first experience of the Broads, helplessly watching his dinghy deflate as its tiny motor struggled to make headway against Breydon Water's currents, might have been enough to put him off boating for life.

BRIAN Hensby's first experience of the Broads, helplessly watching his dinghy deflate as its tiny motor struggled to make headway against Breydon Water's currents, might have been enough to put him off boating for life.

But that holiday adventure as a 17-year-old with his best mate Clive Bleasedale - and yes they did eventually make it back to their Reedham campsite without sinking -left him totally smitten by the unspoiled peace and quiet of the Norfolk and Suffolk waterways.

This week, the 57-year-old retired Cheshire police sergeant is enjoying a holiday on the Broads for the 40th year in a row.

Although his honeymoon in 1980 was spent on Guernsey, there was still time for a trip to the Broads later in the autumn - some years he has even been twice.

Brian, now an operations manager with the Higways Agency, confessed it was fortunate his wife Valerie, 51, and son Charlie, 12, loved the Broads as much as him.

“Our daughter Abigail, 21, is also a big fan and she is upset she can't be with us because she is currently in New Zealand on a world trip,” he said.

“This time we have brought some cousins from Devon along for the first time; we usually try to bring someone who has never been on the Broads before.”

Brian, of Little Leigh, near Northwich, in Cheshire, said life afloat had changed markedly since he hired his first cruiser the year after his near-catastrophe.

“I went with Clive again and we hired a six-berth wooden cruiser called Janet 9 from Martham Boats for the princely sum of about £150 for the week. In those days there was just a chemical loo with a pump handle,” he recalled.

This week's break on Norfolk Broads Direct's Fair Admiral has set Brian back about £1,800, but on-board luxuries include three electric flush toilets, three showers and a flatscreen television. Yesterday, moored by The New Inn, at Horning, he highlighted one of the most striking changes he has seen on the Broads.

“There has been a serious reduction in the number of hire boats. This stretch of river used to be like the M6,” he said.

The vagaries of the English climate have never deterred him.

“This time has been the wettest I can remember, but other times, including last year, we have been burned to a crisp,” he said.

Over the years, they have mapped out their favourite places to stop - the New Inn at Horning, the Maltsters at Ranworth, the Sutton Staithe Hotel - but it is the peace and quiet in between that is most appealing to Brian.

“Travelling at 3mph to 4mph you leave the rat race behind,” he said.

As their holiday draws to a close in Wroxham today Brian is thinking ahead to next year.

“We have already booked a boat like this for next summer and for 2012 I have booked Norfolk Broads Direct's top-of-the-range Fair President - that was already taken for August next year,” he said.

Barbara Greasley, a director of Norfolk Broads Direct, said that apart from one recent sad case of someone dying just ahead of their 50th holiday on the Broads, Mr Hensby's was the longest unbroken sequence she was aware of.

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