Monday 24 June 2013


The Norfolk Broads comprises of 200 miles of Fenland walk away.

These waters are homes to the direst looking boats you will ever see on any water. Thankfully The Broads are also home to some of the prettiest. I include my friend Richard’s boat in the latter category.

The other week I got the call that the tide and weather conditions were right to move the boat  - yacht called Aerial to more conducive waters, a part of the boards that would be more fitting for a boat so pretty (see footnote).

We drove up to Essex in Suffolk and late Monday evening was on the boat having watered and any diesel ready for a very early start the next morning.

Tuesday morning Dawn bright and clear and we were soon out with them all through the waterways of the river Yare with its reed banks stretching miles in each direction from the bank.  The occasional dilapidated windmill, once employed to drain these waterways or keep them in good condition stood sentinel-like on our banks. There was not a soul about as we motored quietly into the sun. We crossed that broad expanse Breydon Water and on through Great Yarmouth and back round on ourselves to another river, the Bure.

Mid morning and we were ready for breakfast so pulled up at the lovely Stokesby and had a hearty meal in the Riverside Tea Rooms and Stores. Fortified, we went forward along the river Bure.

We took a small kip on the boat and then on the River Thurne to Potter Heigham with its impossibly low medieval bridge. This gave us cause to tie for an hour or so waiting for the tide to drop. We eventually passed under this bridge famous for being the most difficult to navigate in the Broads. Phew!

On past our new mooring at Martham by late afternoon and then across and up narrow channels to Horsey. We moored up and walked across the fields to the most excellent Lord Nelson Pub in Horsley; Fish and chips entry points of each. It’d been a long day, with the weather in our favour and other craft to minimum. We’d made good passage and now the dog-tired we went back on board and crept into our sleeping bags, soon asleep.

Aerial – a commentary from Richard
She restored by a retired gentleman in Yorkshire from 1991-1999 being rescued in a sad state from Burgh Castle and transported to Yorkshire. There she resided in an old WW2 hut previously occupied by German Prisoners of War. Leo Robinson at Olton Broad built aerial prior to 1935 as she appeared in the Blakes Catalogue for 1935. She was a well-travelled boat being available for hire on the River Avon after WW2. She has a sister boat called Radio sadly her whereabouts is not known.

Thursday 20 June 2013


Essex has many things to commend it to the modern man: John Constable captured the sweep of the county’s landscape; more recently the social fabric of the area is brought to millions in the ITV programme ‘The Only Way Is Essex.  I was born in Essex sixty years ago and fifty-two years earlier the County was captured in Reginald Beckett’s travel 'guide' Romantic Essex published by J.M. Dent in 1901.

Now, Essex and those who might pass through, have another treat in store. The Old Crown pub in the village of Messing, only ten short minutes from the A12, has undergone a renaissance.

Last weekend I took the family for Sunday lunch and walked through the pub’s doors for the first time in about thirty-five years.

Under its brand new owners, locals Malcolm and Penny Campbell, there is an exciting menu for evenings and lunchtimes. A new wine list offers imaginative reds for which I vouch. Malcolm has installed a moreish range of ales from the fine Adnams brewery. Front-of-house manager Katie and her team gently marshal all of these delights.

We had a lovely time; Megan and Bronwen enjoyed the Sunday roast, lamb with crispy vegetables and superb roasties. Megan (the family foodie) when back ‘up’ the menu and ordered a starter when everyone else was happy with his or her deserts. The only low spot was my having to share my rib-eye steak sandwich. It was a generous sandwich however having to share! Sorry.

But the time we left the to regain the A12 home the place was full and happy. This great pub and restaurant is entering a new epoch

Essential Essex Resource Pack:

The Only Way Is Essex
Romantic Essex  - copies available through Abe Books

Saturday 15 June 2013


Trevor and I were both keen to visit Canvey Island. For him because Canvey Island is the birthplace of the rock band Dr Feelgood, for me it was another opportunity to make sideways celebration of the English seaside.

This is a town, which is connected to Essex via causeway and a land of gas and oil silos. Link for detail

Architecturally speaking there is little to commend the place. Homes with sea views have had these snatched away from then when a high concrete coastal defence was built around the whole perimeter of the coast.

We arrived on a grey mid-morning – ideal for beach combing amongst the cockles and mussels and oyster shells. Looking out to sea we saw the Kent coast on the other side of the Thames Estuary.

By midday the sky was a lot less the glum. The sun was shining and being the half term holidays people were starting to emerge.     Outsized mums were driving pushchairs and their older offspring were bemoaning the fact that the funfair was not yet open

Trevor captured this crowd as if on assignment for the Sunday Times Magazine.

We went to Concord Beach, on the Eastern Esplanade. It was alive with families having fun. The Concord Beach Café provided excellent fish and chips and cups of tea; Trevor’s treat in lieu of petrol money.

We sat back to enjoy the view, and with T’s camera on self-timer we hold the moment; the sounds of kids, mums and grandparents drift across our table.

Canvey Island is a self-contained place, and out of the wind, it is warm and lovely as anywhere. We looked across the estuary towards Kent, with its containerships, a Thames barge, and various freighters jockeying for position on the water, this is still a working river.

‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’

Wednesday 12 June 2013


Each year, to drum up members, our sailing club, Cookham Reach, throws open its doors and slipways and opens its excellent tea bar to host the publics. 

The other Saturday dawned bright, however by mid morning, when Sian and I arrived to help it was grey and blustery. Despite the gales threatening from the South West all classed of boat were on display and river-ready: Merlin Rockets , Enterprises, OKs, Solo's, Lightenings and Toppers and other marques too outré to recall.

A good contingent of members showed up to help, we were all clad in wind proofs to welcome visitors.

The flags on the Mast Pole fluttered briskly and ensured we were ‘dressed overall’ and showing our festive face in the squalls.