Designed & maintained by Carol Gingell

©  C.Gingell 2015 - all photographs, personal stories and written articles on this site are copyright and should not be reproduced anywhere else without the permission of the copyright owner and Broadland Memories.

© Broadland Memories 2015

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via e-mail Print
Home About Archive What's New DVD's Links Contact

How to see the Broads - transcribed from Fry’s Magazine Vol IX 1908

I make no doubt there are a great number of people who would holiday on the Broads did they but know something definite about the district, and the conditions under which a cruise may be enjoyed. People have often asked me: “How can I see the Broads?” and have shaken their heads when I replied: “Go for a fortnight’s cruise.” That is the only way to thoroughly see this beautiful district. And there is no need to shrink from a cruise; for, apart from perfect safety, health-giving air, and restful scenery, a holiday on the Broads is a very inexpensive affair if properly managed.  The great charm of Broadland to the worker is the absolute change it is able to give. There is no hurry – one must go with the wind. There is no noise – only the sound above the restful hum of a summers day is the clack-clack-clack of the sheet running out, or the rattle of the blocks as the jib flap and, perhaps, from somewhere hideaway, the pop of a cork or the happy, careless laughter of a holiday party. Broadland is synonymous with independence and unconventionality. Everyone “loses starch.” Provided you conform to the few simple unwritten laws of the district there is nothing you may not do. You may wander in old-world villages, dream away the hours on rush-fringed Broads, fish, sketch, photograph, tow, sail or do nothing. People in yachts whom you have never before seen will give you “good day,” and as cheerfully ask for a loan of a pint of milk or a loaf of bread.

But I must leave descriptive writing to other pens than mine, and content myself with the less-known side – that of ways and means. I have sailed the Broads for many years in almost every kind of boat, and with variously constituted and sized parties. Possibly some hints and recommendations based on my personal experience may prove of interest to the readers of this magazine. The size of the party is the first question to be settles. I have always found a mixed party of even numbers most successful. Some little care should be taken in the selection, for the pleasure of the trip greatly depends on the harmony of the crew. Eight or ten may be accommodated on a large wherry, and six and four respectively on a large and small yacht. In all cases these boats possess suitable cabin room for ladies, and are let with piano, centre-board sailing dinghy, crockery, glass, cutlery, table and bed linen, blankets, etc. Nothing in that way really need be taken, but I recommend a large bath towel for the morning dip, and a good thick rug for windy days on the deck.

Suppose our party consists of eight; there are a number of wherries that may be hired from £10 to £15 a week. Below is a plan of a boat I know, and this, or a similarly constructed one, may be hired at Wroxham or any yachting station.

No. 2 is cutter-rigged with length 46 ft; beam 12 ft; draft 3 ft. 8”; headroom 6 ft. She is fitted with spring berths, a piano, and the usual stores. Terms per week: for May £7; June and September £8; July and August £10.

Plan 2

For a party of four men a multiplicity of craft are available, ranging from £3 to £5 a week (July). A handy and comfortable class are those with cabin tops that can be raised at night, thus giving 5ft. 6”. Headroom. These boats are sloop-rigged, and the measurements are as follows: length 30ft; beam 8ft 6”; draft 3ft; cabin 9ft long; well 6ft 6”; stern deck 5ft. There is a berth for attendant in the forecastle, should one be taken. Terms per week without attendant are: for May £3; June £4; July and August £4 10s; and September £3 10s. Boats of similar design but smaller than the one quoted may be hired, with prices in proportion. I would advise those who are unfamiliar with sailing to take an attendant, for the wind in some reaches is tricky, and the novelty in entirely “doing” for oneself – especially in washing up the greasy breakfast things – soon wears off. The attendant costs £1 a week.


Having secured our craft we must next turn our attention to a hardly less important matter, namely that of provisioning. I have always found it more satisfactory to leave the catering to a local store. This not only does away with a great deal of worry, but it ensures having on board just what is required, and that in reasonable quantity. Roys of Wroxham, are excellent people with whom to entrust this all-important item, for apart from being on the spot they make a speciality of yachting hampers, and can supply anything pertaining to yachting from a topsail to a tooth-brush. Hampers containing sufficient for two people for a week’s cruise may be obtained at 30s, 40s, and 50s, the difference in price being due to a larger and better selection; for larger parties and hampers the price works out a slightly reduced rate.

Belaugh 1908

As a guide to those who prefer to undertake the commissariat themselves, the chief contents of one of these hampers may be helpful: bread, butter, cheese, bacon, cooked ham, eggs, potted meats, tins of tongue, salmon, lobster, sardines, milk, cream, bottles and tins of soup and fruit, tea, coffee, sugar, salt, mustard, oil and vinegar, biscuits, cakes, candles, paraffin oil, methylated spirit, corkscrew, tin opener, etc. Cold cooked joints, or fowls, may be had to order. The most useful joints are pressed beef, cold salt beef, and rolled ribs. Enough meat should be taken for three days, and arrangements made to have a further supply sent to yachting stations as required. You must remember when catering that you have to feed the attendants and they don’t play with a knife and fork! ! It is possible to buy bread, fresh milk and eggs, vegetables, and fruit, etc., from river-side villages and inns; and not least interesting and amusing adventures are to be experienced “foraging.” I have generally found this on-shore expenditure worked out at about 10s a head per week. For convenience I tabulate the cost of a cruise for a week in July and August for various sized parties in the boats I have suggested with middle-priced hampers and “on-shore” expenses. This will be the total cost, always excepting rail fares, tips (very few and small), wines and spirits, etc.

I have based these estimates on personal experience and, of course, they will vary slightly “according to the taste and fancy of the crew,” but I have over, rather than under, estimated. A fortnight costs less in proportion than a week, and I have had many for £5 – inclusive. The plans I have given are of boats which may be hired from Mr Ernest Collins of Wroxham, and visitors may be assured of their being turned out spick and span and well found.

