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 FairYale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection