spring on the riverside

Welcome, Ahoy

Heather is a traditional yet quirky houseboat, laying on the Broads Waterways of Norfolk and Suffolk. Maintained by two friends, she has been home to artists, holiday visitors and mariners for generations.

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

Christopher, Andrew

Christopher, Andrew

Public Staithes

Public Staithes

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. 


4 September 2016

To the point

Follow these stylised duck plaques or silhouettes around Hoveton and Wroxham’s waterside area. They lead to several Water Bird Food points, located at several individual places around the village; including shops, boatyards and The Hotel Wroxham. Most of the outlets operate throughout the year and they have kindly agreed to our advertising.

During winter, water and garden birds are especially in need of extra food. The income raised from the water bird food, supports local people and helps towards the maintenance costs of the Houseboat.


26 August 2016

Remaking an entrance


Improvements and restoration of the houseboat facilities continues, time permitting. Relatively dry periods are especially helpful for maintaining wooden craft. In July, Heather was pulled round to Royall’s undercover wet boat shed (a scarce commodity in modern local boat yards) to carry out repairs on the main doorway and sliding roof hatch. Located on the port side, it is the principal entrance and leads into the vestibule, or lobby, where coats and hats are hung. This small space links the front and back end (fore and after part) of the houseboat.

Paul, the stoical assistant at Royall’s, who marked thirty years of service at the boatyard this autumn, removed the worn framework and makeshift threshold. With some thought, Paul redesigned the setting of the door, building a new frame, a threshold that slopes outboard and made new hardwood trim around the hatch.

The chunky, though diminutive door (shades of Alive in Wonderland) had been ill fitting for several years and much of the hastily made 1950’s woodwork was decayed. It is believed to have been cut out of the 1920’s solid cabin side, which may have had a fixed plate glass window, adding symmetry to the three window arrangement on either side of the central cabin house. The horizontal teak timbers of the door are believed to be mostly composed of recycled timber from the original Dutch flushed deck lighter ~ the utilitarian vessel conceived around a century ago. Some of the grey painted timber is visible inside the door, pictured above.

Curiously, an old brass rim lock is sandwiched inside the carcass of the door. This was removed and cleaned and new keys were cut. A simple, small steel spring inside the lock was duly replaced, enabling the catch to work; meaning the door can close properly for the first time in decades. 

A new step into the vestibule is now being finished. Sitting on this and laying against the saloon bulkhead (nautical speak for wall) will be a detachable ladder. The ladder is handcrafted from spare oak and mahogany timber by retired Sprowston engineer and joiner, Graham. This should enable direct access to the roof and also provides a handle for visitors, when boarding the houseboat.

Chris, Paul

The simple and pure world of Swallows and Amazons

Arthur Ransome’s first story of a group of children exploring the countryside, camping and using boats, has been newly dramatised in a BBC film set in Yorkshire, in the Worth Valley and the Lake District. In an often hurried world, it is pleasant to make the most of the simple joys of outdoor life, where both young and old sail, make camp and ramble around. The adventure stories are a springboard for children’s imagination and provide everlasting memories.

Joining in the spirit of summer holidays and the new film, we have hung cloth bunting along the fence and inside the cabin, are placed authentic items, such as pipe cleaners and feathers in jars and elephants ornaments ~ reflecting the inventory of Captain Flint’s (co~incidentally Mr Turner’s) houseboat, a central feature of the stories.


18 August 2016

What is conservation in Broadland?

According to the dictionary, conservation is defined as:

"The action of conserving something, in particular: 1.2 Preservation and repair of archaeological, historical, and cultural sites and artefacts".

How can we apply this definition to the recent changes at the Bridge Restaurant, formerly historic boat sheds, beside Tudor Wroxham Bridge.
8th August
9th August

Surely conservation does not equate to demolition, or is there a fine line?

