A warm, friendly Heather welcome

We are delighted to share Heather, an historic boat, artistic refuge and home for over a century, laying on the ancient Broads 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

13 November 2018

Everything stops for tea

A tea pot cosy in the form of a cute duckling, complete with cap and scarf has been knitted by Carol. This is very handy to keep the tea hot in the chilly fo's'cle, during colder times of the year.


11 November 2018

Shadows of the fallen ~ World War One centenary

It is a full century since the Armistice of the Great War. This shattering conflict saw combined battle on the land, water and air for the first time. The rivers and broads were a water highway on the doorstep of the war zone, opposite the neutral Netherlands. Boat companies and other industries turned from building pleasure craft to war work. The stories of this mostly land based Merchant Navy working in the background, remain a vast lost legacy.

It is poignant to think of the original incarnation of Heather (basically the lower ivory hull), as a service lighter around the time of the Great War (1914 ~ 1918). The boat was used by military personnel, presumably in a Dutch harbour environment. There are theories that she was purely a maintenance boat, utilised as a platform for painting the sides of ships; or, alternatively a supply vessel moving goods and armouries between ship and shore.

As a commemoration of the conclusion of the first world war, a pair of Great War Tommy soldier outlined in silhouettes, are placed either side of the bridge. These were funded and installed by the community minded Wroxham and Hoveton Lions.


3 November 2018

Wheels in motion

This leaf spring hand cart was found near Southend in Essex. It will be used to lug sacks of grain, as well as other stock and boat gear, including luggage, or dunnage in maritime speak.

Hand wheeled carts were once synonymous with Hoveton and Wroxham and ports and waterways in general. Business wherries often had oaken wheelbarrows and provisions carts were a common sight on the highways and byways.

In 1878 pleasure boating pioneer John Loynes brought a small open boat from his original boat station at Elm Hill in Norwich to Hoveton and Wroxham, so beginning the large scale boat letting industry in Broadland. Barrows were used around the numerous boat yards and children earned pocket money carrying luggage of holiday visitors between the railway station and riverside quays.

All kinds of carts are still used extensively in other parts of world, like Asia. Behind the scenes in Venice, trollies trundle routinely along the passages of the city, transporting all manner of essential things.


31 October 2018

Eerie riverbank

Look out for creepy scenes at the houseboat by the old hump backed Wroxham bridge and the marshy hinterland beyond. Its the time of the year for mysterious celebrations of Hallowe'en and the Mexican Day of the Dead festival.

Andrew Nicholson

6 October 2018


Motor Launch AQUILA conveyed Carol Gordon of Sydney, Australia up stream to Coltishall and Horstead, where her family originate. Carol is the daughter of Graham Bunn, master craftsman and intrepid founder of Windboats of Wroxham.

AQUILA has a new look, after we removed the squat forward cabin, which had limited headroom. She is a Seafairer designed along naval lines and built by Smallcraft of Portsmouth during the 1970s.


22 September 2018

Water bird food branding competition

We are seeking original designs of a pair of water birds, for example a swan and coot. The winning artwork, judged by an independent panel will be used on colourful banners for boats and eventually reproduced on stamps, badges and other products.

Please send your entries (ideally scanned electronically) and the winner will receive a hamper of gifts.

Email us at houseboat-heather@live.co.uk, or contact us via Facebook or Twitter.

Andrew Nicholson

21 September 2018

Riddles of the den ~ Holden Gate

While on the hunt for products for our fledgling enterprises, I paid a visit to Riddlesden, near Keighley in West Yorkshire.

From high up on Rombalds Moor, t'other side of the famed Ikley Moor, Keighley is seen below, carpeting the trough of Airedale, with clusters of commercial buildings, glistening in the sunshine. To the west rises the adjoining Worth Valley, towards the wild fabled moorland of 'Wuthering Heights', on the far horizon.

