Broad brush­strokes

In the days be­fore post­ing pic­tures to so­cial me­dia, four stu­dents charted their ad­ven­tures on the Broads in at­mo­spheric, ac­com­plished and comic wa­ter­colours, writes ROWAN MANTELL

EDP Norfolk - - Books -

THEIR STORY is told in charm­ing paint­ings of reed-fringed rivers, pic­nics bought di­rect from farms, skinny-dip­ping at dawn and stum­bling along river­banks after dark, rau­cous evenings of beer and mu­sic on board their Broads hire boat and in river­side bars, fire­works at the sea­side, fleet­ing ro­mances with lo­cal girls and im­promptu races with fel­low sailors.

The four lads, liv­ing it large on the Broads in 1889, were more than 125 years too early for In­sta­gram and so artist SK Baker painted the week-long ad­ven­ture in dozens of de­tailed and at­mo­spheric pic­tures with hand­writ­ten cap­tions.

The four stu­dents hired a boat, com­plete with a skip­per, and sailed from Wrox­ham for a week of beer, swim­ming and song across the Broads, with stops in­clud­ing Horn­ing, Bar­ton Broad, Lud­ham, Acle, Yar­mouth, Brey­don Broad, Oul­ton Broad and Low­est­oft.

SK Baker draws them dressed in blaz­ers and boaters, glid­ing past wind­mills and bridges, pre­par­ing a din­ner of bloaters, beans and turnips on board, fish­ing

and swim­ming from the boat, run­ning aground, be­ing ser­e­naded by vil­lage chil­dren and tak­ing their small row­ing boat ashore to con­tinue their merry-mak­ing and mu­sic-mak­ing in wa­ter­side pubs.

The words and pic­tures pre­served in the orig­i­nal leather-bound note­book have just been pub­lished for the first time.

The four young Vic­to­rian hol­i­day­mak­ers were hav­ing fun on the Broads in the same year that Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat was pub­lished, chart­ing a two-week boat­ing hol­i­day on the Thames.

The new Nor­folk Four Men in a Boat, A Week on the Broads: four Vic­to­rian gents at sail on a Nor­folk gaffer in

1889, is in­tro­duced by Michael Goffe who in­her­ited the di­ary of the hol­i­day aboard the Broads yacht Blanche after his father was the last sur­vivor of a group of young men who met as stu­dents at Univer­sity Col­lege, Lon­don.

The artist him­self was a bach­e­lor who went on to a ca­reer in the civil ser­vice and al­though Michael’s father was not one of the four stu­dents on this par­tic­u­lar trip, he too had en­joyed boat­ing on the Broads in the late 19th cen­tury.

And a few years ago Michael, us­ing the fam­ily heir­loom as a guide, hired a yacht sim­i­lar to Blanche and at­tempted to recre­ate the jour­ney. “Though we did not ven­ture into the tidal waters of Great Yar­mouth or Low­est­oft, nor did we ven­ture into so many pubs or have ad­ven­tures with young damsels, as we had our wives on board with us!” he said.Š A Week on the Broads: four Vic­to­rian gents at sail on a Nor­folk gaffer in 1889, by SK Baker, is pub­lished in hard­back by Blooms­bury for £10.

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