Sunday, 11 December 2011

Carrow Cup Festival 10th December 2011

Norwich Rowing Club, the organiser of the annual race, has added "Festival" to the title of this invitation event. What a well chosen word. The whole day was a joyous celebation of rowing. Even the weather was just right; cold, but with bright sunshine and not a cloud in sight.

Crews of all ages, from juniors to the frankly ancient, were out on the water from 9 on the rivers Wensum and Yare from the centre of Norwich to Thorpe St Andrew, continuing a tradition, which has been in existence since 1813 at the latest.

For the second year NRC invited traditional boats to the event and ten took up the challenge, ranging in size from Jumping Jennie (14'skiff) sculled by Frances Warns to the Williams brothers' six oared pilot gigs, Phantom and Sowenna.

The Langstone Cutters Rowing Club made the arduous journey from the south coast to Norwich, entering Millie (Tiefi skiff) and Bembridge (4 oared Solent Galley), the latter taking the prize for the fastest boat on handicap, beating Phantom into second place by 24 seconds on corrected time.

The crew of Bembridge received their trophies at Norwich Rowing Club after the event and the Harris family(Raineach) were awarded the Norfolk Skiff Club trophy, as the first family crew to finish.

Finally David Bolton, chairman of Norwich Rowing Club, invited the traditional boats to return next year.

Video of JoJo see

Friday, 4 November 2011

Rowing on the Nene

For many people the River Nene is the river you cross at Sutton Bridge on the A17 - not at all suitable for rowing, but in the non tidal reaches above Peterborough it is ideal.
The river meanders through woods and meadows and there are stone built villages to explore. The water is clean and wildlife is abundant. When I spoke to locals about how surprised I was to find the Nene valley so delightful they said, "Yes, but don't tell anyone. It is one of England's secrets." There are locks at intervals and negotiating them provides a pleasant break from the pull.

We started our journey at Willy Watts Marine where we had an excellent picnic lunch in the shade of an oak tree overlooking the river. The marine is based in an old stone built water mill which still contains two derelict water wheels. The marine provides mooring for narrow boats and has a dry dock for repairs. The Nene joins the Grand Union canal so narrow boats have miles of accessible waterways to navigate.

We launched Jumping Jenny, which is a 14 foot rowing skiff, and loaded it with our camping equipment which included a tent, folding chairs, camp beds and a cooking stove. We waved farewell to my son who had driven us over from Norwich and set off for our first night at Thrapston.

The current helped us along and the lush greenery on the banks made welcome change from the drought we had been experiencing at home. Lucy saw her first kingfisher and we kept hearing them squeaking, but never saw them again, and eventually we realised it was the rowlocks. They squeak just like a kingfisher.

We camped just below the arched medieval bridge at Thrapston on the edge of a new housing development. The site was not inviting as it was covered in docks and teasels but with the boat pulled onto the bank and the tent up we found it was pleasant enough. There was a meadow and willow trees on the opposite bank and we were near a weir which we could just hear. We cooked venison sausages on a disposable barbecue and drank a bottle of wine. Our trip into the unknown seemed to be going well.

The next day we came through our third lock and if did not go as planned. The previous day a narrow boat owner could not resist telling two ladies exactly how to get through the locks. "You must hold the boat near the gate," he said, so not being used to locks we did as he said but it was nearly a disaster. The lock was exceptionally deep and the water flowing over the gate created foam which washed the boat across the lock and then was in a position to capsize it. it looked alarming but I managed to climb the slimy metal ladder and leap into the boat and paddle it out of the lock onto the lower reach where Lucy joined me and all was well.

Later that day we arrived at Wadenhoe which had the perfect campsite. It consisted of a wide grassy bank with a steep hill behind covered in open woodland. A narrow path led up to a Saxon church on top of the hill and Wadenhoe consisted of thatched stone cottages and a pub. After putting up the tent we had a swim and then went to the pub for our evening meal.

