Thursday, 2 August 2012

116 The Norfolk Broads

Friday 27th July

A quick decamp and a 500m ride down to the harbour for our 8:45 appointment with the boat. We were met at the harbour which was in reality more of a life boat station complete with slipway etc and issued with some large waterproof jackets. It was then onto the boat with 8 other guests The boat was one of those madly fast rigid inflatable boats (RIB) with twin 200hp engines. The captain was a small woman and the crew were two burly blokes !
We set off slowly with the warning that the sea outside the harbour area was very rough. In realty it was not that bad but the wind was blowing onto my side so I got soaked while Karen laughed. We saw 5 harbour porpoises on the way out. They are like dolphins but a lot smaller, black in colour and very shy. At last we has seen something whilst on a boat trip.
The captain then told us that as the sea was not too bad we would take the 1 hour trip to a small island that we could just see about 20 miles out west. It looked like it was covered in snow. We saw puffins, razor bills and guillemots amongst the se birds during the crossing. On arrival at the island we could see that the snow was in fact a 100,000 strong gannet colony.

The ‘snow covered' island.

It was incredible and as we drove around they took off almost all together. It was one of those sights that we had wanted to see for years and it was absolutely amazing.

When they took off it was amazing.
Also dotted around the island were numerous grey seals who kept a watchful eye on us and followed us around the island with their head bobbing up and down to see what we were up to.
We left the island for a long looped haul back to the harbour hoping with out success to see some dolphins. On the bright side, the wind was now on Karen's side and she got soaked through down to her underwear. I did laugh - a lot.
Once on dry land Karen set about finding a campsite and we got a space on a crowded site near Tenby. This time of year, especially at the weekends, finding a spot can be difficult. Add to that the fact the summer had finally arrived.

Wales was a beautiful place.

I am sure we will be back.

The campsite staff told us that they had never had a Landy with a roof tent on top, let alone one with a resident cat. As usual Gromit created a great deal of interest with campers coming up all afternoon to ask about it. I sorted out the TV and dish so we could see the opening ceremony of the Olympics. We go the barby in the go and at 9pm sat down to watch the ceremony which was actually better than we had expected. For me it was only spoilt by the Olympic flag being carried by Maureen Lawrence, (the woman that has made a career [and a lot of compensation from the police out of her sons murder and virtually blamed the police for it) and Chammy Chakravati, (the woman who represents Amnesty International and is constantly on TV whining about our immigration policy). To my mind it should be about sport not politics.

Camping in the sun at last.

Saturday 28th July
I let Karen have a sleep in today and got up to start striking camp and make the coffee. Karen went for a shower and I said I would pack everything away. This all went well till about 30 miles into our journey towards Great Yarmouth I suddenly realised that I had forgotten to put our coats, and several other items it the box on the roof. This would not normally be a problem but in this instance they were not inside Gromit but sat loose on the roof.
We pulled over and I climbed up onto the roof and found all the said items sat exactly where I had thrown them. Even the lightweight (but expensive coats) had not flown away. I was gobsmacked but very relieved.
At about the 160 mile point, we decided to stop at a McDonalds for a bite to eat. We consumed a cardboard flavoured fish thingy and on our return to Gromit I noticed our torch/lantern that we use in the tent at night was still sat on the bonnet being held in place by the shovel. I was obviously having an Alzheimer's kind of day.
We managed to sort out a small campsite about 200m from where we were due to pick the boat up from on Monday and decided to go all the way to Yarmouth in one hit. We arrived at about 7:30, parked Gromit on the spot and wandered off to the pub by the boat yard. No change there then. Unfortunately by the time we got in the pub they had stopped serving food 5 minutes earlier. We were having a great day but as they say, 'a bad day on the bike (OK Gromit) is better that a good day at the office'.

Sunday 29th July
Sunday being Gods day of rest, was appropriately honoured. We got up late, slowly devoured a ready made breakfast from a tin and then wandered down to do a bit of shopping at the local sell everything shop, Lathams, and yes, you guessed it, visited the pub. After watching a mother and father of a thunderstorm and having a pub meal that had been cooked several days ago followed by 2 pints of delicious Green King IPA and 2 rounds of 'lets see how long we can make this last' darts. We called it quits at 1 game each as we needed to go to bed sometime. We then wandered back to Gromit to watch the Olympics only to find that the cloth chairs, that we deliberately left out to get wet as a character building exercise, contained large puddles - bliss - and the satellite dish had decided to search for worms as opposed to Astra 2. Luckily for me it started to rain again whilst I was trying to realign the dish.
We finished the day in front of the TV and watched 2 valiant British ladies hammer the Canadians at Beach Volleyball (Oh Yeah). This was followed by Rebbeca Adlington getting our second Olympic medal.

