A warm, friendly welcome

See on board the houseboat, visit the touring shop and relax on the riverside.

We look forward to welcoming visitors in 2018, as we celebrate ninety years since the rebuilding of a truly unique vessel.

Andrew, Timothy and Christopher

8 December 2017

Cabin conservation

While the houseboat is wrapped up in the protective cover, conservation work is being carried out on the timber cabin sides. All the woodwork and openings are checked. Any exposed gaps, caused by the variable climate are cleaned and filled with new mastic, then sealed with the application of durable woodstain varnish.


30 November 2017

Illuminating Riverside Christmas

With the festive season fast approaching, buildings and boats around Hoveton and Wroxham are being individually decorated.

With a broad choice of shops and places to eat, amongst other services, there is something to suit everyone at Christmas around the twin riverside villages.

Amidst pitch black marshy moorings, a local motor cruiser, was drenched in lights, making a fantastic impression, mirroring on the rippling river.


16 November 2017

A touch of Dutch

While involved in a bicycle ride across the continent, I visited some of the many and varied waterways that the Netherlands are justly proud of. Rotterdam is a noted large city and sea port, catering for epic ships and smaller 'boots'. The towns of Aachen and Maastricht are more intimate, with smart mooring docks hosting a range of attractive craft, many of interesting styles, and often surrounded by pleasant buildings, trees, and gardens. Land lubbers and water folk are interchangeable, and at one with each other.

Heather's bluff shaped hull looks unmistakably Dutch in design, but more of her fascinating early history has yet to be brought to light. Key questions remain shrouded in mystery: What was the original alleged military purpose of the flushed deck lighter? How and why was the boat shipped over to Norfolk? And, will the identity of the batchelor gentleman be revealed, who in the jazzy twenties commissioned the conversion into a houseboat?


2 November 2017

Star lights

Light up dark evenings for the fireworks season and Christmas festivities, with illuminating star wands. These and other items are available from the touring shop, or alternatively contact us.


28 October 2017

Hoveton Hallowe'en tableau

Nights are drawing in, the leaves are turning to golden autumnal hues and pumpkins are popping up around the neighbourhood for Hallowe'en. The houseboat is presently shrouded spookily in her all over dust jacket, a weather proof cover to protect the superstructure, while two punts flanking Heather, are eerily lit after dusk.

Some have seen strange grisly spirits traversing between Wroxham Broad up bridge reach on the choppy river tide. Who can tell what shadows shift between the uncanny jumble of new and old buildings, on the waters edge?

Yet, the redoubtable spectre of Broadland culture lingers... A waterman has left his tweed cap and black gum boats in the well of the punt... his pewter tankard is empty, perhaps awaiting a top up from one of the nearby taverns... the former Castle Inn, Wroxham, was a favourite haunt of river folk.


17 October 2017

Heather's use

As some readers may have been aware, there is a long term dispute with the Broads Authority concerning Heather, spanning several years. In an attempt to resolve the situation, we are now engaging with the media.

Following an interview with me and reporter Andrew Stone, about Heather, the Eastern Daily Press published an article, on 16 Oct



25 September 2017

At full tilt

Jovial and gentlemanly upholsterer and cover maker Mark Anderson returned to fit a buff coloured tilt cover for the well of AHP. This should keep the rain out and prevent degradation, especially during the dank winter months.

The punt tilt is part of our overall plan to preserve and enhance the houseboat and associated collection for the future. Heather's distinctive design is thought to be exceptional and she could be one of the oldest surviving houseboats in Europe.

We look forward to 2018 and welcoming visitors in what will be ninety years since the humble Dutch built 'flat bed' lighter was transformed into a pleasure houseboat.


31 July 2017

Waterways of life

Rivers provide vital arteries for people, conveniently flowing through dynamic urban areas and vast tracts of green countryside. Even though rivers link the town with country, the contrast and misunderstanding between the two may never have been greater ~ yet both are reliant on each other, not least because of the pivotal farming industry, where much of our food comes from.

Waterways in many respects, form the bedrock of civilization and remain fundamental for commerce, wildlife and recreation. The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads waterways are famed for boating, yet the area is much more than an idyllic holiday destination. Local people depend on visitors during the high summer season and in turn visitors can expect excellent hospitality and attractions. Even in today’s digital age, when information is widely available to most of the world’s population, the voice of some individual groups, especially in Broadland appears to be mute. Social media by default, can also easily warp the reality of actual happenings on the riverside.

