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Wherry's remains raised from grave

PUBLISHED: 10:33 14 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:10 03 July 2010

FOR nearly half a century she had lain submerged under water and out of sight to visitors enjoying the picture postcard Broadland setting.

But yesterday, an evocative symbol of Broads past was lifted from her watery grave at Ranworth Broad, near Yarmouth, to make way for the Broads future.

FOR nearly half a century she had lain submerged under water and out of sight to visitors enjoying the picture postcard Broadland setting.

But yesterday, an evocative symbol of Broads past was lifted from her watery grave at Ranworth Broad, near Yarmouth, to make way for the Broads future.

First an engine... then a propeller, keel and gearbox... finally pieces of rotten wooden frame. And amid all the debris, surprisingly, a drawer with an untarnished brass handle. It was a slow and undignified way for the century-old sailing wherry to make her reluctant, first appearance in nearly 50 years.

Broad owner Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) commissioned the Broads Authority's dredging team to move the wherry to clear the berth at its visitor centre for a new electric-powered boat that will be used for education trips at the reserve.

Rob Rogers, the authority's head of construction and facilities, said: “The rudder and propeller came out whole but we had to snap the keel because it was partly wedged under the floating wildlife centre.

“It was a particularly skilful operation on the part of the crane driver, Mark Bell, because we were working very close to a floating building in a confined space with heavy plant.”

Matt Bradbury, NWT's head of nature reserves, explained that several wherries were submerged in the mud of the broad and one - Maud - had already been raised in the 1980s and restored as the sister craft of the Albion.

He said: “Some further out in the broad were deliberately sunk during the second world war to stop Nazi seaplanes landing.

“However, we believe this was one of three sunk in the 1960s, side-by-side, to protect the bank from erosion.

“Originally, we had hoped it might be possible to lift her out in one piece with a view to someone restoring her. However, it has turned out that she is too badly decomposed.”

Mr Bradbury said that while the wherry originally would have been used to carry agricultural produce or coal around the Broads, in later life she had been converted to a dredging barge, with an engine added, to transport mud.

NWT's previous education boat, which ceased operating two years ago following the introduction of new stability regulations that limited passenger numbers, was smaller and able to moor unaffected by the submerged wherry.

The new craft, one of two, built at a cost of £75,000 by Goodchild Marine Services at Burgh Castle, near Yarmouth, will enable NWT to resume wildlife boat trips for school parties and visitors, a tradition started at Ranworth in 1974.

The wildlife charity is now seeking name suggestions for the boat and her sister vessel which will operate at its Hickling reserve.

The money for the craft, whose design was inspired by traditional Norfolk Broads reed lighters, was raised through donations by The Geoffrey Watling Charity, The Ranworth Trust, HSBC bank, Essex and Suffolk Water, Ivy Child Charitable Trust and GE International Inc.

NWT director Brendan Joyce said: “We are absolutely delighted to have raised enough money from our charitable trusts and corporate members to be able to replace our two boats.

“Educational activities for children and adults form an important part of our work. The boats enable us to bring people into closer contact with the fragile natural environment and its wildlife while at the same time providing a memorable experience.”

People are invited to send their ideas for names - anything from favourite Norfolk wildlife species to humorous or quirky suggestions - to Norfolk Wildlife Trust Name a Boat, Bewick House, 22 Thorpe Road, Norwich. NR1 1RY.

The winners will receive a free family trip on their named boat.

For information about the trust:www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk

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