Monday 30th July
A rapid decamp and Gromit was ready to roll at about 9am. We drove into Great Yarmouth to get some provisions for the upcoming nautical expedition, just the usual stuff, sextant, spare cannon, Jolly Roger etc. I decided I was looking too scruffy and went for a haircut and then following a delicious Subway bun, we descended upon Sainsbury's.
Whit an hour to spare we popped in to an antiquated boozer called the 'First and Last'. All morning the weather had been glorious and as we arrived at Herbert Woods boat yard in Potter Heigham, the heavens opened up.
After sitting the storm out we collected the boat, loaded it with all the food and other gubbins that we needed, had the quick 'this is how the bog works' and please don't wreck our boat, chat and we were off. The boat turned out to be a 5 berth but very well presented boat called Evening Light 3. Aside from 2 small criticisms, namely there was 6" of play in the steering wheel so we left a trail like a snake up the river, the other thing being it would not do more that 5mph which is OK most of the time but sometimes you need a bit of power to avoid the sailing craft who can literally do what they want and have legal priority.

Watch what happens when I twist this Nothing.

The boat was comfortable as evidenced by Leon.
Leon was a bit confused as to what was happening and decided to hide himself in one of the sleeping bags. After about an hour of us both steering the boat as though we were on a bob-sleigh run we moored up at a place called Womack Water, Ludham.
I (Karen) was inside the boat and Ray was outside practicing his knot tying skills when I noticed that it had gone very quiet. I went out to see Ray and he was white and very wet from the knees down. It turns out that he had slipped off the edge of the boat, fell on his thigh on the quayside and ended in the water between the boat and the bank with his feet in the water bent double over the bank.
Unfortunately he had hit his thigh quite badly. I took him inside and after getting into dry clothes, fed him ibuprofen with gin and tonic. After a while he seemed to brighten up. We decided to stay on board and had a nice quiet night.
Tuesday 31st July
Up early again and having plotted our route, set off after a leisurely breakfast. Just before casting off we heard a duck quacking loudly and then saw the noisy beast walking past the window on the outer walkway of the boat. It had not stopped raining all night and today did not appear to be any better - so off to the pub then. Actually we had planned a pub crawl but the first pub we passed had not opened yet. We were starting to get the hang of the steering by now and there were some straight stretches appearing in our wake.

Parked up at the boring pub at Wayford Bridge

Our first pub stop was about 11 miles up river at a pub called the White Horse at a place called Neatishead. It was a crotchety old place but the best pubs are. Then It was back in the boat for a 5 mile stint North to Wayford Bridge for the Wayford Bridge Inn which was one of those newly overhauled pubs without any soul but intended for posh folks (which did not really include us) and the prices reflected that too. It was Karen's turn to fall today and as we approached the shore she jumped off a bit too quick and fell flat on her bum into all the goose poo that was scattered all over that bank. I was a bit panicky as she disappeared beneath the front of the boat and I could not see if I was going to run her over or not. It was funny when I realised she was OK and just covered in poo
Next was a 1 1/2 mile punt to the Cross Keys at Dilham. This was by far the best pub. The owner was completely bonkers and as we were watching the Olympics on the pub TV was giving a series of witty comments and gave the pub a very homely and very British atmosphere. We stayed for 2 pints in this one and loved it. Then is was back to the boat for a very hot, spicy and delicious Spag Bol carefully crafted by the boss.

Wednesday 1st July....Doh!
 I got up first (no surprises there then) and made the coffee. Then when Karen got up and sat down to drink hers, I started the 'pinch, punch, first day of the month' war and for once I won - Wohoo.
EDIT:  Spot the deliberate mistake...its August. I paid for this as Karens brother John spotted this and I was repaid with a full broadside of "pinch, punch, first cock up of the month".
We sat for a short while watching a bright blue Kingfisher fishing from the quayside about 20m in front of us.

I was lucky to get this, they do not stick around long.
After a cooked breakfast we set off again. This time the sun was out and Karen sat on the bow (front) and took about 200 photos with the DSLR (i.e big) camera.

As if this isn't hard enough already.

There were lots of these wind pumps on the banks. They are all now unused and replaced by electric ones.
One of Karen's favorite birds, A crested Grebe.

An Egyptian Goose taking her kids for a walk.
What we did miss with the camera was a grass snake that was swimming across our front. We were so stunned at the sight of it that by the time we figured out that it might be a good idea to photograph it, it had gone into the reeds. Neither of us have seen one of these so it was quite exiting for us. (We are easily pleased).

It did not take Leon long to get used to the boat. As soon as he figured he could jump onto shore through the window he was off.

There were lots of swans about.

And some cheeky hungry ones too.

Karen was getting good at using the camera.

We finished the night in the middle of nowhere alongside some other boats and settled down to the Olympics again.

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