During the early nineteenth century, the compact, but blossoming industrial town was a stomping ground of the creative Brontë family (the Irish Reverend Patrick Brunty changed the name to Brontë, after Lord Horatio Nelson's title). One of the first ever industrialised cotton mills, originally powered by water was established in Keighley in 1779. The speedy mechanisation of cloth manufacturing and imposed factory conditions were met with stern disapproval by some hand loom weavers. Around 1812, a band of 'Luddites' organised violent rebellions and the armed militia had to be called out to protect mill owner's property.

Riddlesden, in contrast is a sleepy place of old weavers cottages, Victorian villas and later houses. It is a rambling village is built along steep climbing roads with quaint sounding names, surrounded by gardens of scented roses and mature trees. The community is subtlety divided by several wooded gorges with trickling rocky becks, or streams tumbling down from the craggy moor.

We lived for a time at Holden Gate Farm on the lofty edge of Rombalds Moor. The name derives from Norse words meaning a stronghold, or hollow on the street. Holden Gate was home of the wonderful gentleman Dalesman Leonard Robinson, who celebrated his ninetieth birthday in June. The farm is a typical solid West Riding design, entirely built with locally quarried stone and is principally a dairy farm, in place of sheep.

During the economic transitions of the 1970s and 80s, an innovative spirit took hold at Holden Gate, as traditional rural business adapted. My parents, Diane and Alec started selling curios and pottery ~ including lots of teapots from Stoke on Trent, then toys; setting up a stall in various town markets around the Yorkshire and Lancashire Pennines.

Meanwhile, Leonard and a North American lady, Emily sourced large quantities of antique furniture and pottery to ship to the United States for sale. This influence, coupled with the variety of nearby auction houses and curiosity shops, encouraged us as kids to find objects, such as old glass bottles and shellac gramophone records to either keep, or sell on, latterly at Skipton Antiques and Collectors Centre.


20 September 2018

Riverside Picnic

Join us for a friends of Heather teddy bear themed evening barbeque picnic on the Hoveton riverside, near Station road, on Saturday 29th September from 5.00pm.  Please reply if you wish to come along and have any special dietary requirements. Teddy bears welcome.

Houseboat crew

19 September 2018

Art in nature on the waterside

When you take time to look closer around the rivers and backwaters of Broadland ~ and indeed anywhere, wildlife can present stunning sights.

One of the pictures shows a majestic local heron, or 'harnser' in Norfolk tongue, putting his head above the paraphet ~ beside a beautiful colourful planter on the Wroxham Hotel decking.

Diane Moffatt

The most effective way to save the threatened and decimated natural world, is to cause people to fall in love with it again, with its beauty and its reality.

Sir Peter Scott

1 September 2018

Gifts by the River Bure

Browse a personally selected range of items at the shop truck this summer and autumn. Opening most weekends and certain week days, or by arrangement ~ there are collectable picture postcards by Charles Stenner, candle lanterns, life like bouncing toy eggs and hand crafted letter openers made from locally sourced wood.

Fashion accessories include Lucy Walker's luxury Bertie brand bow ties and handkerchiefs, made from Liberty silk. Plus, a collection of jewellery, handy bags, scarves and hats ~ all found on the starboard, right hand side of the truck.

The port side offers a number of playful gifts for pocket money, including wind up power boats, fishing ~ dipping nets, animal toys, Broadland slime barricoes (barrels), twig pencils (for small or large hands), tuneful whistles, games and much more.

By purchasing from the truck you will be helping secure the future of Heather. Launched during the 1900s as a flat decked military lighter in the Netherlands, she was remodelled into a pleasure houseboat by a gentleman artist in 1928. Heather is a UK registered historic small boat number 1440. Our shared ethos in keeping Heather is to endeavour to be ~ fair, individual, friendly and independent.

We welcome your ideas, comments and suggestions. Please find the little book suspended inside the truck body.


27 August 2018

Saving and sharing Heather for the future

Heather is a very rare surviving example of houseboat design and construction. Berthed close to Wroxham bridge, she brings a unique identity to the Hoveton waterfront. In an effort to support the upkeep of the boat, proper natural water bird food is sold. Local people and visitors love nothing more than feeding the swans, while soaking up the historical atmosphere of the houseboat and quay side.

