A warm, friendly Heather welcome

We are delighted to share Heather, an historic boat and home for over a century, laying on the Broadland Waterways of Norfolk.

It is our aim to preserve the distinctive character of Heather, enabling future generations to enjoy her charms. We welcome you to explore the houseboat and bountiful riverside beyond...

Andrew, Timothy and Christopher

12 August 2019

Hoisting the colours

The brand new house flag is hoisted above the fo'cscle on the houseboat. A striking greylag goose badge was drawn by respected local waterman, boat builder and artist Nigel Royall. The design represents elements of both the precious marine environment and armorial devices of constituent families partnered with Heather.

After much thought, the rather uncelebrated greylag (Latin name: Anser Anser) was chosen as the 'house' badge. The greylag goose is a very ancient breed of wildfowl, formerly venerated by Celtic tribes of Britain ~ and indeed civilisations across northern Eurasia for thousands of years.

Individual pennant flags were once customary around Broadland. The flags aren't purely decorative, they are highly useful in telling the wind direction. Most marine companies, including dozens of independent boat yards in Hoveton and Wroxham, each had specially designed motifs to distinguish their identity. These designs were often emblazoned on tapered triangular pennant flags, or burgees and notably displayed above boat sheds, on board craft, stationery and elsewhere.

Andrew, Tim

6 August 2019

Flight of the greylag geese

Over the last few days a large flock of greylag geese have flown in formation over Hoveton. The natural spectacle occurs from around 6.00 to 9.00am, heading up the Bure valley and returning down river at around 8.00 ~ 9.00pm. Sightings have also been made of the greylags flying over Sprowston at the break of day.

The geese make a distinctive honking call. In unison the yawping noise resembles a mashed up brass band ~ and is well worth looking out for.


4 August 2019

A sea of masts

A fleet of traditional sailing yachts made a wonderful sight in Hoveton. The yachts berthed above Wroxham Bridge along historic Horseshoes moorings, adjoining the King's Head Hotel. Up until the 1970s, masts on sail boats were a familiar sight around Hoveton and Wroxham, until motorised cruisers with more facilities took precedence. 

Discover more about the fascinating story of pleasure boating and Broadland's twin village gateway....


20 July 2019

Reaching for the cosmos

It is half a century since the successful landing of NASA's spacecraft Apollo 11 onto the moon. The peak of the house roof is lined with fairy lights to celebrate this seismic occasion in world scientific history and exploration.


18 July 2019

Around the rhond in Hoveton ~ in 1964

A series of wonderfully detailed archive photographs have come to light, showing the idyllic Hoveton riverside, below Wroxham Bridge, shortly before ~ bigger scale, more urban redevelopment took place. It was a time of major change. New piling technology meant larger, heavier buildings could replace the smaller, lightweight timber and metal structures. Glass reinforced plastic was beginning to feature in boat building at the yards ~ ultimately replacing most of the ancient hands on building skills used in the crafting of timber boats. As land management practices developed, once open green marshland, with rhond banks were enclosed with hard edged quay heading boards and planted areas were covered over.

The pictures were taken by Alan Bedwell, when on a family holiday as a boy in 1964.

Looking up river towards the bridge from Riverside Road.

Typical rural~industrial scene, looking across to Windboats, Wroxham from Riverside Road, Hoveton.

The fine rusticated villa Bure Court Hotel.

Looking toward Ralph English's house and Ted Burton's yard on the Rhond from Royall's boatyard on Riverside Road. The next property on the right of Ted's was owned by Jeckells.

The boat in the foreground is Chris Royall's Y81 WILLING BOYS, an ex Gorleston Four Oared Salvage Boat that was built around 1903 and purchased by Chris in 1946. His son Ernie converted her from a pulling~sailing boat to a motor launch in the Carrow Works Section boathouse, up Brandford Dyke at the back of the football pitch at Carrow.

WILLING BOYS was brought round to Hoveton from King Street, Norwich in 1961 and has remained here ever since.

Nigel, Chris

15 July 2019

Nothin' but a hound dog

Some lovely visitors from Sussex brought Lincoln, a magnificent Irish Wolf Hound to Hoveton's riverside. Fortunately, the wildfowl weren't too frightened by the noble Celtic hunting dog.

A number of drinking bowls for canine refreshment can be found around the village.

The dog has an enviable mind; it remembers the nice things in life and quickly blots out the nasty.

