The Artful Codger - Pontoons float my boat

The provision of three pontoons for mooring boats on the River Great Ouse at South Quay, Lynn, may only be a modest start by West Norfolk Council, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

The pontoons should be in place in time for the summer, and although the number of boats that can be moored there initially will be relatively small, the long term impact could be quite considerable.

The number of boaters using the new facility will not be great, but their mere presence on the river frontage will stimulate much more interest from the general public, who will be drawn to the South Quay area out of sheer curiosity – and once they get there, they will then see what else the waterfront area has to offer.

It’s some years now since the South Quay was used for commercial shipping and there have been cosmetic improvements, notably around King Staithe Square and the Purfleet, that have made the area quite attractive.

But even with the wonderful views across the river to West Lynn and down the channel to The Wash, there has been one vital ingredient missing along the South Quay – some boats and general maritime activity on the river. Of course, there are the fishing craft at the Boal Quay, but that still leaves the long expanse of the South Quay looking decidedly bereft of any kind of action on the water.

But the presence of a few boats will bring the river edge of the quayside back to life. Boats have a fascination to lots of people, and will encourage visitors in the adjoining town centre to stroll down beside the river, creating much-needed footfall in this area and providing a boost for the hostelries close by and on the quay.

The only downside is that Lynn’s low life might also be attracted by the boats and the prospect of easy pickings. These people may only be a minority, but the results of their selfish, thoughtless actions can have a disproportionate impact on the town’s image – especially in the crucial early days when efforts are being made to build up a new attraction.

Hopefully there will be plenty of prominent signs, alerting boat owners to the potential risks of leaving any cash, or valuables that can be easily whisked away, on their craft. And the mere presence of plenty of people drawn to the quayside to see the boats should be something of a deterrent to any wrong-doers.

The police could also do their bit, especially in the early days, with regular high-profile patrols in the area. It will be fascinating to see just what kind of a response the pontoons get from the boating fraternity, especially after all the efforts put in by the council in recent years to try to provide a marina next to the river.

The signs are certainly encouraging if you consider what a success the provision of boat moorings at nearby Wisbech has proved – and Lynn is much closer to The Wash and the open seas than our Fenland neighbour.

Similarly, new moorings for pleasure craft have given a fresh lease of life to the port facilities at Wells in recent times. Roll on summer – I really can’t wait to get down to South Quay then.