Friday, 1 July 2011

Summer Holidays 2011 (part 2)

We left Jules' place and headed across country (calling in at Lakenheath airbase where Val had a medical appointment). Despite the stop off we still arrived in Norfolk in good time and spent the first night camping in the van at a campsite in Sutton. The next morning we moved onto my Dad's boat Mia Six at the marina in Stalham. We spent the day loading our gear aboard, shopping and getting ready for our voyage.
The next day we headed off (after solving a slight problem of a duff battery on the boat which meant the engine wouldn't start).
We motored down the river Ant, crossing Barton Broad and heading briefly up to Neatishead before turning and cruising back across Barton Broad and on down towards Irstead.
Because of our late start (after the battery problem) we decided to stop for the night at Ludham Bridge.
We had a decent bar meal and a few drinks at The Dog Inn before heading back to the boat for the night.
Sunday morning saw us head off down to Antmouth and turn east on the river Bure passing the ruins of St Benets Abbey (which we would visit later).
Next we joined the river Thurne and headed up to Potter Heigham where we stopped for lunch and to do a bit of shopping. Potter Heigham bridge is infamous for having boats hit it as it's very small. Hire boats are obliged to employ a pilot to take them under the bridge but because Mia is small and privately owned we could go through ourselves. Val did a great job of taking us through (once we'd dropped the canopy and radio aerial so we'd fit under!) The underside of the bridge is scarred with different coloured paint scrapes where boats have made contact.
 Once through the bridge the river is much quieter and before long we turned north up Candle Dyke and into Duck Broad. This area is my favourite bit of the Broads and as we turned east again onto Meadow Dyke the scenery was stunning with our route following a narrow channel through the reed beds.
On this stretch we'd seen a pair of Marsh Harriers last year which I'd tried and failed to photograph on my small compact camera. This year I had my big camera and managed to capture a few shots of them.
After winding our way down Meadow Dyke we emerged onto the stunning Horsey Mere.
We cruised across the Mere and up Horsey Cut to moor for the night.
Val kept the cheeky ducks happy, handfeeding them!
At the head of Horsey Cut just a little way from where we moored is the famous Horsey Drainage Mill which is owned by the National Trust.
I went for a stroll to a vantage point to get some pics of Horsey Mere.
In the meantime Val read her book in peace
Later we had a pleasant twenty minute stroll to the Nelsons Head pub for dinner. The pub's filled with antiques including loads of old guns.
We had a delicious meal and were thankful of the walk back to the boat to let our dinner go down a little. That night we had the cut to ourselves with no other occupied boats present. The morning dawned wet and after having a shower each we had breakast in the NT shop/cafe before setting off back across Horsey Mere in the rain and retracing our route up Meadow Dyke. We turned northwest up Deep Go Dyke and were soon motoring across Hickling Broad. We decided to moor at the Pleasure Boat Inn (despite a bad experience there last year) and had a lazy afternoon and a few drinks in the pub followed by dinner later on. The pub was a bit better this year so we were happy enough.

Tuesday morning was much nicer with a return to sunshine. I'd arranged to meet some guys from the canoe forum here at 10a.m. and while I was eating breakfast (at 8:30) I saw a guy checking out the cut and wondered if he was one of them, he disappeared and I decided it couldn't be. Shortly after I spotted a canoe and sail at the end of the cut so I walked down and said hello and it was the same person (who turned out to be Ian). After a chat he headed off onto the Broad for a sail and I wandered up to the car park to see if Greg and Chris had arrived yet.
 Chris turned up first soon followed by Greg and his dog Eira (who goes in the canoe with him). Ian soon appeared back after having a quick sail and reported that there was a decent wind on the Broad.
We spent the day in Mia watching the guys sailing, rescuing capsized canoes and cute dogs who'd had enough of sitting in a canoe full of water!
In the afternoon Greg had to rush off to collect his daughter from school but myself, Val, Ian and Chris enjoyed a chat and a drink outside the pub in the sun before the others had to set off home. It was really nice to meet them all in person having only chatted online previously.
That evening Val and I walked to the Greyhound pub in Hickling village (another twenty minute walk away) for dinner which was excellent. On the way back we were treated to a lovely sunset and saw a barn owl hunting.
On Wednesday we headed back to Potter Heigham where we hoped to get some fuel however the service station had none. We decided to head back to Stalham for the night to regroup, get fuel then head back out on the final leg of our journey up through Horning and Wroxham to Coltishall. On the return journey we stopped off at St Benets abbey.

 After leaving St Benets we made our way back up the Ant and across Barton Broad to the marina at Stalham. We went shopping, bought fuel and then had a nice evening picnic in the sunshine next to the boat. When I put the windbreak up to shelter us during our dinner the ground was like concrete showing how dry the weather had been in the area!
On Thursday morning we set off again down the Ant stopping for lunch at How Hill Staithe. As we approached Ludham Bridge the heavens opened and we had to hastily rig the sidescreens on Mia to keep the cockpit dry. At Antmouth we turned right and headed west up the river Bure. We passed through the busy and commercialised  town of Horning with it's tacky pubs and ostentatious houses.

We had a look in Hoveton Little Broad, Salhouse Broad and Wroxham Broad before arriving in Wroxham (which again seemed a little busy and pretentious).
Wroxham has a low bridge too (although not as low as Potter Heigham).
Once through the bridge the river changes character dramatically and is quiet and tree lined. Val was lucky enough to see a young otter here (although I only saw the splash it made) and there were plenty of wildfowl too.
 A Grebe on it's floating nest.
The river meanders through the picturesque village of Belaugh...........
...............where we saw a replica of the "Death and Glory" (anyone who read Arthur Ransome as a kid may remember this).
Eventually we arrived in Coltishall just as a huge downpour commenced. We were dismayed to see that all the moorings were full but as Mia is so small we managed to squeeze in right at the end outside the Rising Sun pub. We got soaked while tyeing up and racing to put up the canopy to keep the cockpit dry. Once we got sorted out we went into the pub for something to eat and to dry out then had an early night.
We left early the next morning (Friday) leaving Coltishall and retracing our route downriver.
Back under Wroxham bridge,
we cruised back down the length of Wroxham Broad with it's yacht station.
We continued to retrace the previous days route all the way back to Stalham to tidy up the boat and unpack before starting out on the long drive home to Scotland.
I was worried that going back on the Broads for a second year might be an anticlimax but it was quite the opposite. If anything I enjoyed the trip even more than last years and I'd recommend the Broads as a relaxing holiday destination if you don't want to travel abroad.

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