Barbara Woodhouse

12 July 2019

Riverside water bird food booth update

We are thankful to Ian at the King's Head Hotel for the recovery of the folding table from their grounds. I'm grateful to the local community and visitors for their kind words of support and offers of help by some residents to monitor the water bird booths.


7 July 2019

Sunnyside on the riverside

A sojourn in the sun ~ Hoveton and Wroxham are jointly blessed with plentiful public wooden board walks, grassed patches and gravelled areas to picnic. 

1 July 2019

Out of the murky depths...

A curious metal box, resembling a safe ~ used by bean counters and similar to one of the water bird food boxes, was laying in the muddied shallows of the old trading wherry dock at King's Staithe. When recovered, the mystery chest was found to be a small electric oven, with a few river snails (Viviparidae) attached ~ such is the fascinating range of aquatic life in Broadland.

A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.

Henrik Ibsen

22 June 2019

Through the goose's eye

Headshot of a greylag goose, drawn by Nigel Royall ~ segment of a universal identity planned for Heather and our affiliated projects.

Some animals are cunning and evil~disposed, as the fox; others, as the dog, are fierce, friendly and fawning. Some are gentle and easily tamed, as the elephant; some are susceptible of shame and watchful, as the goose. Some are jealous and fond of ornament, as the peacock.

Aristotle, 384BC ~ 322BC

Andrew N

19 June 2019

Liberty river

Water bird food is now available from the Liberty Restaurant, located up river of the bridge in Wroxham. The stylish striped, environmentally friendly bags are perfect to use on the quayside, to go on a boat cruise, or take home and feed wildfowl in your local park.


10 June 2019

A marked swan

An isolated mute swan with peculiar rubbed blackened markings on the head, neck and back was walking around on Granary Staithe. We are keeping an eye on the swan, if others could it would be much appreciated.

Chris, Andrew

8 June 2019

D Day landings

Andrew, Chris and Timothy went up to the nearby Royal Air Force Air Defence Radar Museum at Neatishead, near Horning for special commemorations of the 75th anniversary of epoch D Day ~ officially known as Operation Overlord in 1944. Amidst green fields of grain, encircled by barbed wire fences, a warren of subterranean and above ground rooms, one can find a bounty of technological wizardry and the poignant, including Douglas Bader's lucky bunny, along with USSR local maps.

Expert stewards ~ retired military professionals gave in~depth talks, laced with wonderful service humour. Stuart spoke of the pivotal role surveillance played during world war two and in the theatrically charged former operations room, John talked about the covert cold war and modern day monitoring of air space.

A fleet of authentic vehicles were parked up by the entrance and home made wartime fare, in the form of bite size spam fritters and rhubarb crumble and other delicacies were served in the 'canteen'.

We also flew the Union Pilot Jack (a time honoured emblem of freedom and fair trade around the world) on the declothed house roof to celebrate D Day and The Queen's birthday.


2 June 2019

Riverside Water Bird Booth disappearance

Our compact water bird food booth was taken from the corner of the public riverside at Hoveton St John on Saturday 1st June, between 11.00am and around 12.00pm. The cream tin box was locked by a security cable to the small table and shubbery. If anyone knows the whereabouts of the booth please let us know. 

A replacement booth is now in place and open certain days.

UPDATE: Thursday 13th June

The continued harassment has been reported to the Police and is being investigated.

It is disappointing to see further assumptions made about claiming of benefit and not paying tax. I believe this says much more about the people making such comments, than myself. 


30 April 2019

Black Horse Broad celebration day

Foul weather hindered some from joining the flotilla. However, as rain clouds cleared, compromise and good humoured commaraderie ~ with lashings of passion from participants won through.

The celebration day ~ albeit with serious moral undertones, was a contemporary salute to previous, often forgotten endeavours of rivermen and women to maintain navigable access in Broadland through the ages. The incredible feat of the 1949 liberation of Black Horse Broad was unusual, being spearheaded by champion Broadsman Herbert Woods and supported by a big public campaign.

Sincere thanks are offered to Hoveton Community Network, Broads Authority, Wroxham Hotel and individuals, including Alan Lee, Dereck Gibbs, Paul Sergent, Denise Bradley, Sue Hines, Jamie Campbell, the Sissons, Nigel Royall, Daniel Roe, Brian Wilkins, amongst others who kindly gave their time to be involved.