Today, the stewardship by public bodies, serving Broadland’s precious waterways are increasingly being questioned. Is it right that some of the most beautifully, protected landscapes in UK ~ designated as official national parks, plus the affiliated Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Waterways, are operated without any direct local accountability?

The small independent band of friends who look after the houseboat are passionate about history. However, a weather eye is always kept on the future. We also care deeply about local communities and all aspects of conservation, culture and the landscape. It is possible to draw upon the best attributes from the past, while embracing modern advancements. In this spirit of hope and benevolence towards each other and the environment, Heather is promoting this code for Broadland, believed to have been devised in the 1970s, but little used since.


  • Preserve river banks
  • Respect other Broads users
  • Don’t leave litter
  • Don’t discard fishing tackle
  • Keep out of the reeds (where possible)
  • Keep to the marked channels
  • Keep to the speed limits

The Broadland Code was copied from the booklet ~ Life in Norfolk, by GM Dixon and MG & HJ Harland, 1979.


17 July 2017

Tercentenary of Haendel's Water Musick

On Wednesday 17th July 1717, George Frideric Handel gave his first performances of the famous Water Music suites on the River Thames, between Whitehall Palace and Chelsea. Musicians played on board barges for King George I, members of the court and an enthralled public.

This grand waterborne concert may have been organised by politicians as a spectacular public relations exercise for the new Hanovarian monarch, who could speak little English. The eighteenth century was a heady age of discovery, enlightenment and industrial expansion and Handal was at the forefront of the baroque musical revolution, penning scores for the theatre, church and state.

The staging of the Water Music was truly an assault on the senses, with elaborately decorated barges, flickering illuminations and the sounds of the instruments booming across the water. It has been suggested popular segments of the music are played somewhere in the world continuously, such is the power of the score. In 1987, a live performance was held on nearby Wroxham Broad.

Water, music and light combined after dusk can often produce magical scenes, including along Hoveton’s public Riverside Walk (pictured).


11 July 2017

Rags of many colours

Laundry Monday is the customary day for doing laundry or “dobby”, as washing is sometimes referred to in the merchant navy. Cloth rags are used for general cleaning and maintenance of boats. Cast off bed linen, shirts and sundry other things can be made into cleaning rags; used especially by cleaners ~ a pivotal, but often disregarded cog in the operating machinery of industry.

With rags, well known local characterful rag and bone men (the original recyclers) spring to mind. The rag and scrap trade is wonderfully captured by Messrs Simpson and Galton, where the domestic antics of Steptoe and Son were shown on screen, radio and stage plays.

I was often told by the elders about Mr “Raggy” Myers, the legendary gentleman merchant of Skipton~in~Craven, Yorkshire, for much of the 20th century. In truth, the kindly and enterprising Mr Myers and his family bought and sold many commodities, including wool (a staple of the Dales) and antiques. One of the attractive golden sandstone buildings where the Myers' originally operated, remains at Albert Street, between Coach Street, the canal and the High Street; albeit presented today in a smarter guise, with restaurants, bars and shops.


9 June 2017

Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee cypher

To celebrate the achievement of 65 years of the Sovereign’s reign, a stylised Queen’s cypher EIIR has been placed at the riverside Granary Staithe, Hoveton St John, close to Wroxham road bridge. The letters were made from a sheet of marine plywood at Windboats Marine Ltd of Wroxham by Jamie Hunton and painted at Hotel Wroxham.


19 May 2017

Touring the Pennine Dales ~ 1

While in the north we had opportunity to travel east to west, across the craggy pennines, forming the high back bone of England. It was a glorious sunny day, calling at Richmond, this being a stunning stone built town, skirted by the River Swale. From Richmond, on to Wenslydale, passing interestingly named villages ~ Aysgarth, Asgrigg and Hawes, up and over winding roads, where motorists often come face to face with freely wandering sheep.

Much of the Yorkshire Dales is within the Dales National Park. It covers 841 square miles, yet no less beautiful landscapes lie outside this boundary. Every shade of colour is on show from gold and rusty moorland to shimmering silvered grass pastures and buff stone buildings, each scene creating a mood assisted by the time of year and weather.

It was noticeable how many property owners were taking advantage of the vast number of tourists driving, biking and rambling through this stunning part of the country year round; offering a wide range of services and home made products.


4 May 2017

Come what May

We had a stand and welcomed visitors at the popular Skipton Waterway Festival, taking place beside the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Pictures and furnishings from the houseboat were displayed and a range of gifts were offered for sale on the shop table.


31 March 2017

Touring shop and display

From this spring, a touring shop and display will offer a carefully chosen selection of novelties and themed gifts, including illuminating toys and decorative wooden boxes, to suit every age and taste. The shop will open at public locations both locally and beyond and also attend special events.

