A warm, friendly Heather welcome

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

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

Andrew, Timothy and Christopher

25 January 2018

Fresh look for the water bird booths

The water bird boxes have been given an early spring clean and brightened up with gay ivory paint. Cream is one of the historic houseboat livery colours, used from the late Georgian (1920s-1940s) period.

The silvered tin box above, has an interesting story. It was likely abandoned by some children in the scrub, beside the dike at Granary Staithe, on the Hoveton waterfront. On the rusting lid was a hand written legend 'Please help keep our local birds healthy' with a drawing of a duckling. We have followed in the wake of the youngsters imaginative lead!

This year we hope to extend our range of gifts and other individual items available to visitors. The proceeds of these enterprises directly helps maintain the houseboat and her collection on the waterways.

Houseboat partner

1 January 2018

Flight for freedom from Africa

Lesotho Airways plane and government Landrover in a mountain village
The story of Pam and Jim Moffatt, Chris's grandparents, welcoming and hosting Donald and Wendy Woods and their family in Lesotho upon their fleeing from South Africa in 1977 is referred to in the book and the film Cry Freedom.

Jim's wallet and neck tie showing the native head dress, the Basotho 'mokorotlo', emblem of Lesotho

Jim held the post of Acting High Commissioner in Lesotho when the family arrived, and had done for some time. He was an extremely able and affable fellow, and enjoyed a very good working and personal relationship with many of the Lesotho government.

Thatched rondaval houses in the mountains

Times were bad then. Apartheid was still the strong ideology of South Africa with those in power paranoid that the non-whites might have any say in the running of the country. In the 1950s, basic rights were taken from black people, as the National Party enforced racial segregation. Black people were isolated in townships and needed permits to move around for work. There were still separate modes of entry into shops, labelled Black and White. The beaches in Durban were separated according to race: Blacks, Whites, Coloureds. Hotels were used by Whites and serviced by Blacks.

Steve Biko was born in the Natal area of South Africa and whilst at the University of Natal studying medicine became disillusioned with the National Union of South African Students, mainly because a of the presence of paternalistic white liberals. He was instrumental in setting up the South African Students' Organisation which had a Black-only membership, although it certainly wasn't anti-White. It was within this context that Black Conciousness developed, an ideology aimed at destroying any idea of racial inferiority amongst Black people.

As a result of his activities to promote Black Conciousness, the South African government issued Biko with a banning order and placed him under house arrest. During this time he was frequently arrested and on the occasion of his arrest in 1977 he was so seriously injured by the police that he died.

Donald Woods, editor of the Daily Dispatch in East London, had gradually become enlightened as to the real aims of Black Conciousness and had become close to Steve Biko. Perhaps regarded as a White liberal at this point, Donald Woods began writing about the Steve Biko and the Black Conciousness ideology. This did not sit well with the Afrikaner-led government which eventually took the decision to put Donald Woods under house arrest, which also entailed stripping him of his position of editor and limiting meetings with those he needed to meet in order to proceed with his work as a journalist.

When it was intimated to him that his situation of house arrest was extremely unlikely to change, and coupled with occasional events creating danger to his family, Donald took the decision that the only way out for him and his family was to flee the country.

Mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho from on high

House arrest meant what it says: no movement and especially no movement out of the country. So plans were laid for an elaborate escape plan which he enacted on New Year's Eve 1977. The story is that he dressed up as a priest as he eventually neared the border to Lesotho and that he swam across the river at Maseru – although I'm not so sure as to the truth of the story of crossing the river in that way.

Jim and Pam

On arrival in Maseru he requested to be taken to the British High Commission, where he was greeted by Jim Moffatt. The book and the film portray him as a crusty old-style Foreign Office type, which was far from the truth, but then again his character was less than secondary to the story of Steve Biko, far more important in the story. Jim Moffatt offered hospitality at the Moffatt home, and subsequently hosted the rest of the family who arrived within days: Wendy, Donald's wife, the four children and Wendy's brother.

Jim then handled all the diplomatic dealings with the British government and the US government, and organised for a small plane to fly the whole family to Botswana, quite an delicate journey since Lesotho is an enclave within South Africa, so the plane had to fly over South Africa in order to get to Botswana. From there the family flew to London to start a new life, although they continued their close interest in spreading information about Black Conciousness and the terrible circumstances of death of Steve Biko at 30 years old.

While the family was in Maseru, the international press visited Pam and Jim Moffatt's residence where interviews were held, and film of the family leaving the country escorted by Jim Moffatt appeared on news programmes in the UK at the time.

Jim Moffatt was awarded an OBE in 1978 but died suddenly on 29 January 1979 while still in Lesotho. His funeral was attended by a large congregation included friends and colleagues from the Lesotho government.

The Woods family kept in touch with Pam Moffatt when she returned to the UK in 1979 and she was with the family at the opening of the film Cry Freedom (directly by Richard Attenborough) in 1987, in the company of many political figures with anti-apartheid views

Lesotho horsemen, wearing native Basotho blankets

Liz Moffatt

Lesotho pictures: Alec Moffatt, January 1979

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is in the mind of the oppressed.

Bantu Stephen Biko

18 December 2017

Chilly waterfront

Outwardly, the riverside in winter looks the picture of calmness, apart from the occasional fishing dinghy motoring along. Serene mute swans glide by the icy quays, through the quaintly layered bridge of beautifully appointed stone, brick and more incongruous metal girders; up river to wilder, wooded reaches.

Regular feeding of birds by visitors, particularly during spring and summer, have made them quite tame and dependent on us. Although it is in the harsher winter months, when human interaction is scarcer, that wildlife really need sustenance.

Fruit, vegetables like peas and salad are very appetising for both water and garden birds and make a healthy alternative to stodgy and starchy bread. Alternatively, natural grain can be purchased at various outlets around the riverside quarter of Hoveton.

A fallen apple, leftover from a large old tree provided a hearty breakfast for a blackbird. The bird carefully carved out the base of the apple, leaving the core and making an artistic bowl of sorts.


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

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