* Boating * Conservation * Cooperation *

Chris, Elizabeth

23 April 2019

Rush hours on the river

Writers have described the twin villages of Hoveton and Wroxham as a Mecca of Broadland. This reputation has lured many folk over the years, including Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons ~ who hired yachts and stayed unexpectedly at the King's Head Hotel during the 1930s. Ransome's timeless stories sketch a picture of a circus atmosphere around the riverside ~ some things never change. 

Life is rather like a tin of sardines ~ we're all of us looking for the key. Alan Bennett

15 April 2019

In the wake of the White Star Ship TITANIC on Broadland waters

Today in 1912, RMS TITANIC sunk in the icy depths of the Atlantic Ocean, while on her maiden voyage to America. There are a few connections to the local area and one of grandest, most in~famous ships to grace the seas.

Hoveton crime fiction writer and boat enthusiast Chris Crowther is involved in Norfolk's own Titanic Association and took part in the centenary commemorations of the fatal loss of the great ship.

Astonishingly, physical evidence did lay, until not so very long ago in an actual motorised work boat, previously based at Upton dyke, down the Bure. Local legend tells of this former lifeboat belonging to the doomed Titanic ~ said to be sole surviving lifeboat.

The double ended lifeboat was built from strong timber with clinker (overlapping) planks. Immediately after the RMS TITANIC disaster, the ships boats were gathered in New York harbour, only to disappear. It is said they were reutilised on board a sister ship, OLYMPIC amongst others.

Tellingly, on either side of the snout were a pair of painted bronze metal pennant badges ~ with the five pointed white star emblem of the shipping line (to whom TITANIC belonged). The loss of this important historic vessel in very recent times, is not only a sad blow to the maritime world, but also Broadland ~ an area supposedly managed with strict conservation controls. It isn't feasible to save everything for prosterity, although a simple record could have been made of the boat. The true story behind this boat and location of the surviving White Star pennant badges from her bows, remains an intriguing mystery.

Over time, many ship's lifeboats and other utility craft have been repurposed on the sheltered Broads waterways ~ giving these working boats a new lease of life in old age. During Heather's time at Turner's Boatyard in Horning, a tall tale grew between boat builders that the hull was originally one such lifeboat. In the late 1980s John Royall Esq dispelled this theory, when he found the hull of the houseboat couldn't have been built with high sides, unlike typical lifeboat construction.

Curiously, the star on a red swallow tail pennant (used by the the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, better known as the White Star Line), plus badges of similar thrusting Victorian shipping line companies ~ may have inspired pioneer Broadland yachting founders like the great John Loynes (who died 80 years ago) and later Herbert Woods to create their own star badges. The distinctive designs were an earlier form of eye catching branding.

Picture detail: C 1978, Wherry Maud Trust.

Loynes pennant by Matthew Nicholson

© Copyright

Timothy, Andrew, John 

11 April 2019

New brood on the block

Possibly the first brood of ducklings, seen on the Hoveton riverside this season, amidst the hubub of casual human business by the free moorings. Hopefully they will survive to maturity.


31 March 2019

Celebrating Black Horse Broad in Hoveton

Pencil drawing by Nigel Royall, who descends from a long line of Broadland wherry and keelmen.

Please join us in Hoveton for the rescheduled celebration of Black Horse Broad on Sunday 28th April. A symbolic flotilla of boats are going to the broad, embarking at 11.00am. Anybody can join in their personal, or rental boats (available from Broadland boat companies). At Wroxham Hotel from 1.00pm, an exhibition will show rediscovered information and maritime music performed on the riverside terrace.

Over 2019, Heather is involved in celebrating the liberation of Black Horse Broad, a rather hidden water space on the fringe of the village. The quirky story of the broad reopening is not only important in its own right, but also for the holistic concept of conservation and liberties on waterways near and far. In 1949, the country was drained following world war 2. However, an era of austerity didn't deter a group of watermen, boat owners and others from rallying behind Herbert Woods and placing principles before profit.

Many more broads ~ linked directly to the main rivers, had been free for navigable passage when blackened sail trading boats dominated the skyline. After commerce shifted to rails and roads, some ungenerous riparian landowners tried to reclaim waters for their exclusive use. In the face of threatened closures, some stalwart Broadsmen like in the 1890s when Charlie Gibbs sat tight on his houseboat ~ laying on the middle of Surlingham Broad and prevented the landowner from terminating access. Similarly, Salhouse Broad was very nearly closed off. Thankfully, later post~war conservationists ensured Black Horse Broad was repatriated for everyone.

Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood.