On occasions a presentation display, will be combined with the shop, containing information about the houseboat and surrounding landscape. Revenue generated from the shop goes directly towards the annual maintenance and restoration of Heather.


29 March 2017

Bon voyages

David Simpson (pictured) handling the newly fitted tiller of the launch, near Wroxham Staithe, a little up stream of the bridge. Dave resided on board his boat for many years, until recently. An experienced yachtsman, David was born in Bermuda and saw service in the Royal Navy, before embarking on a career with GPO Telephones, later British Telecom.

David's sincere and playful personality lights up the dullest of situations. On the waterside, he was always ready to help anybody moor up and had a genial word for visitors and local people.

An occasional glass of 'vino,' of the red grape variety is a favourite pastime. If he wasn't indulging in vino, he could be found perusing the many floors of delights at Thorns, the famous ironmongery and general store in Norwich. He remains a sterling friend to us and many more. Times change however and it was decided to relocate David close to his family in Wolverhampton.

Tim, Jason

7 March 2017

Marine litter picking

Lumps of wood, bottles and a wide range of litter regularly turn up on the high tide, occurring twice a day. For a number of reasons, litter soon collects and finds its way into the river and eventually the open sea. We endevour to retrieve litter on the water, where it is safe to do so. It is always advisable to wear gloves and wash your hands with disinfectant thoroughly afterwards.

Floating litter is especially dangerous, as it can harm wildlife and cause damage to hulls of craft. Stuck in a semi private backwater, away from the official navigation, plastic packaging, complete with contents (pictured) looks very unsightly.


31 January 2017

Historical Broadland Wherry relics for sale

We are reducing a number of things we no longer have space for, kept at rather rambling stores on board and ashore. Amongst these are a collection of artefacts from the pinnacle era of large working wherry vessels on Broadland rivers (1850 ~ 1950).

The hand made objects range from a large gilt masthead, once on top of a pleasure wherry mast and various humble fastenings from trading and pleasure wherries including: Cornucopia, The Fir, Gleaner, Lady Violet, Dragon, Albion, Fairy Queen, Lord Roberts and White Moth. These items will shortly be offered for sale.


6 January 2017

Haste Post Haste

A scarlet coloured hand cart, remodelled from a Royal Mail electrical postal trolley, is a new attraction ~ facility for Heather. Similar in design to shepherds' huts or living vans, it is multi functional and can be transported to different places.

The glass fibre bodied cart was formerly used to move postal bags between railway stations and depots. For 500 years, the Royal Mail has being carrying post; firstly sending messages for Henry VIII and later as a global delivery service for everyone, conveying mail by air, sea and road.


2 January 2017

Twelve Festive Days

The houseboat is rigged up with cheery trimmings over the Christmas season for visitors delight. Among the decorations is an illuminating ice blue Christmas tree on the roof, provided by local lady, Lisa McGreish and Welsh mistletoe bought from the plant stall on Magdalen Street, Norwich~Over~The~Water. Freshly cut laurel and ivy from the Catfield garden are placed around and tinted beads and sprigs strung in a garland, across the saloon.

It is surprising how, with a little imagination, ornate decorations can be made (Blue Peter fashion) from very ordinary things, economically. Candles, electrical fairy lights and Chinese paper lanterns add more merriment on board, mirroring in the rippling water.

Jill, Chris

16 December 2016

Jam and Windboating

Some jars of plum and blackberry jam were kindly made for us in the autumn by a special friend of Heather, Carole Gordon of Sydney, Australia. The fruit were picked locally while Carole was visiting Norfolk. 

Carole's father was a member of the highly regarded boating family, the Bunns, who lived around Coltishall. Graham Bunn began as a boat building apprentice and draughtsman. In 1920 he took the plunge and opened a boat building and letting yard, Windboats, along Grange Walk in Wroxham. The place still flourishes, as does the smart brand name.

Graham Bunn was a trailblazer, constructing stylish inland and sea going motor cruisers to exceptionally high standards. Windboat craft were often finished in strong Burma teak, said to be the king~emperor of timbers. Deck fittings were chromium plated and diesel engines provided motive power. The galleys were usually fitted with gas cookers, stainless steel sinks, refrigerators and even fans (an early form of air conditioning); while chic coloured furnishings filled the cabins ~ rare for the inter war period, especially in a provincial area. A number of these superior craft can still be seen today around the world.

Extract from 'Windboating' by Graham Bunn, courtesy of Carole Gordon.

