When the weather is fine, you know it’s time for messin’ about on the river

Image for Visitor Guide 2012 ENGANL00120120902104637
Image for Visitor Guide 2012 ENGANL00120120902104637
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Jolly boating weather ... how nice it is to have a house with access to the waterways of East Anglia.

Properties near water always demand a higher price and this day I was driving through a pretty riverside village with a large village green to visit a property built in the 1920’s with Tudor-style black and white beams.

When planning on retirement to the area from a hectic life in the midlands, the owner had fallen for the boat house and mooring – that came with this very desirable house. With such peace and quiet, and beautiful countryside and wildlife, he just loved meandering along, sometimes seeing otters and kingfishers.

He said that like Mole in Wind in the Willows people asked if it wasn’t just a bit dull at times – but Ratty had replied that the river was always full of people, too many of them sometimes – otters, moorhens, ducks and so on, about all day long! In the boat house his joys were a motor launch, sailing boat and also a traditional clinker-built boat made with overlapping planks.

The Norfolk wherries once so busy on the Broads were clinker-built boats directly descended from those built by Norsemen.

The wherries were able to reach larger boats just off the coast at Yarmouth or Lowestoft and take their cargoes off to be transported inland through the Broads and rivers. At the same time that the railways started taking much of the cargo, the Broads were beginning to be recognised as a tourist area and the wherries became used for carrying passengers. Back in the house and standing in the main bedroom overlooking the river with its wooded banks, the owner said how much he would miss that view.

Although he needed a smaller house, he was determined to find somewhere with water and we chatted about cottages on the coast. I was reminded of the happy hours we spent when our son was young, with a small rowing boat at Burnham Overy Staithe – often chuckling at our luck having a boat as families found the water too deep to wade across with the tide coming in rapidly, and we came in useful rowing them back to the shore.

The coastal staithes and harbours are always hives of activity and it is easy to think of the coast just for recreation, but wouldn’t we miss our favourites of crispy battered fish or Cromer crabs if generations of Norfolk fishermen didn’t go out in all weathers.