From Lady Clara Vere de Vere, Alfred Tennyson, 1842
Also adapted as the title for the 1949 Ealing Studios film Kind Hearts and Coronets.

With grateful thanks to Broadsman and Master Mariner Dereck Gibbs of Ludham and Fyfe Robertson, author of the Picture Post magazine article, 26 March 1949.


28 March 2019

This week I'ave mainly been eating... tinned peaches

While having a spring clean moving things around, we accidentally kicked a can of peaches into the river by Granary Staithe. The new craze for magnet fishing has been taken up with enthusiasm by Hoveton villager John. After the hunt for the elusive tin was nearly given up, John grabbed the tin with his strong magnet.


18 March 2019

Away all boats!

This years early resplendent sunshine heralded the start of the boating season. Many people came out to bask on Hoveton's lengthy riverside front. Even the alternate climes of pelting hail, or rain, high winds and bitter cold doesn't spoil the joy of being near the water for some souls.

Whatever the weather, boats around the scattered Broadland boat yards are being made ready for launching. The houseboat and her attendant boats are also being overhauled, with many small jobs adding up to make one mountainous job.

The most curious occurrences can be seen on the river, even at this early juncture of the year. You might even see some 21st century wherry trading ~ Royall's historic Motor Boat WILLING BOYS, transporting some racking for Heather's stores.


13 March 2019

Hoveton Little Broad Liberation at 70

Everyone is welcome to a celebration of Broadland boating, conservation, and cooperation.

⚠ UPDATE: Severe winds and cold have prevented us from undertaking the flotilla, due to safety concerns. This will be postponed until Easter. 
However, there will be a display of information about the 1949 Liberation of Black Horse Broad inside the Wroxham Hotel tomorrow, as arranged.

At around 11.00am on Sunday 17th March, a flotilla of boats will embark from around iconic Wroxham Bridge and other ports of Broadland to voyage to the entrance of Hoveton Little Broad (Black Horse Broad) near Horning.

Some boats will return to Hoveton & Wroxham at around 12.30pm, with a reception for flotilla participants at Wroxham Hotel, Hoveton.

Display of archive images, and information about the 1949 reopening of Hoveton Little Broad at Wroxham Hotel.

Alan Lee, grandson of Herbert Woods will be guest of honour.

The flotilla is physically commemorating the 70th anniversary of the successful removal of a barricade across the river entrance of the broad, led by superlative boat builder Herbert Woods. The liberation of the broad reopened public access, which had been wholly closed to navigation since the 1890s by the landowner.

Join the flotilla with a boat (please contact us to book your place), visit the archival display and see the boats as they set off from the quays near the bridge, Granary Staithe and Wroxham Hotel.

For further information, please telephone Chris 07760 159321, or email

Location Postcode: NR12 8AJ


20 February 2019

Sparky of the River

One summer evening in 2017, a young mute swan flew into the overhead power cables crossing the river between Hoveton and Wroxham. Wounded and dazed from the high voltage electrical shock, he flew into the railway bridge, before dropping down onto the river.

Boatman Russell tried to rescue the swan, but the bird alluded aid and healed over time. Dubbed Sparky by water folk, he can be seen milling around the bridge, with a distinctive fork shaped bill formed when the unlucky creature struck the cable.


6 February 2019

Water wellbeing

In modern society, stress and anxiety pervade all facets of our daily lives. Whilst we must remain grateful for the benefits which technology bestow upon us, it is regrettably one of the main sources of mental health disorder. With at least 1 in 4 individuals living with a mental health disorder at present, this is a widespread and growing issue. Though the concept of the pressures of late modern society having a negative impact on wellbeing is nothing new; it is important that we regularly examine ways in which we can develop resilience and further promote our current level of mental wellbeing.

Through extensive research from the Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project, the New Economics Foundation established 5 key elements that form a cohesive strategy through which individuals can improve their mental wellbeing. These five ways to wellbeing are: connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give (Foresight, 2008). From my occupational therapy perspective and own experience, the riverside naturally lends itself to the five ways. The sociable atmosphere of the Broads localities provides an array of opportunities to connect with unique individuals in order to develop one’s social networks. Naturally, the river is the perfect place for rowing, however, it is important not to ignore this opportunity for physical activity which itself has been linked to an improved sense of health and wellbeing.

