Our Two Night Taster on the Broads with Richardson’s!
Boating holiday customer Steve describes his two night taster trip on the Broads with Richardson’s. Steve brought along his wife Deb, son Josh, and two dogs, Badger and Molly.
I arrived at the Richardson’s Stalham boatyard to start our trial. The lady at reception couldn’t have been more helpful, instructing us where the boat was moored so that we could unload the car straight onto it, before parking it 50 yards away for the duration of our break. Welcome Folder in hand, we were then greeted by a Richardson’s team member who took us to stores to fit our lifejackets before giving us a guided tour of our boat, explaining everything we needed to know from how to flush the loos to using the cooker. No matter how many questions we threw at him, there was always an answer. How he kept his patience with us was beyond me, but he was brilliant. Soon we were back outside the boat having a lesson in how to tie mooring knots. My wife won the knotting competition I’m ashamed to say, having been a former cub scout some 40 years ago!
Already we were feeling more relaxed about taking a large boat out for the first time. The trial run that followed, however, made us feel really relaxed about manoeuvring, turning around mid-river and most interesting of all, reversing into a mooring. We were ready to go and if there was anything we needed during the break, there were phone numbers to call for immediate support and assistance. We thanked our man and he waved us on our way as we turned out of the boatyard. So far so good. This really feels like a new adventure.
Taking it in turns to pilot the boat, we were soon winding our way down the beautiful River Ant with its tunnel of trees and foliage providing a stunning setting. We were travelling at 4mph, which may seem impossibly slow to those of us that drive cars, but in fact it feels plenty when you are trying to relax and take everything in. Heading towards Ludham we were already noticing an abundance of wildlife. Heron, cormorants, geese and, yes, an otter doing a spot of hunting. It was a fairly grey breezy September afternoon, ideal conditions for the majestic old wherry that was spiralling away from us down the river. After four hours of exploring, we decided to find our mooring for the night and finally found the perfect spot in a barely used loop in the river just past Hunters Yard. It wasn’t a conventional mooring spot with mooring posts or rings, but we were suddenly up for trying our hands at mooring ourselves to the overhanging trees. It turned out far easier than we had thought. What a gorgeous spot. We could be thousands of miles from anywhere and not another boat in sight. And an added, unexpected bonus – within a few minutes of mooring, our son had spotted a very special feathered friend perched no more than six feet in front of us – a kingfisher! What a treat.
By this time the sun had finally come out so, after a well earned cup of tea, we indulged in a couple of hours of fishing from the boat, reeling in a few perch, bream and roach. Deb, meanwhile read her novel and walked our two Jack Russells. Soon darkness descended and after a tasty stir fry dish aboard the boat, a bottle of wine and a game of cards, we called it a night. Although the temperature had dropped, we found the bedrooms really comfortable and warmer than expected. We didn’t feel the movement of the boat at all, and dropped off to sleep very quickly.
No alarms set. We wake around 8.30am to glorious sunshine. I emerged from the boat to have a look around. There wasn’t another boat in sight. All I could hear was the twittering of birds and the unmissable call of a kingfisher which within seconds flew by me in a streak of electric blue. Cup of tea in hand, I just stood there. I felt a million miles away from civilisation. Sheer bliss. I am now starting to realise why so many people love this way of holidaying.
We soon slid the canopy back for that ‘open top’ look and sat down to a full english breakfast. The helpful Richardson’s ‘folder of knowledge’ and map in hand, it was time to plot the route for the day, although we all felt we could just stay here in this little patch of paradise. Washing up done, dogs fed and watered, we were soon navigating the waterways again. Ludham Bridge and a stop for provisions. How Hill and a stroll with the dogs. Horning with its busy pubs and many waterside properties. Then onto Salhouse Broad where we moored for a long lunch at the wonderful Fur & Feather Inn. The Fur & Feather is owned and located next to the Woodfordes Brewery, famed for amongst others, its Wherry Bitter. Open all day, it serves first class food as well – and has a large garden. From Salhouse Broad, it is a 15 minute walk along a country road. I chose the haddock in beer batter, Deb opted for the pork belly and Josh, our son, the enormous homemade burger. Two hours later, handsomely fed (and of course watered) we strolled back to the boat. It was 4pm and many of the boats around us had moored early for the night. We, on the other hand, decided to fill up with water from the moorside hose and set off for a little more exploring.
One thing I’ve forgot to mention so far are the other holidaymakers, many of whom seem to be regulars. Not only were they friendly, even waving to one another and us as we pass en-route, but they are also extremely helpful if they can see you may need help. At Salhouse, for instance, a man and his wife had jumped off their moored boat to help us straighten up at the moorings without being asking – and we saw this behaviour wherever we went. Having left Salhouse, we went towards Wroxham and turned round so we could settle before dusk at Ranworth Broad, with its beautiful church (great views from the top!), its nature reserve with visitor centre; and the Maltsters pub just a few yards walk from many of the moorings. We managed to find a spot on Ranworth’s Island mooring area, helped again by the very friendly moorings manager. We had only just made it to the moorings before dusk – a bit of a close shave as that’s when all cruisers have to stop for the day.
Being moored in a row of other boats, we were really surprised by how quiet everyone was and a good night’s sleep was no problem. We were convinced that the swans, ducks and geese around the moorings – including those colourful patchwork Egyptian geese – would wake us up early, but it wasn’t the case we’re delighted to say. We knew it was our final day of this short ‘taster’ holiday, but we didn’t want it to be. We had already started to feel really at home in the boat and with the relaxed way of things. It wasn’t as sunny as yesterday and soon the clouds gave way to rain providing a really dramatic landscape. It was not a day to put the canopy down. A shame really as the dogs had started to enjoy travelling that way; Molly on the pilot’s seat looking at the swans and geese, Badger sitting right in the front windscreen to get the best of the views. We took a cruise around a broad or two – we couldn’t believe how big Barton Broad was – and visited the supposedly haunted St Benet’s Abbey (maybe not the best place to stop at night!) before heading back up the snaking river towards Ludham, and under quaint Ludham Bridge. We headed once again past How Hill, where we spotted a dozen or so cormorants roosting on the wooden sails of the ancient windmills – quite a sight. The weather had closed in by now and, after lunch and a few hours of walking and fishing (bream and perch mostly) we headed back up the scenic meandering River Ant to the Richardson’s boatyard. Once there, Josh produced what was undoubtedly the best reverse mooring of the break to put us back on dry land right outside the reception area in what is known as the Kingfisher Yard. The boat we had, the 5 berth Viscount, may have been an older boat, but it had been recently re-fitted, was so versatile – and perfect for what we needed; lots of space to move around, two bedrooms, two bathrooms with toilets and showers, a great little cooker, plus a TV. As we handed back our lifejackets we actually felt quite disappointed that our mini-adventure had come to an end. We all wanted more – and since the trip we haven’t stopped telling friends and family how special it was. Those who have never tried such a break really ought to give it a try. It’s hard to describe without actually witnessing it for yourself. I guess we’ve now ‘got the bug’ as they say.
Steve, Deb and Josh
(with Badger and Molly)