The next day we walked to Lyveden New Bield which is a National Trust property about two miles away across fields and through Rockingham Forest. The property was intended
as an Elizabethan banqueting hall but the owner went bankrupt before it was completed and it has remained a ruin ever since. The grounds were laid out as a pleasure garden with canals where the owners friends could travel by boat to high level walkways and four spiral mounds where guests could walk and enjoy the views. 400 years on we did just that and from the top of one of the mounds we watched a red kite gliding and then swooping onto its prey in a freshly cut hay field.

Wadenhoe has no shops and we were short of supplies so my ever resourceful crew begged for some vegetables from the pub's chef. In due course a potato, a carrot and an onion arrived on our table, and back at camp we made them into vegetable stew, it needed some herbs so I rowed off into the dusk and managed to find some water cress, so between us we produced an excellent meal.

The next day we packed up and set off for Oundle where we intended to find accommodation for the night. Unfortunately, I was chatting to a narrow boat owner at one of the locks and by mistakes forgot to remove my key for the electronically operated guillotine and did not realise until we had rowed onto the next lock. There was nobody about so we had to row several miles back and hope the key was still there, but it was not. All we could do was wait for another boat and go through with them. It was a hot Sunday lunch time and there were no boats on the move. By this time I was well grumpy. We had water to drink but nothing to eat and it was three o'clock in the afternoon. We were hoping to get to Oundle before the shops shut. At last a boat came and reluctantly they allowed us to come through the lock with them.

Shortly after this we arrived at Oundle Cruising Club where we were given a friendly welcome and our spirits were soon restored. We discovered later that they had heard we were on our way!

We were driven up to Oundle town where we bought food and found accommodation at the Ship Public House. Then it was back to the club bar for drinks and chat. As we cooked our supper on the river bank the Harbour Master joined us and said Purple Pete had warned him about us.
He had heard how as we approached one of the locks, where a lot of narrow boats were moored, a gust of wind blew my sun hat into the water. Lucy was rowing so I shouted at her to back paddle but the oar flew out of the rowlock by which time my hat was just sinking below the surface. Using my trusty boat hook, I reached out and just managed to hook it up. Wet but no matter. By this time heads were pooping up to see what all the fuss was about and Purple Pete offered us some Stella Artois and of course he was intrigued to know what we were doing. The next day he went down to Oundle Cruising Club and told them all about us. He even told them it was a denim sun hat which was true. News travels fast on the Nene.

The next morning my son came to collect us and Jumping Jenny and we all drove back to Norwich. We had had a mostly delightful few days and surprisingly - no blisters.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Carrow Cup 2011

This year the Carrow Cup will be held on Saturday 10th December. As last year this coincides with Norwich City playing at home (Newcastle). Whether it also coincides with a fishing match remains to be seen.

NSK hopes to enter three boats and there has already been interest from Lower Thames Rowing Club and two gig crews.

Contact me or Norwich Rowing Club for more information.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Head of navigation challenge

To row to the head of navigation of the whole Norfolk Broads system and to cover all the intervening water including all navigable broads by oar power alone; that's the challenge.

Well you've got to start somewhere and JoJo has started this adventure from Cox's boatyard at Barton Turf, where there is a good slipway (£5) and the assistance of a hand winch.

The staff at Cox's are friendly and it is amongst the tidiest boatyards that I have ever visited. There are also clean and tidy conveniences, but you will need to get the entry code from the office. The same code opens the barrier to the slipway.
Barton Turf lies on Barton Broad, through which flows the River Ant. Three heads of navigation lie to the north: Sutton, Stalham and Dilham. In addition Old Lime Kiln Dike (or Old Limekiln Dyke as it appears on the OS map) enters the broad on its west side and this leads to Neatishead.

Sue and Ant joined Adrian and Lynne for the first expedition to cross Stalham and Sutton from the list, but not before experiencing a picnic tied up amongst the overhanging trees, which line both banks of the Ant.

The approach to Stalham is congested with moored motor cruisers, but the reward is to land at the Museum of the Broads, where JoJo felt at home amongst the other historic craft on show. But, there's more than just boats to see and the crew was particularly taken with the display of marine toilets.

Sutton is approached across Sutton Broad, wide, fringed with reedbeds and uncongested.