We are now in the process of formally transforming Heather into a charity. The aim of this trust is to preserve and restore the houseboat comprehensively and positively increase public use and accessibility on board.


22 June 2018

Creatures great and small

A cheeky dog otter, who regularly visits the dike, snuck onto the AHP punt to feast on a large fish he'd caught. Otters were at one time endangered in the British Isles, but their population has soared over recent years. However, the mammals cute image betrays their natural ruthless nature.

Pictures courtesy of Oh Crumbs, Hoveton and Wroxham.


"If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

Alf White

16 June 2018

One of our ducklings is missing and the lantern vanishes!

Sometime before Monday 4th of June, at Granary Staithe and Wroxham Hotel, the big yellow duckling, a cheerful promotional aid for the water bird food booths, disappeared from the forward end of the houseboat roof.

A silvered Persian style lantern, with a wonky hinge ~ used as a token all round navigation light, also mysteriously vanished from the front recess of the punt deck.

Please contact us if you know of the whereabouts of these.

Andrew N

1 June 2018

Painting the wagon.... and the town

The sides of the wheeled truck body have been painted a neutral green, so as to blend into the leafy riverside setting. While, inside is fitted out with rustic boxes and baskets brimming with fun and thoughtful gifts and accessories.

Launching of the truck marks completion of the very first stage of ambitious plans to safeguard Heather and her associated collection for future generations. Proceeds from the truck and popular open air water bird food booths directly helps fund restoration and operational costs.

We are deeply indebted to the following ~ Jason, Christine, Andrew, David, Robert, Cheryl, Chris, Russell, Sue, Kelvin, Wendy, Angie, Will, Nigel, Sara, Kerry, Steve, Tina, Lewis, Carolyn, Matthew, Peter, Alex and members of the Royal Mail Vehicle Collectors Club. We would also like to thank friends of Heather, who have supported this project.

Advance, Britannia (and the world)!

From WS Churchill


29 May 2018

Merry making on the riverside

The Royal Stuart banner is run up the mast of AHP Punt for Oak Apple Day ~ once celebrated widely and akin to May Day and Christmas. The event marks the restoration of the constitutional monarchy with Charles The Second in 1660. Garlands of oak sprigs were strung up and pageants were held.

During the fabled modern 'Merry Monarch's' transformative reign, Parliamentary legislation was passed for proper governance of the urban harbours and later, rivers; leading to foundation of the Great Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners. The Commissioners successfully managed the navigational aspects of Broadland, right up until 1989. King Charles is also recognised as launching the sport of pleasure yachting in the UK, via the Dutch, who gifted him his first yacht HMY MARY.

The arts, science and beauty in all spheres of life were nurtured by Charles. Commerce was advanced and the General Post Office, revolutionised mass communication. It is believed the scarlet and gold livery of the Royal Mail stems from the Royal Stuart heraldic colours.

An early conservation project achieved by Charles, beloved by one and all, was the opening up of the Park of St James, a little beyond the old rambling Palace of Whitehall and seat of Government. The King organised for the edge of the overgrown hunting park to be dug up by unemployed soldiers, creating lakes teeming with exotic and rare waterfowl, including little ducks, which Charles loved feeding himself.


If we are understood, more words are unnecessary; if we are not likely to be understood, they are useless.

Charles II

11 May 2018


We visited the Black Country around Birmingham to pay our respects to David Simpson, who sadly died recently. David, or Dave was a well known and beloved gentleman who cruised the Broadland rivers of East Norfolk, following retirement. 