Our party having been selected, our boat hired and provisions ordered, let us get away for a week’s cruise on the Bure. Arriving at Wroxham station we find our skipper awaiting us, and under his guidance make our way down the village street gay with happy, careless holiday folk in flannels and summer garments. The first thing to do on arriving at the boat is for each to select his (or her) berth, and arrange in lockers and drawers what things will be in daily request, stowing the rest of the baggage out of the way. You must be methodical on a yacht. By the time this is done tea is served on the deck. In the evening we stroll along the “rhond” examining the many craft making ready for a cruise. After dinner, which we have at a river-side hotel, so as not to deplete our lockers, we come on board again. Light up and try the piano. It is possible that we shall not sleep well the first night, or it may be that the lap-lap of the water, and strange water-born sounds and delicious air, may make us oblivious of everything till the sun is well up.

We have lunch after leaving the Broad, and arrive by tea-time at the old “Ferry Inn” at Horning. Here we take a ramble about the wooded lanes, play a game of bowls, or otherwise kill time till dinner is ready. Tuesday off again past the little River Ant and what remains of St Benet’s Abbey:-

Built by King Canute. The Dane,

For his soul’s eternal gain.

Just past here we leave the Bure for the Thurne, and with a good breeze soon make Potter Heigham. This is another large yachting centre, and very convenient for visitors from the north and Midlands – the number of which, by the way, is increasing yearly. A walk to the little village (of one shop) takes us past the old “Falgate Inn.” Here, near the miniature five-barred gate that hangs as a sign above one may read a characteristic Norfolk verse:-

This gate hang high, but hinder none;

Refresh and pay and travel on.

That evening and early next morning the dinghy again comes into use for those who wish to explore Heigham and Hickling Broads.

Wednesday we have the longest sail we have yet done before us – a matter of twenty miles to Yarmouth. So along the windmill-dotted waterway we make what speed we may; passing Acle and catching the tide we arrive that evening at the Yarmouth yacht basin. Yarmouth finds amusement for what remains of the day, and on Thursday by favour of the tide we return to Acle Bridge, and make up for the night. Friday morning a party, provisioned overnight, starts early to explore the River Ant and Barton Broad, joining the boat at South Walsham Dyke. That night we sleep at Horning Street, where the children sing, what time they can run along the quay and catch pennies:-

Hey! John Barley-corn,

Hey! John Barley-corn.

Old and young will raise the song –

John Bar-lay-corn.

Saturday morning, during the sail back to Wroxham, we take turns in packing up, and by mid-day have handed over our good boat, and make our way to the station.

A Wherry Party 1908 Coltishall Lock 1908 Horning Ferry Inn 1908

Sunday may well be spent in a quiet sail to Coltishall – upstream. This little bit of seven miles is sweetly pretty, and is worth the possible quanting made necessary by the avenue of trees and high, rough banks. So past Belaugh – a little village clinging to the sides of a hill, at the summit of which stands the grey flint church tower – till the sun shines on the red roofs that rise steepwise around an old malting-house, and mark the outposts of Coltishall. In the afternoon a party take the dinghy up to the renowned watermill of Horstead, or to the no less famous lock, and listen to the soft coo-coo-oo of the pigeons in the great belts of green woods. Next morning, before returning to Wroxham, we lay in a stock of fresh eggs and vegetables from the “Anchor Inn.” Passing again through the bridges we cover the mile that divides the town of Wroxham from its Broad – the “Queen of the Broads.” Here the annual regatta that ends “Wroxham Week” is held, and for two days this beautiful sheet of water is surrounded by yachts of all descriptions, dressed out in their best, and the Broad is ablaze with colour and echoes with the laughter of happy holidaymakers. To-day some half a dozen boats are skimming over its hundred acres, their white sails mirrored in the still water, and the rattle of their blocks making music that the yachtsman loves.

Norfolk Broads map 1908

The distance covered in this cruise is not great, but it is the slow, restful movement that holds the chief charm; and by arriving early at places of interest it gives an opportunity of seeing something of the surrounding country. Of course, it is possible to make Yarmouth from Wroxham in a day, and to spend some time on the Yare or Waveney, but such hurry has never appealed to me. In a fortnight the Thurne and the Ant may be taken on the return journey, and a week may be spent on Oulton Broad, the Waveney and the Yare. Such a trip would include visits to Lowestoft, Beccles, Brundall, Whitlingham and Norwich. Finally, an emphatic word of praise is due to the Great Eastern Railway Co. for the really splendid enterprise, in recent years, which has resulted in not only an admirable service of fast and inexpensive trains to the Broads district, but for the many other facilities and economies which have been arranged with a view to the special comfort of the intending tourist to the Broads.

At Acle Bridge 1908 Top How to see the Broads 1908

No. 1 has 6ft. headroom. Will sleep eight people comfortably, and is fitted with spring berths throughout. The terms per week – including the two attendants, who sail the boat and prepare the meals – are: for May £8; June £11; July and August £13; September £9. A party of six would find ample accommodation on a large yacht similar to that shown in plan 2.

Plan 1

Supposing our party consists of four, we have a large number of boats from which to choose. For comfort and convenience one on the plan of no. 3 with its folding-doors between the cabins, and its large well – would be hard to beat. No. 3 is cutter-rigged, with length 40ft.; beam 9ft. 6”; draft 3ft. 8”; well 7ft. by 5ft. 6”. She is fitted with an awning – which when rigged up at night over the well provides another cabin. Terms per week with one attendant: for May £5; June £6 5s; July and August £7 10s.; September £6.

Plan 3