Old Lime Kiln Dike was next on the list and this was achieved on a baking 2nd October. This time Robin and Rosemary joined the crew. It was hot work, but a sumptuous picnic was the reward anchored in the shade on the south side of Barton Broad. Afternoon tea was served at the peaceful public moorings on the south side of the Dyke.

All that remained was Dilham to complete this section of the Broads and Julian and Paul joined Adrian for this outing on the following, windy, afternoon. Somehow we contrived to have a headwind both ways. Another warm day, with the temperature still 26 degrees when we got back to Cox's at 5.30.

The challenge continued on the 23rd October; another fine and breezy day. Adrian Stuart and Susie launched JoJo from the public slipway on Wroxham Broad. Despite the warning that it was not suitable for boats over 10 feet we had no difficulties, although the surface of the slipway was potholed. (parking ticket for car and trailer £5 from machine.)

Spotting a gap between the procession of racing cruisers we crossed Wroxham Broad and made for the River Bure. A right turn brought us comparative tranquility between its wooded banks and after just over half a mile we found the entrance to Salhouse Broad on the south side of the river. There were a few anchored cruisers, canoes for hire and a peaceful quay, but stern-to mooring is not for us. A short exploration up a shallow creek provided a picnic spot out of the wind.

Then back to the main river for a steady row to the entrance of Hoveton Little Broad, which is reached down a narrow cut. Tranquil and apparently remote, unless you look north to a row of uninspired detached houses, with grounds extending to the water's edge. No doubt each house commands a magnificent view over the broad, but sadly their architects had not considered the view from the broad to be as important. But, if you avert your gaze, Hoveton Little Broad is a good destination for a future picnic. Closed gates block the passage into Pound End, which is the western extension of this broad.

Onwards towards Horning and the riverside development increases, as does the river traffic. The tree lined banks are left behind and are replaced by chalets, pubs and boat yards. We arrived at the conclusion of a yacht race as river cruisers ran to the finishing line with topsails set.

Near Hobbs Drainage Mill we turned JoJo's bow west and commenced the return journey to Wroxham Broad.

Another successful day. Three broads visited and a lesson learned; remove the light board from the trailer before running it into the water!

26/10/11 Stuart's sons Alexander and James coxed Jo Jo to the head of navigation in the city of Norwich; New Mills. Stuart and I tried out a heavier set of sculls, which will go back in the shed.

02/11/11 Glorious November? A bright sunny day for the next outing. Adrian, Lynne and Dan launched JoJo at Wroxham Broad, remembering to remove the light board this time. A steady row into a headwind brought us among the attractive riverside properties of Wroxham. Under Wroxham Bridge, which is far more attractive from the water than the road and then a surprise, for me at least. Bridge Broad was not on my list of destinations, but that was soon remedied and having ticked it off, we continued between the attractive tree lined banks, with glimpses of Belaugh and Wroxham churches between the trees, we finally stopped for a picnic at a public mooring near Wroxham church, which is not shown on my OS map. Having sculled 3 miles on the water, we were within less than a mile of our starting place by road.

We turned for our starting place and with a following wind hoisted sail and ran until a bend in the river made sailing impossible.

Now you might be thinking that sailing was cheating, but we had already rowed over that section of river.

November 23rd. Adrian Andy and Katy crossed Trowse Mill, head of navigation of the river Yare, from the list. This section of the river, from Trowse Eye to Trowse Mill is little frequented. Reaching the head of navigation posed some coxing problems for Katy, with fallen trees and overhanging branches to negotiate.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Hickling Village Regatta 13th August 2011

It all depends on De Graaff Trailers whether Jo Jo (Thames skiff) will make it to the Hickling Village Regatta. Delays in production have caused the original completion date to be postponed, but I hope that the new trailer will be ready in time.

The Hickling Village Regatta is a low key fun weekend of boating and camping on Hickling Broad in Norfolk. It sounds ideal for the modest ambitions of the Norfolk Skiff Club members, who will be there to enjoy the fun and to explore the broads and rivers.

The organiser of the regatta is Ross ( tel 01692 598135

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Another skiff, another picnic

Jo Jo the 26 foot Messum and Sons skiff has appeared on the River Yare for the first time. This brings the total number of skiffs belonging to Norfolk Skiff Club members to three!