The rule is, jam to~morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to~day.
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, 1871

Lewis Carroll


30 November 2016


With the season of magic and mystery close by, it is time for the the decorations to come out of the stores. We are always looking for new things, including old delicate glass baubles to make beguiling seasonal displays on board.

Baubles add merriment to any environment. These are pictured at the famous Leeds outdoor market, where Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer (a Skiptonian) started their humble penny bazaar stall in 1884.

Andrew and Chris

Those who don't believe in magic will never find it. 

The Minpins, Roald Dahl, 1991

29 November 2016

New aquisitions ~ ephemera

New and old familiar objects regularly find their way onto the houseboat. Books and pictures are particular favourites, although they easily add up, creating a great deal of clutter. Some objects are usually displayed on a rotation basis and the rest kept in storage ashore.

A spray and blackboard paint on card head portrait by upcoming Norwich based artist Liam Ashley Clark, purchased from a from a pop up gallery.


During the clearing of Royall's Yard, several objects were found in the dusty lofts, untouched for years. Amongst the treasures was a little pink booklet explaining tables for high and low tides each day on the Broadland rivers and sea ports. Published for the Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners in 1982, it is unusual for displaying the complete armorial bearings of the much admired, former maritime body. The Port and Haven Commissioners maintained the navigational waterways from 1670 until 1989. Acts of Parliament were granted to enable collection of tolls, principally from commercial vessels and the duties of Commissioners were overseen by a board of locally appointed wise counsel.

The crest above the shield shows a stately galleon in full sail. Anglo Saxon and Medieval graphics on the quarters, or sections of the main shield represent the main towns and counties connected with the rivers and harbours. Clockwise from top left: the Borough of Great Yarmouth, then the City of Norwich, the old Suffolk County arms, (from the Liberty of St Edmund, granted by Edward the Confessor) and the County Council arms of Norfolk, (lower part are the arms of Ralph (Ranulph) de Gael (de Guader), Earl of East Anglia).

Unusually, the motto is QUATUOR JUNCTA IN UNO ~ meaning literally, 'three joined as one'. The phrase dates from the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when England and Scotland were bonded by James I. It is also used by some army regiments and the Order of the Bath. Could the motto refer to the three primary rivers ~ Bure, Yare and Waveney, administered by individual Commissioners?

Noblesse Oblige was gifted to the houseboat collection this year. Published 60 years ago this month, it has contributions by Nancy Mitford, Evelyn Waugh and John Betjeman, amongst others.

Inevitably the world has changed tremendously since the cartoonish front cover was made in 1956. Yet, somehow the age old virtues of the multi layered aristocracy maintains stability, continuity and style in the country (albeit when working in a pragmatic fashion, for example the Devonshire family and Chatsworth Estate).


15 November 2016

Clean sweep

With winter drawing in, it is time again to service the chimney. This is a messy, though very necessary job, ensuring the pipes are not clogged up with soot.

On a trip to Stoke on Trent, it was good to see evidence of the earlier industrial pottery factories scattered around, including some bottle kiln chimneys. Several towns, like Longton make up the modern city and the local people are very friendly.

I felt much of Stoke had a rather sad aura of forlorn creative enterprise, similar to parts of the once bustling riverside of Hoveton ~ Wroxham and Broadland.

Most of the crockery supplied to Broadland boat letting companies, including the houseboat, was produced in the Midland Potteries.


4 November 2016

200 years of Leeds and Liverpool Canal life


The longest man made waterway in the UK, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was officially opened two centuries ago. 

After years of economic setbacks and hard toil by the navvies, who dug the canal, the waterway finally linked two great mercantile cities and the east to the west coast. One of the most serene stretches of the canal swathes through the ancient Craven and Pendle districts.

On a recent visit to Leeds in West Yorkshire ~ birthplace of literary giants Arthur Ransome, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Alan Bennett, we walked along part of the towpath. It was a pleasant surprise to see a number of fascinating craft, berthed along sections of wharves ~ many converted into residential vessels. There are well kept historic lifeboats, naval launches, cruisers, barges and narrow boats, all adding interest to visitors and local people.


24 October 2016

Hallowe'en Den

The Veranda space is festooned with spooky props for Hallowe'en, making macabre window scenes. At the Water Bird table, a selection of LED illuminating novelty ducklings and toys are for sale.

Friends of Heather are welcome to step on board, whilst she remains berthed at the dike, adjoining Hotel Wroxham. Please contact us to arrange a visit. A black board nearby will also indicate open days. 


King's Head Staithe, Hoveton, pictured from Wroxham public Parish Staithe