A network of thriving, but laid back canals criss cross the Black Country. Outside of Dudley, just next door to the famous Black Country Museum we came upon a marvelous attraction and community hub ~ the Dudley Canal and Tunnel Trust. A smart fleet of working barges convey people through the maze of subterranean waterways, into wonderous limestone caverns, excavated during the industrial revolution


23 April 2018

This duck hath a pleasant seat

A sweet looking lost, or possibly abandoned fledgling duckling was rescued from under some commercial waste bins, at the rear of Granary Staithe. The baby duck was then kindly taken by some locals to nearby Wild Touch Wildlife Encounters and Rescue, based near Stalham.

If you see any injured water fowl and other animals in distress, nearby, please call David at Wild Touch on: 07765 345441

Local waterside businesses, public houses and boat companies in Hoveton and Wroxham; plus officials, on, or near the rivers, are often at hand to help secure the animal and transport them to safety.

For further information, please see: Wild Touch


Then, my queen, in silence sad,
Trip we after the night's shade:
We the globe can compass soon,
Swifter than the wandering moon.

Act 4, Scene 1
A Midsummer Night's Dream

William Shakespeare

4 April 2018

Launch of a glorious season

At Easter, as if by the flick of a switch, the rivers and interconnecting broads come alive with holiday folk. Pleasure boats and associated buildings are spruced up for the season, while on Heather, cleaning and maintenance is on going.

The exhibition and shop truck has been kindly transported from its storage in Catfield to a boat workshop in Wroxham by Robert Paul Esq. Remedial work is now underway on the truck, in preparation for opening, shortly.

Our Trading Post cabin at Chandlers' Yard, Ludham Bridge will transfer to the riverside shop truck, including a scaled down selection of fairly priced books.

The expectation is gathering, and as in the 'Brum' children's stories, the truck does look like it might just set off along the riverside without any further input from us.

As yet the truck is just known as the truck, so any suggestions of a name would provide some interest, although child friendly names are preferable.

We - and this includes the truck itself - hope to see you if you're in the area as the launch is now imminent.

Best wishes,

Andrew, Timothy

10 March 2018

Bridging the gap

Calling all Hoveton and Wroxham businesses and community ambassadors...

Would you like to see more promotion and cultural activities in the gateway villages' of the beautiful Norfolk Broads?

Are you interested in joining a representative group to network and improve things?

If so, please contact Chris

Tel: 07760 159321

Email: chrislmoffatt@yahoo.co.uk

2 March 2018

Icy wetlands

The waterside has been cloaked in layers of snow, creating beautiful scenes, but conditions can be hazardous for boating. When temperatures drop, many of the backwaters, leading off primary rivers freeze over. Rarely however, is the ice strong enough to walk on. A Hoveton gentleman and former river contractor, known affectionately as 'green overalls', because of the preference for wearing the garb; recalled how during the severe winter freeze of 1963, he rode his bicycle, with a friend on the handle bars from Wroxham bridge to Horning. While on Wroxham Broad, motor cars took a spin.

In the big freeze of 1947, Lower Bridge Broad turned into an ice rink playground and large ice yachts set sail across Hickling Broad. A fine example survives in the Museum of the Broads. But will we see wonderous Frost Fairs on the Royal River Thames again? The impromptu fairs took place through time, particularly in the 17th century, when the river froze upstream of the singularly narrow arches of old London Bridge. Great decorated tents, wheeled carts and brazier fires were set up on the expansive ice. While a host of traders, watermen and entertainers dazzled the public.

With the exception of hauling her out for maintenance, the houseboat always remains afloat, to keep the timbers preserved. Ice usually hems the boats in. Arthur Ransome notes in the Swallows and Amazons adventure series that stationary houseboats were often frozen in, both here in Broadland and the mountainous Lake District.

A frozen dike (pictured), linked to the River Yare - or Norwich River, is framed attractively by trees. Happily, life continues on the frosty riverside. Wildlife can be bashful - from nowhere a sprightly pair of black moorhens, with bright scarlet snouts scurry in and out of the undergrowth and a robin jumps from one reed stem to another, doubtless on the hunt for worms and other delicacies.

Oil painting panorama of the 1683-84 Thames Frost Fair
Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Tim, Chris

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

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