Ru­ral Rides . . . . . . .

Evergreen - - Contents Summer 2015 - Philip Mor­gan

Ashort dis­tance away from the vil­lage of Thurne and fur­ther along the river is Pot­ter Heigham, one of the main boating cen­tres on the Broads and a pop­u­lar place for hol­i­day­mak­ers to stop off dur­ing their ad­ven­tures and en­joy the Nor­folk land­scape and its history.

The vil­lage takes its name from a me­dieval pot­tery which was found here and the most fa­mous fea­ture of Pot­ter Heigham is the dis­tinc­tive, hump- back stone bridge just out­side the vil­lage over­look­ing the boat yards. The bridge is thought to date from 1385 and with its low, small semi- cir­cu­lar arches is no­to­ri­ous as the most chal­leng­ing to nav­i­gate on the Broads, with only small cruis­ers able to pass through even at low wa­ter, while larger boats

are forced to go through a com­plex and tir­ing pro­ce­dure of dis­man­tling and low­er­ing their masts and then hav­ing to re­assem­ble them on the other side. Due to its dif­fi­culty, and the clear­ance height of less than six- feet six- inches, a pi­lot is of­ten re­quired to pro­vide as­sis­tance and stand­ing by the river bank it is in­ter­est­ing to watch the oc­ca­sional boat squeeze un­der­neath as the lo­cal swans gather for at­ten­tion.

With the growth of plea­sure boating along the wa­ter­ways in the early 20th cen­tury, Herbert Woods founded his well- known boat yard in Pot­ter Heigham in 1928 and soon af­ter con­structed the first ma­rina on the Broads, known as the Broads Haven, a size­able two- acre basin which was dug out by hand and com­pleted in 1931. Boating was a pas­sion for Woods and the ma­rina was home to his grow­ing fleet of hire craft, in­clud­ing yachts known as the “Lady” fleet and “light” fleet

mo­tor cruis­ers. He also de­signed many other types of pri­vate boats in­clud­ing the Lady­bird, his own per­sonal rac­ing yacht, as well as a Nor­folk dinghy and the Lime­light, a 22foot punt. Many of these boats are still sail­ing the wa­ters, a tes­ta­ment to the skill and crafts­man­ship of the boat builders at the yard.

The name Herbert Woods con­tin­ues to be a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in the vil­lage even to­day and the un­miss­able Herbert Woods tower stands at the cen­tre of the ma­rina a few yards from the river and is now an apart­ment block for tourists as well as ac­com­mo­dat­ing an es­tate agents and shop selling used boats at the Water­side Marine. There are a num­ber of moor­ings by the bridge and in the sum­mer it can be a busy and colour­ful sight for a walk back to Thurne vil­lage along the Weavers’ Way or fol­low­ing a branch in the river to­wards the Lud­ham- Pot­ter Heigham Marshes and Na­tional Na­ture Re­serve, which is an ex­cel­lent place for ap­pre­ci­at­ing the va­ri­ety of wildlife on the Broads.

The vil­lage it­self is a short dis­tance along the main road, con­sist­ing of a col­lec­tion of pleas­ant houses and cot­tages and is par­tic­u­larly no­table for its dis­tinc­tive 13th- cen­tury church of St. Ni­cholas, the pa­tron saint of fish­er­men and chil­dren. The church stands a short way out of the vil­lage and com­plete with its char­ac­ter­is­tic Nor­folk- style round tower and at­trac­tive stone ap­pear­ance is well worth vis­it­ing. The tower is the old­est re­main­ing part of the church, dat­ing from the 12th cen­tury with an un­usual oc­tag­o­nal ex­ten­sion added dur­ing the 14th cen­tury and is one of the best pre­served of its kind in the coun­try. In­side there are sev­eral 14th- cen­tury wall paint­ings as well as an un­usual 15th- cen­tury brick font and ham­mer- beam roof.

Pot­ter Heigham pro­vided in­spi­ra­tion for Arthur Ran­some, serv­ing as one of the lo­ca­tions in his chil­dren’s book, Coot Club. In the book Dick, Dorothea and Tom pass through Pot­ter Heigham on their way to­wards Horsey Mere fur­ther up the River Thurne:

“They came into a long wa­ter street of bun­ga­lows, built on the

banks made by dredg­ing mud from the river. The lit­tle wooden houses took the wind from the Teasel’s sails and made things dif­fi­cult. One mo­ment a dead calm, and then, a good wind slip­ping through the gap be­tween one house and the next. They came at last to the boat­yards of Pot­ter Heigham, and the staithe and the lovely old bridge built four hun­dred years ago and maybe more.”

Dur­ing the jour­ney back from Horsey, the chil­dren moor Teasel in the dark at Pot­ter Heigham, but fail to no­tice they are right next to the Mar­go­letta, a boat which they are try­ing hard to avoid.

In The Big Six, Ran­some’s se­quel to Coot Club, the chil­dren catch an im­mense 30lb pike up­stream from Pot­ter Heigham at Ken­dle Dyke, which is taken to Nor­wich and stuffed.

Over the years silt­ing has been grad­u­ally oc­cur­ring and as part of the re­cent restora­tion work on the Broads, the Broads Au­thor­ity suc­cess­fully dredged Can­dle Dyke head­ing to­wards Martham. The Broads Au­thor­ity has also been car­ry­ing out work to dredge and in­crease wa­ter depths in Heigham Sound, im­prov­ing ac­cess for boat users. The dredg­ing it­self is a long and dif­fi­cult process and care has been taken to en­sure that wildlife is not un­duly dis­turbed and that al­gal growth is kept to a min­i­mum by care­fully mon­i­tor­ing wa­ter qual­ity to pre­vent an out­break of Prym­ne­siums, a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring alga which is al­ways present in the Up­per Thurne and if al­lowed to pros­per can prove highly toxic to fish stocks.

A swan swimming serenely along the River Thurne. This area of Nor­folk was also a source of literary in­spi­ra­tion.

The 14th- cen­tury bridge is one of the most dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate on the Broads.

Pot­ter Heigham is a pop­u­lar stop­ping point.

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