The Yarmouth’s Waterways future goes back to history

AN electric boat bought from an auction website is powering a new era at Great Yarmouth’s historic Waterways.

The six-seater wooden sailing craft which boasts a champagne holder and picnic basket was the last word in luxury for the Edwardian gentleman enjoying a leisurely day out.

Now it is hosting visitors on a peaceful journey around the gardens for the first time in decades – and 82 years to the day since boats were first launched there for ladies in long skirts and chaps in bowler hats to enjoy safe, sedate boating.

Businessesman Craig Le Picq is trying out the venture buoyed by a swell of interest since he and his wife Larrissa took over the cafe.

The 42-year-old, of North Denes Road, said the couple, who have twin boys aged 10 and two older children, were looking to take on a guest house but had been side-tracked by the cafe option.

Having run it since April they have been overwhelmed by the amount of people who have tales to tell about the attraction and remember taking trips on it as a child when it was dotted with illuminated nursery rhyme characters, or had family who worked on it, drove the boats or even carved their elaborate heads.

At one time five craft plied the waters each taking up to 20 people at a time.

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Mr Le Picq, however, is starting small to see how it goes but is delighted with the electric boat he bought from eBay and is hoping others will share his enthusiasm.

“We are just going to give it a go. It’s a really nice electric launch and it cruises round quite nicely. The Waterways is very well kept as a nice garden and it is something different for people to do.

“I think people are quite envious when they see me going round.”

Mr Le Picq, who works as a video editor in London, said he was totally charmed by the tales of boats plying The Waterways, and had been surprised they were still held in such high affection locally.

“I had a load of old photographs and postcards of the boats and more and more people were coming into the cafe and saying what a shame it was there were no boats any more and that set us thinking.”

Obtaining a licence from the council and overcoming health and safety hurdles was plain sailing, he said, adding that he was keen to offer something new and would be installing a launch platform at the cafe.

Having moved from London to Yarmouth seven years ago Mr Le Picq and his family are still excited by the seaside.

Where others see neglect and disinterest, they see charm and potential and want other people to be as enthusiastic and interested as they are.

“We want to make it look like people care about Yarmouth. Not being bought up in the town we are still excited by the seaside and we are interested.

“We are just trying to enthuse people. I had a wedding party in on Friday and gave the bride and groom a tour on the boat, which was lovely.”

The Waterways opened in 1929 and featured electrically-powered boats, which were quite advanced in their day.

Conceived as a job creation scheme during the depression they have continued to be an asset to the resort, providing a scenic and quiet antidote to the jingly, gaudy Golden Mile.

Its low point came in 2007 when it was dubbed one of the resort’s “grot spots” and given the postcard caption – “bridge over littered waters.”

Trips lasting 20 minutes to half an hour are booked from the cafe and cost �2.50 for an adult and �2 a child.