Two day trip in the sunshine. The new A-frame got us under Potter Heigham bridge with relative ease. There was very little wind but down towards Thurne Mill we got the sails up and managed to ease our way into the Bure and down towards Horning.
We don’t carry nearly as much sail as the broads yachts and by the time the trees closed in we had to resort to the engine. What we didn’t know at the time was that our next sail would be in virtually the same place on the return trip. We cruised into Horning past the pleasure wherry White Moth.
Horning is always popular with visitors but add the sunshine and the whiff of a holiday and the pub tables soon start filling up. The Mississippi paddle steamer (complete with fake paddles) was loading its first cargo of revellers.
If we thought Horning was busy, it was nothing compared to Wroxham. We’d almost reached the bridge (clearance 7′) before we realised there was nowhere for privateers like us to lower the mast. This is cruiser territory. There was hardly a yacht to be seen. We pulled up at a deserted piece of boatyard quay heading where a less than friendly owner complained loudly while we worked the A-frame. We were going to stop for lunch but missed the chip shop after pausing for a beer and decided to press on instead.
Above Wroxham the Bure was much quieter. But it was still too calm and sheltered to sail. During the 19th Century the wherrymen used to keep the banks clear of trees. Today priorities have changed and these leafy reaches are home to holiday cruisers rather than sailing craft.
By now the sound of the engine was beginning to get to us. This wasn’t what we’d planned at the outset. We reached Coltishall in the late afternoon but after a look at the busy mooring turned back in search of somewhere quieter. In Belaugh church staithe we tied up at what must be one of the nicest spots on the river.
There was room for only one boat, so we were safe from the occasional passing cruiser with a telly running on the open bridge. Above the mooring a path rose through the trees to an 11th Century church.
Belaugh itself has no, shop or pub and its tiny collection of houses has only a tenuous connection to the road network. It owes its existence entirely to the river. The church used to look out onto water meadows which grew fodder to feed London’s horses – a cargo which was loaded at the public staithe and carried down river by wherry.
We sat and watched the sun go down till the bats came out and started hawking over the river. By 9 it was dark and we turned in.
Next day we had an early run on the deserted river as far as Wroxham where we pulled up for shopping and breakfast. Then it was back under the bridge once more. This time we managed to raise the mast under way . The stretch of the Bure between Wroxham and Horning is the busiest section of the broads and at times the river seemed to be paved with cruisers. As we pottered back under the motor we met a sizeable chunk of the Hunters fleet coming towards us, being harried by hire boats.
And then quite by chance Gypsy Roma (boat no 97) found herself ahead of Gypsy Baxtalo (boat no 98). We slowed to let them catch up but she turned off into Ranworth Dam before getting close enough to hail.
Once the trees cleared and the Thurne came into sight we managed another ghostly sail in the sunshine, happy to let the motor boats hurry past. We repeated our mast raising trick on open water once we were back through the bridge and tied up back at the mooring at 3 pm.
Exploring the river was a real pleasure. But next time we need more sailing.