Towards the end of July in the sweltering sun, some of the crew made an excursion on board Motor Yacht DIPLOCAT, an unusual but shapely catamaran. It was eventful cruise down the River Yare from Thorpe~next~Norwich. The boat glided onto a pontoon at the well appointed Oulton Broad Yacht Station late on the evening of Sunday 22nd July. The pontoon was connected to the delightfully named Boulevard, a promenade that leads into Oulton village. At dusk, the row of neat thatched buildings and cherry trees, illuminated by coloured lights running along the waterfront add to the atmosphere. The cool breath of the North Sea, filtering through nearby Lake Lothing to the Broad, felt tantalisingly close.
The next morning we were met by the jovial and laid back Yacht Station Attendants, renowned for a genuine, thoughtful and friendly service. Dressed in smart white shirts with badges of office, they couldn't do enough for the plentiful visiting boats, which numbered over thirty. The moorings are mostly operated by the Sentinel Leisure Trust who also run Beccles Yacht Station, further up the River Waveney.
We noted that stationary houseboats survive here, unlike some quarters of Broadland. Some slightly weathered wooden boarded examples lay to buoys on the south western fringes of the Broad, with swaying green beds of reed serving as a backcloth. A famous past Harbour Master, William B Hoseason, during World War Two found such craft provided perfect holiday accommodation for evacuated families. He began to let the boats, acting as agent for the owners. This small enterprise grew into the large Hoseasons Group which thrives today.
Over the next couple of days, we headed into the old seaside town, birth place of genteel blue and white Lowestoft porcelain and Composer Benjamin Britten. We ventured down an anonymous walkway and along the industrial shoreline of Lake Lothing, treading over the rails of the numerous slipways and taking in the vast range of ships on view. Traditional skills flourish here in the form of the International Boatbuilding Training College and most recently Shipshape. IBTC is also now home to the East Anglian branch of the national Shipshape scheme which joins together skilled craftsmen, historic craft owners, businesses, heritage organisations and training bodies.
A climb up through the dunes brings one to a railway footbridge and then down onto a grassed park on the left and a lake (not broad) on the right. This area is well managed for conservation with wooden boardwalks and wood chip paths running along the edge. The lake is a magnet for birds and sits very well next to the urban make up of the area. The next turn brings us to a business park and it's associated warehouses, then half a mile or so past Victorian terraces where one arrives in Lowestoft.
We made a beeline for the well known pastel coloured frontage of the Woodbine Cafe for replenishment. After the long trek, we found the atmosphere within very pleasant and the staff exceptionally friendly. The establishment was founded in 1895 and the present host, Caroline Garrod, whose family moved from London, has run the cafe for thirty nine years. Caroline said they 'like to carry on tradition.' Once they served crews from the busy armada of fishing trawlers, although today the number of vessels has dropped to single figures. The name of the cafe, 'Woodbine' is a type of honeysuckle plant; the name of a former local steamer and a brand of tobacco. The Woodbine is a proper cafe with wooden bench settles, once used by worshippers in a church. Home made food including roast dinners, delectable cream cakes and pastries are all on offer.
Rose, a stalwart of the Woodbine
Woodbine Cafe, 18 Suffolk Road, Lowestoft NR32 1DZ. Telephone: 01502 566 630
We looked round for provisions, including rubber soled canvas deck shoes to use on board DIPLOCAT and some fixtures and furnishings for the houseboat. The return journey under blazing sunshine rounded off the inaugural cruise of 2012 of MY DIPLOCAT. It is well worth exploring the district around Lowestoft as there is so much to do and see. We look forward to returning later in the season.
A Trifle from Lowestoft: a legend used on some souvenir Lowestoft pottery.