All aboard! From boats to more boats

There’s no doubt about it, even when travelling in our home on wheels it’s not easy to keep us away from watery places and boats – preferably lots of them!

Merlin Quay on the Norfolk Broads

So it was that we travelled from Burnham-on-Crouch, one of Britain’s top yachting spots, to a place where there are more navigable waterways than in the whole of Venice – the beautiful Broads.

The Norfolk Broads is a great favourite for boating holidays

The Broads National Park spreads across 303 square kilometres (117 sq miles), mostly in the county of Norfolk but partly in Suffolk too. Made up of seven rivers and 63 broads (lakes), the Broads has over 200 kilometres (120 miles) of navigable waterways.

Such a tranquil place

Two books from the beloved children’s series “Swallows and Amazons” were set in the Norfolk Broads. As children we had both fallen in love with the idea of sailing and living aboard boats from reading these wonderful books so it was somewhat of a pilgrimage to visit this area.

The original Arthur Ransome cover illustration for Coot Club, set on the Norfolk Broads

A tour round The Broads Museum was an excellent way to really get to know all about the origins and history of this intriguing place.

There was so much to see at the Broads Museum

Here we learnt that until the 1960s it was thought that the Broads were a natural feature of the landscape but the botanist and ecologist Dr Joyce Lambert proved that they were actually man made!

A scale model of “Gleaner” a wherry with removable keel built in 1894 to carry 25 tonnes of cargo around the Broads
A life size model of living quarters on a typical sailing wherry

Jonathan “down below”

Apparently she proved that in the Middle Ages the local monasteries excavated the peatlands as a business, selling the peat as fuel to the people of Norwich and Great Yarmouth. Then the sea levels began to rise, and the pits began to flood, creating the lakes, or broads, of today.

There were many boats and models of boats on display showing the wide variety of vessels used on the Broads over time

Despite the construction of windpumps and dykes, the flooding continued and resulted in the typical Broads landscape of today, with its, grazing marshes, reed beds and wet woodland.

The Broads seem to have almost as many windmills as the Netherlands!

The museum also contained many different types of craft that have plyed the waterways of the Broads over hundreds of years. As well as actual boats there were many model craft, marsh working tools, boat plans, paintings, books, photographs, postcards, wildlife, and social history items and memorabilia. It was fascinating!

The Coypu (a south American rodent) was brought to the area for its fur but soon some escaped and became a pest. A campaign begun in 1981 finally eliminated them by 1989
Memories of the railway line that brought holiday makers to the Broads

There were even dress ups for younger visitors

Some early outboards

That night we stayed in the car park of a delightful Norfolk pub and enjoyed a drink watching the sun go down.

Sun downers

Our next destination was a National Trust “Stately Home” called Blickling Hall. The current house was built in 1616 but it is thought that one of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn , was born in 1501 in the house previously on this site.

The “unforgettable “ first glimpse of Blickling Hall

The publicity for Blickling alleges that “You’ll never forget your first sight of Blickling” and for us at least that’s probably true. As we walked through the gates we were very impressed by the breathtaking mansion flanked by ornate out buildings and startlingly green lawns.

The impressive entrance to Blickling

As we stepped through the impressive entrance we admired the grand staircase with stained glass windows on the landing and massive portraits of former Lords of the Manor and their families.

The grand staircase

There was much to see in just a few hours.

The sumptuous dining room

One of the nice features of this particular stately home was that there were actors scattered throughout who were dressed in period costumes and would explain “in character” about the life and history of the house. It was a great way of making history come alive, especially for children.

Actors play various characters that would have lived in the house in the past.
Before being taken on by the National Trust many important visitors stayed at the Blickling Estate

The House has been run by the National Trust since the 1940s and it is beautiful restored and meticulously cared for.

A guest bedroom
One of the drawing rooms

The library contains one of the most historically significant collections of manuscripts and books in England. It holds the National Trust’s biggest library collection with examples of early Continental printing, magnificent illustrated volumes, and many books with superb bindings.

The library which houses some extremely rare and valuable volumes
Some beautiful sketches of ancient book illustrations

The gardens were outstanding with a lovely formal section designed and constructed in the 1930s and acres of woods and pasture.

The gardens were lovely with pleasant formal gardens and many informal wooded areas to wander in.

“The temple” dates from the 1720s

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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