David, Chris

6 August 2016

Green oasis

To help enliven the houseboat mooring, a pair of green striped planters have been placed on the boardwalk, filled with bright geraniums, strawberries and Cupressus Goldcrest conifers.  

Some wild native plants, included yellow irises and sedge (used on the top ridges of thatched buildings) have also been added around the adjoining soggy patch of grass and dike, leading up to the historic Press ~ Royall's boat shed. It is hoped this will help recreate some of the natural marshland, originally occupying wide stretches of the local riverside, before the area was redeveloped in the early 1900s

These improvements would not have been possible without the kind sponsorship of the variegated plants, including solar powered led fairy lights by award winning gardener, David Morse.


22 June 2016

Take a Punt


An indigenous, natural grey liveried punt ~ the Norfolk equivalent of a Venetian gondola is the newest addition to Heather’s motley fleet. 

Curiously named AHP ~ the letters of Arthur H Patterson, supreme naturalist and Broadsman. The punt is a multi~purpose vessel, powered by oars, paddles, quant ~ punt pole, or even by a small sail. Alternatively, an angled bracket can be attached for an outboard motor engine.

AHP was built by Royalls, based on a 1880 drawing of a Breydon wild fowling punt by Richard Fielding Harmer, a Great Yarmouth solicitor. It is double ended, unlike the rectangular, varnished pleasure punts of 'Oxbridge' fame. The traditional punt is the forerunner to the highly technical racing punts that usually sail on Barton Broad and today are one of the fastest sailing craft in the world.  AHP is used today for light duties, carrying goods and people around.

30 April 2016

Water bird food and novelties

A small selection of water bird themed novelties, including warbling bird whistles are now available to buy at the bird food stand on Riverside Road, Hoveton St John.

Bags of natural bird food will also be available this season at Hotel Wroxham, the distinctive post modern riverside hotel on the Bure.


For further information, please contact us.


21 April 2016

Flags flying aloft in celebration of the Elizabethan eras

The Red Ensign flutters aloft on the houseboat roof, alongside Royall’s crown pennant and the golden gated vane of the Pleasure Wherry SOLACE, for the occasion of Her Majesty The Queen's birthday and the anniversaries of the Bard, William Shakespeare ~ thus linking the reigns of two Elizabeths. 

It is a time tinged with great sadness, not least because of the death of Victoria Wood, beloved comic writer ~ performer and one time resident of Craven in Yorkshire.

HAMLET, Prince of Denmarke: A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a King, and cat(ch) of the fish that hath fed of that worm. 

William Shakespeare

17 February 2016

Eternal Amerdale ~ Littondale

We made a visit to the isolated village of Arncliffe, situated in ancient Amerdale (latterly called Littondale), amidst the intense rugged beauty of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Overlooking the village green is the ‘The Falcon Inn,’ where we stopped for lunch, to celebrate Tracy William's birthday. The Falcon retains much of its character, even the serving of beer from a jug, through one of three wooden hatches.

In the early 1970s, the charms of Arncliffe, coupled with the unspoilt scenery and solid farming community; made the village an ideal setting for a fledging Yorkshire Television drama serial ‘Emmerdale Farm.’ Kevin Laffen, the creator and first writer wished to bring an authentic portrayal of farming and rural life to the wider public. It was one of the first drama productions in Britain to film outdoor sequences in the countryside.

Whilst at the Falcon ~ (the first fictional Woolpack of Beckindale village in the television series), we envisaged the gentle and funny antics of joint landlords, Amos Brearly and Henry Wilks (Ronald Magill, Arthur Pentelow.) Only a few years later, filming moved to a location nearer to Leeds.  

Before leaving the village, we visited St Oswald’s Parish Church, also featuring in the original Emmerdale serial. Inside, a marble tablet is dedicated to the men from Littondale who served in the First World War. Amongst the names is Private James Simpson, Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment); a great grandfather. The Simpson family lived in a cottage beside the attractive, yet curiously styled River Skirface, which runs along the northern side of the village.