After 30 years in Norfolk, Sarah Hardy has never tried a boating break on The Broads – until now! But how did she get on – and did the dog like it?
Coming from the steel city of Sheffield, I grew up without much access to water sports or pursuits – a trip to the beach was a pretty rare occasion.
So coming to live and work in Norfolk was quite a revelation and I have certainly grown to love living near the sea. And I have been on The Broads many times, including chartering a Wherry for a special birthday.
But actually hiring a cruiser for a few days R&R has escaped me – when the children were younger I think I worried about them falling in as they were always such a handful.
But now, the chance to escape for a few days, with nothing but wildlife, the gentle whirr of the engine and deciding which pub to stop at next, to occupy my thoughts, seemed irresistible.
There is so much choice: where to sail from, which company to opt for,
what sort of boat and more. My basic requirement was simple – a boat that was idiot proof and if the dog could come too, so much the better.
Stalham-based Richardson’s Boating Holidays selected Crystal Horizon for us which is a dog friendly boat and has two cabins and two shower rooms so there’s plenty of space. There’s also a well equipped kitchen, a dining and chill out area, sliding canopy and plenty of outdoor seating, and two tellies should you need to keep in touch with the outside world of soaps, Brexit and more. We resisted the temptation!
We were given a fair bit of tuition and taken on a test drive before we were let loose on our own. My knot tying skills were very poor but the boat itself is fairly easy to drive – you just have to remember that it is longer than a car! With speed limits of 4 and 5mph, you can’t go too mad and most people are keen to help if you get stuck mooring up and need a bit of advice.
We set off from Stalham and within minutes saw a kingfisher which was literally perfect! In fact, most of our trip saw us accompanied by herons, coots and more.
But there is so much to see and so many places to visit. Just think about it – everywhere from Great Yarmouth through to Hickling. There’s Bewilderwood, Fairhaven Gardens, How Hill, and Wroxham Barns. And so many pretty villages to just potter around, like Ludham or Coltishall.
And one thing that I have to admit enjoying very much was having a great view of some of the area’s stunning waterside homes. You don’t see many of them from the road and there are some real beauties, ranging from chocolate box pretty thatched ones to modern architectural splendours!
I think it can be tempting to go mad and do too much sailing; for me, three or so hours a day is about right, as it is lovely to just moor up and soak in the scenery, or hop off and do some exploring.
If I’m honest, I planned much of our schedule around pubs and various eateries. We moored up one night near The Lion at Thurne where we had a great supper and simply strolled back to the boat, patiently waiting for us at the village staithe.
Another time we stopped at Irstead, a really pretty hamlet near Barton Broad. From here we walked a couple of miles to Neatishead where we ate at the White Horse, tucking into their house burgers with relish – it must have been all that fresh air.
I also loved our stop at St Benet’s Abbey, walking around the remains of the medieval site and then onto Ludham Bridge where The Dog provided a good refreshment stop for us – and our dog, Bella.
Indeed, Bella the border collie enjoyed her mini break as much as my husband and I did, often sitting in the driver’s seat.
Our few days were very enjoyable and I can see why people get hooked. I loved keeping everything ship-shape in the boat but was less keen on mopping the decks, I have to admit. The chance to just slow down, sit and watch some beautiful scenery, and think is, of course, priceless.
A 3-night off-peak boating break for up to four people with Richardson’s Boating Holidays costs from £233. For more information call 01692 668981.
Published in Feast, issue 36 – May 2019.