‘Take notice’ is arguably a personal favourite of the five ways to wellbeing as it fits so perfectly with mindfulness - a concept which is now ubiquitous in mental health promotion. The idea behind mindfulness is to develop a greater sense of awareness of the present moment whilst acknowledging our many thoughts in a non-judgemental way, just letting things be as they are. Whilst many formal mindfulness techniques exist, take notice reduces mindfulness down to focussing on an element of one’s surroundings in order to provide a grounding influence during times of stress and apprehension. The waterside is ideal for mindfulness due to the rich sensory experience it provides. Be that the sight of verdant banks and rippling river, or perhaps the sounds of local wildlife, or even the smell of wild fauna.

The riverside presents multiple opportunities to learn something new, be that the development of a new hobby such as fishing or rowing. Likewise, we can continue to learn in ways outside the convention of gaining new knowledge. You could set out to discover a new part of the river you have never explored before. The concept of ‘give’ can be interpreted in multiple ways. This could be giving your time to a local organisation by volunteering, your company to a friend, or a gift for a new friend – the riverside provides opportunities for all.

I hope from this you have a greater understanding of how beneficial the waterside can be for our mental wellbeing in modern society. The five ways to wellbeing provide a quick overview of the what this natural environment can begin to offer us in trying and tumultuous times. Perhaps take the time to explore your local riverside and challenge yourself to achieve one of the five ways discussed earlier and experience a renewed sense of wellbeing.

Lewis S – Occupational Therapy Student
Copyright ©

Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project (2008). Final Project report – Executive summary. London: The Government Office for Science.

30 January 2019

The silver sound of humming bees ~ Michel Legrand and the sublime music for The Go~Between

Michel Legrand, who sadly died at the weekend was composer of the hauntingly beautiful baroque music for the Norfolk based film The Go~Between. Master playwright Harold Pinter adapted LP Hartley's novel for the film, while Michel Legrand's piano and string music laced the story together. Later, Legrand made part of his score into a single 'I still see you', with lyrics sung by Scott Walker.

The Go~Between was filmed almost entirely on location over summer 1970, principally at the sumptuous Melton Constable Hall and Park ~ where rises the source of River Bure. Scenes were also shot at Norwich, where the Tombland horse market was faithfully recreated and wild, reed fringed Hickling Broad hosted a swimming party.

Some claim the Go~Between as the quintessential movie of Norfolk. The relatively unchanged pastoral landscape of North Norfolk and the Restoration era house plays centre stage to a tumultuous story of innocence, hierarchy and secret love. Actors Margaret Leighton, Michael Gough, Julie Christie, Roger Lloyd Pack, Alan Bates and Edward Fox wore authentic period clothing, bringing a genuine edge to the romantic drama. The film's Royal premiere in Norwich was attended by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Today, The Go~Between continues to weave it's magic and draws new admirers to the delights of Norfolk.

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

The Go~Between, LP Hartley, 1953


26 January 2019

Wholesome food for water birds ~ through the seasons

In light of recent public notices and statements made at meetings, we would like to clarify the points below:~

Our riverside booths do not sell bread, or other starchy food. The recyclable bags contain a blend of nutritional grains and pellets, complying with guidelines for feeding waterfowl from DEFRA and leading conservation organisations, including the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, RSPB and the Swan Sanctuary.

For further in depth information about water bird food, please contact us directly, either in person, by telephone, email, or alternatively via social media.


5 January 2019

Looking ahead

2018 was a very eventful year for Heather. During 2019, we plan make big improvements in the diminutive cabin, including overhauling services, redecoration and lifting the boat out of the water for maintenance works. Meanwhile, the commercial shop booths will be developed and plans for a community~charitable organisation to safeguard Heather for the future should come to fruition.

We look forward to greeting friends and welcoming visitors (the two being interchangeable) to Heather, Hoveton and Wroxham and the inter~connecting waterways over the 2019 season.


19 December 2018

Christmas cheer

As well as water bird food, the booth by Wroxham bridge has fairly priced Christmas holly for decorating around the home and much more. Longer boughs and sprigs of holly are available. Plus, see the fun festive rubber ducklings and light up baubles.

This year will be the ninetieth Christmas for Heather as a pleasure houseboat. We extend our best wishes to everyone for Christmas and the new year ahead.

Andrew, Chris and Timothy

17 December 2018

Decanted waterways

On Sunday an extremely unusual big drop in the tide made the rivers strikingly low. Old Brundall creek, forking off the Norwich River Yare, turned into a tiny trickling stream lined with thick potent smelling mud. Many boats berthed along the banks leaned over dramatically, or were suspended awkwardly by tight mooring lines.


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