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Recalling a Broad range of attractions

PUBLISHED: 09:33 25 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:42 03 July 2010

MIND YOUR HEADS! Potter Heigham Bridge, pictured in 1971, remains a challenge for boat users

MIND YOUR HEADS! Potter Heigham Bridge, pictured in 1971, remains a challenge for boat users

BROAD-MINDED? Who? Me? Well, yes, in the sense of being tolerant and liberal, although others may view me differently. But no, if you mean orientated towards our Norfolk Broads that give our county one of its defining features, immensely appealing to holidaymakers, people who enjoy messing about in boats, and lovers of the wildlife to be found therein.

BROAD-MINDED? Who? Me? Well, yes, in the sense of being tolerant and liberal, although others may view me differently. But no, if you mean orientated towards our Norfolk Broads that give our county one of its defining features, immensely appealing to holidaymakers, people who enjoy messing about in boats, and lovers of the wildlife to be found therein.

Sad to report, but the Broads do nothing for me. I have no quarrel with them, no wish to see them change, but no desire to spend my leisure time either on or near their waterways.

Last summer Mrs Peggotty and I spent a wonderful balmy evening with friends at their riverside chalet at Brundall, with barbecue, hospitality, and a jaunt in their swish boat, and we would be delighted if they extend another invitation, but it never provided any catalyst to persuade us to change tack and stop being innocents a-broad.

Perhaps unfairly, it always seemed that it was hard to find a place where we could park the car and sit in the summer sunshine watching the Broads craft meander by as we partook of a picnic. The popular parts were usually privately owned and, of course, those places accessible only by boat were of no benefit to us.

Despite my off-handedness, I did enjoy a surprise package of What to Do on the Norfolk Broads, a 97-page glossy book published in 1949 by Jarrold and Sons, plus a booklet entitled In Praise of Windmills (1935), Hamilton's Map and Chart of the Broads (printed in 1938 by L A Yaxley, trading as Rippons from Howard Street South in Yarmouth), and five detailed maps covering Broadland.

Armed with that bumper bundle, anybody could navigate their way around our famed waterways, know where to moor and the shops and pubs and other facilities nearby, and solve the day-to-day problems the newcomer to sailing might experience. One of the books included a detailed daily log for the boat hirer to record the pleasures and hiccoughs of the Broads excursion.

In hindsight, should I contemplate the unthinkable - a week on a Broadland hire cruiser - I will have to arm myself with up-to-date charts and literature to prevent mishaps, getting lost, and discovering too late that many of the pre-war abundance of village shops to supply my every need have long since closed and been converted into homes.

My benefactor was Porthole reader Miles Rainer, of Sand Dune Cottages, Tan Lane, Caister, who explained: “I let holiday cottages, and some people who have been coming for years brought me these, and I wondered if they might be any good to you.”

Yes thank you - they are.

The gem of a Jarrolds book, that cost 2s 6d (12½p) in 1949, contains distance charts, maps, tide tables, and sailing and angling information and advice. There are sections on the Rivers Ant, Bure, Thurne, Waveney and Yare with simple maps, and descriptions of more than 70 places large and small in Norfolk and Suffolk, including their retail facilities and services, and interesting features.

There are also three dozen monochrome photographs of Broadland scenes and wildlife. It all looks so tranquil and, I am sure, was typical of that period more nearly six decades ago.

Here are a few random jottings culled from the book that was edited by P V Daley.

“Many of the Broads windmills are built of brick with walls 20in thick. At Thurne Mouth the great number of windmills suggests a scene in Holland, and going down the Bure there is a noted mill covered with black tar bering the date 1800; farther along is the famous Oby Mill with 1753 in wrought iron on its front. The sails have been removed from Oby and only the gaunt arms remain; pumping is done by steam or electricity.”

Ludham Bridge: “At Parkinson's Quay, just above the bridge, is an artesian bore 180ft deep and water is free to patrons.”

Ludham parish church: “St Catherine's is the largest in the district with the exception of the blitzed parish church of Yarmouth.”

Sutton Broad: “It had been thought that the bittern had become extinct when suddenly in 1911 its weird 'booming' was heard again. A nest was discovered hidden on Sutton Broad. Since then more bitterns have appeared and it is hoped that the species may now flourish. A striking feature of Sutton Dyke is its beautiful white water lilies.”

Potter Heigham: “It is said that in the days of the Romans there was a flourishing pottery industry here that gave Potter Heigham part of its name. The beautiful medieval road bridge has carried road traffic over the river at this point for more than 700 years.”

Ormesby, Rollesby and Filby Broads: “Originally one large sheet of water, these are now a chain of separate lakes but with no navigable connection with the rivers. They are an anglers' paradise as there are no motor cruisers or craft larger than a rowing boat to frighten the fish. Bream shoals are enormous.

“These broads are very beautiful and it is well worth while for cruising parties to leave their craft moored at Potter Heigham and go to Ormesby by bus or motor for an afternoon on these lovely lakes.”

Horsey Mere: “A most beautiful broad only 1½ miles from the sea. The extent of the damage caused by the inrush of the sea through the sand-hills in 1938 can still be traced by the absence of any timber except young saplings that have grown since the flood.” A private staithe charges 1s (5p) a day for mooring.

Martham/WestSomerton Broad: “Going straight ahead up the Thurne...is Martham Chain Ferry” one mile from the broad.

Acle Bridge: “It is hoped that the comparatively new concrete structure which replaced the ancient stone bridge spanning the Bure near Acle has laid the ghosts supposed to have haunted the place for 100 years and more. The old bridge, greatly admired by artists and equally detested by motorists and yachtsmen, had been in the olden days a favourite place for executions. Criminals roped around the neck were swung over the side and left dangling, and reliable men of the river insist that they continued to hang in ghostly form until the old bridge was removed!”

Stokesby: “The history of this village is lost in dim antiquity. The 11th century Domesday Book lists it as possessing salt works, showing that the village was then on the sea.”

Yarmouth: “Abounds in interesting places rich in literary and historical associations.”

Breydon Water: “Teems with waterfowl and seabirds, and many rare specimens may be noted in the season. For centuries it has been silting up and some day may be only fenland with a tiny trickling Yare finding its way to the sea.”

Cantley: “There is much shipping in the beet season when thousands of tons of beet are brought by road and river transport (to the sugar beet factory, built in 1910).”

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