She’s 119 years old, has lived in Lynn all her life and is still taking people on day trips down the river. Rowan Mantell finds out about the unique Norfolk Worfolk boat
No, it’s not a misspelling; it’s a kind of boat
Red-brown sails billowing, the Baden Powell is a dramatic sight on the King’s Lynn quay. Built as a cockling boat in 1900, she now takes passengers on journeys along the Ouse and out into the Wash – and through centuries of local history. The story of Lynn’s maritime history, its fishing, trade, travel and exploration, takes on a fascinating new dimension when told from the water, looking back at the handsome quayside and townscape of Lynn and then out towards the open sea.
Boatbuilder Walter Worfolk arrived in Lynn at the end of the 19th century, and launched a business making fishing boats. His first commission was the double-ended cockling boat, the Baden Powell. Today she is the only boat of her type in the world, and is once more sailing at Lynn after a decade of restoration and rebuilding by dedicated volunteers.
This autumn she should appear in Armando Iannucci’s film The Personal History of David Copperfield, which also stars Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie, Dev Patel and Tilda Swinton and was filmed in the Purfleet, Lynn,
last summer, with more scenes shot in Weybourne.
Today, the Baden Powell is the last remaining double-ended wooden cockling boat – built with two pointed ends, to make her easier to handle over the sandbanks where cockles grow. After 10 years of painstaking renovation she can once again ply her trade on the water, sometimes staying close to her moorings near Lynn’s South Quay, sometimes venturing down the river as far as Wisbech or out into the Wash.
This summer she went cockling again, sailing out to anchor over cockle beds on the north end of the Thief Sand sandbank and waiting for the tide to fall. As the boat grounded and the sandbank emerged the crew jumped down to rake for cockles – just as their forebears would have done from 1900 all the way through to the 1980s. On that first cockling trip after the relaunch, enough were found for Tim Clayton, who led the restoration, to prepare the crew a broth of cockles and seawater on a camping stove. Fellow volunteer Ken Hill called it “a dream come true.”
The boat was named after Lord Baden Powell, a national war hero, when she was built in 1900, seven years before he launched the Scouting movement. Her restoration, carried out mainly by volunteers and enthusiasts, was supported by donations and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Another Worfolk boat is the Salford, now owned by Henry Chamberlain of the Wells-based Coastal Exploration Company. Walter Worfolk’s sons, Gerald and William, followed their father into the business and continued building Worfolk wooden boats in Lynn until 1981.
Now the Baden Powell is moored off South Quay and once again sails from Lynn. During the summer trips begin two or three times a week from her mooring off South Quay, with a suggested donation of £15 per person for a short voyage along the river, and more for longer trips out towards the Wash with the chance to see seals and other wildlife. She can also be commissioned by groups, for birdwatching, sight-seeing or special occasion trips, for up to eight people.
‘Today she is the only boat of her type in the world, and is once more sailing at Lynn after a decade of restoration and rebuilding by dedicated volunteers’
BELOW The new sails of the Baden Powell have been hoisted for the first time