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

12 September 2012

Heritage Open Days at Granary Staithe

This blog sometimes turns into a modern version of a ship's log, with a running commentary of activities. However, we will try and keep the content interesting and to a minimum.

King's Head Staithe and slipway.

Some of the refuse collected from the dyke at Granary Staithe.

Heather was due to moor in the corner at the King's Head Staithe at Hoveton. We chose not to because the wooden quay heading is quite lopsided and the area along the Riverside Walk is generally in poor condition. Following some prolonged discussions via email, we attained a licence from Norfolk Property Services, who act as agents for Norfolk County Council, the present owners of Granary Staithe, located immediately below Wroxham Bridge. The staithe has always been considered as old common land by locals. The Council are trying to sell the landmark site, at what has been suggested is a highly inflated price. Heather berthed in the dyke adjoining the staithe, just a stone's throw away from the busy river and road traffic. The twin villages of Hoveton and Wroxham are known as 'the Gateway of the Broads.'

Towards the head of the dyke, next to a clump of overgrown willow trees, an assortment of rubbish had accumulated. It was in the way of waterbirds and obstructed boats from drawing up further. Jason and Chris used a grappling iron and boat hook to drag out rubber tyres, lumps of wood and plastic bags, but left the larger lumps for a mechanical dredger to clear up, after we broke both the grappling iron and boat hook stave or pole.

We moved off from Royall's yard round to the staithe on Thursday morning. Timothy steered a small dinghy, powered by an old Seagull outboard motor engine with an oar and Chris remained on Heather with a  lengthy quant (punt) pole, ready to fend off! Many people appeared at their windows to watch this unusual exercise.

Heather was on view over four successful days of the Heritage Open Days. It was an opportunity to help raise awareness of floating Broadland heritage and traditional waterman skills ~ aspects of the area which the crew discovered are afforded little or no local protection. Granary Staithe was an appropriate location, as it was near here that pioneering Broads enterprise sprang up. Famous boat building dynasties like Loynes, Collins and Press were established in the late nineteenth century. In their humble wooden boathouses, around the bridge were built some of the most graceful craft in Broadland. Local traders sold their wares from handcarts by the bridge; later developing into the stores buildings which continue to serve visitors needs.

Some of the new or updated objects on display in the saloon included a set of colourful chintz curtains hung at the windows, a patterned Persian style rug on the floor and part of an Indian Tree pattern crockery set, used by Chriss' family in the Craven Dales of Yorkshire and now kept in the oak cupboard. A wooden cased wireless set (used by the Crawshaw~Simpson's) was placed on the sideboard. This was lent by Diane Moffatt especially for Heather's Heritage Open Days. A final touch, a pot of classic Heather (Calluna vulgaris 'Reini') was placed in the centre of the dining table. On the roof, our green house flag emblazoned with a Celtic and Broadland inspired emblem flew proudly from the improved flagstaff. Heritage Open Days bunting was provided for us to display, to assist people in finding us. More details on Heather's inventory to follow......

Several people had pre~booked to have short tours on board. After stepping onto Heather, some visitors remarked how spacious she was, compared to her appearance from outside. There was an information stand providing details on the boat and we had a table of books for sale. Some passing visitors boarded the boat to look round. We received some kind comments in the Open Days Visitor Book. A couple from Trowse, near Norwich wrote, ''we thought the local history and connection fascinating.'' A party of four artistic visitors, from Norwich commented that they felt the boat was a ''rocking joint.'' Inevitably, most visitors enquired whether we lived on board Heather. We don't live on board full time, but do periodically stay on her. Broadland houseboats in particular have gained a negative reputation over recent times, but some people asked us how they could take up a permanent residence on the rivers. A friendly family from a hired motor cruiser, on the riverside pilot mooring, jumped off briefly to look over the boat. They talked to Chris about their home, a wooden showman's van, built in 1910. They're only source of water is a stand pipe outside and a solid fuel stove provides heat. Waterborne visitors included Colin Carr, who moored up in a smart electrically powered slipper launch called SCAMP, which he had hand built himself. For details on these launches please telephone: 07737 736970 or email: attachevinyls@talktalk.net

The staithe is a mecca for waterfowl like swans, geese and ducks, who like to hop in and out of the dyke onto the gravelled square of Granary Staithe, Hoveton's version of the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy. The mute swans strained their necks and sat on display in the sun. We observed that pierced noses and hissing are some of the traits of these splendid creatures. They also enjoyed playing with Heather's forward line.

Over the years many craft have moored up in the dyke, safely off the main river. Today, it is recognised that there are few accessible visitor moorings in Hoveton & Wroxham, downstream of the bridge and even less favourable exhibition berths to showcase heritage boats. The dyke is a perfect exhibition space for boats of all kinds. Hopefully when the future of the site is secured, this individual mooring place will be maintained for such purposes.

Heather moored at Granary Staithe, with Wroxham road and foot bridge in the distance.

Embarking home.

On Monday, Nigel towed Heather astern (back to to front) back round to the Royall's yard with ML ROYALTY.


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