Sad News

I am sorry to report that Tony Jubb, our Treasurer, passed away suddenly whilst on a trip to Morrocco several days ago. Tony was a lovely man who committed fully of his time and much more to our cause and will be very sadly missed. I will write more about him in a blog at an appropriate time. In the meantime we thank him for all his work and send our thoughts and best wishes to Trish and his family.

In the meantime we must continue as that is what Tony would have wanted. We now urgently need somebody prepared to take on the role of Treasurer pro tem, at least until our first AGM in about a years time. The person filling this role will need to be able to maintain accounts, be of good character and be able to give freely of their time in furtherance of the charities goals. The job is unpaid and now fairly straightforward as Tony has already done most of the hard work of setting things up. If you think this could be you it will be necessary for you to be or become a member and also a Trustee. Some limited knowledge of company house procedures would be an advantage but not essential. We really need somebody to take this on as soon as possible so if you think it might suit you please contact our chairman on stu.wilson100@btinternet.com

Opera loving taxi drivers, random acts of kindness and a Norfolk Keel

We are now getting much closer to our event in Coltishall and the worries are beginning to set in. You know the ones about what still needs to be done and also the nagging doubts about things we might have missed. There’s also the weather; we really do need it to be dry, sunny and warm which is about the norm for the date but I just can’t get away from the thought that we are celebrating an almost biblical rainfall event that was described at the time as the once in a 100 year flood; need I say more? There’s still time for you to get involved – in fact we would really love it if you did just contact me on stu.wilson100@btinternet.com

It’s Monday morning and I’m on a rest day from work so I can get this blog written without interruption other than the kind wrought by the cats who seem to think that if I’m sat in chair it’s for their benefit. Legs are for climbing with claws out, laps are for sitting on, hands are there to give strokes and computer keyboards are for climbing all over especially when “he’s” using it.

It was a lovely weekend just gone as my wife and I went to Cambridge on the train from Wroxham where we met up with my son, daughter-in-law and 7 week old grandson who had also travelled there on the train from the London area. I find walking any distance a painful operation these days but I pounded those streets like a good one but have suffered for it since.  The grandson had already grown three inches in length and as it was several weeks since I last saw him the change was all the more marked. It is unlikely for a variety of reasons that I can get to see him again this side of September so the difference next time will be all the more marked. Whilst in Cambridge we went to see the Han dynasty tomb treasures on display at the Fitzwilliam. 2,000 years old and still strikingly beautiful tomb treasures from China; it was jade and gold worked at least as well as it would be today with modern tools. I can well recommend this exhibition which is on, I think, for some months yet.

After the museum and a leisurely lunch we all went our seperate ways with a plan to meet back up at the railway station. Cambridge station for the uninitiated is a long way out of the centre. My wife and I set off in the direction of where we thought the station might be but my legs were getting stiffer and my back more painful so I gave in to the inevitable and decided to hail a cab. I’m sorry but I wasn’t to know that hackney carriages in that otherwise fine city do not stop if hailed. It was at this point on Trumpington Road opposite the delightfully named Scroope Terrace that a passing stranger recognised me for the out of towner that I was and offered to call a cab for us. This was remarkably kind as I wasn’t really sure where I was the time and certainly didn’t have the number of a taxi cab to hand. This lady was very kind and I can’t thank her enough. I did say I would mention her in my blog but forgot to tell her where to look but on the off chance you do find it lady, thank you so much.

Actually I owe her for another thing as well only this was outwith her capability to organise. The taxi driver who turned up was Roberto and he was playing a CD of Traviata in his cab – I’ve never before met an opera loving taxi driver although they must exist and this was Cambridge. The music coupled with his very pronounced italian accent could easily have transported me to another place altogether if I’d closed my eyes. I could imagine him with a striped jumper, a straw hat and a pole – he would then have been navigating a gondola rather than a Skoda. He would also have been selling me ice cream and singing to his hearts content.

We did eventually get home and all credit to the railways as not even a single minute was lost in the timetable all day long. The following day my thoughts returned to the BNCT event at Coltishall and also, strangely, the demise of the Norfolk Keels. Some years ago there was a movement to restore a Keel which had been recovered from its sunken position. As far as I know this sad wreck remains on the side of the Wensum (or is it the Yare?) and I thought that the restoration had stalled. I have been thinking for a while that it is a pity that there isn’t an intact example and it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to either rescue an example or build a replica. I appreciate this is the sort of acorn like thought I ought to let go as I don’t really have the time but I do have the inclination and no matter what I do that Keel still keeps popping back to mind. Then I thought that perhaps we could use the Coltishall event to guage the public inclination towards support for such a venture. Trouble is I don’t have the time on that day to do this myself as I have wider responsabilities. I’ve put in a couple of calls and fired off a few emails to try and establish the status of the old Norfolk Keels Trust and the feasability of raising the many hundreds of thousands it would take to bring such a project to fruition and I still couldn’t put it down. So I thought we’d better do something about it hadn’t we? At this point, and here I’m going to be deliberately vague and mysterious, I was contacted today by somebody “in the know” and it seems the future may not be as bleak as I first thought so I will cling to the dream but will see what time brings. In the meantime if you agree that this would be a truly wonderful project please let me know by emailing me at stu.wilson100@btinternet.com

We are now but a few short weeks, Wimbledon, Euro 2012 and the Olympics away from our event and I truly look forward to seeing everybody there where at some point in the afternoon I will permit myself a glass of something stronger than shandy so I can raise a personal and silent toast to everyone that has helped bring the day to fruition and also to those generations of working boatmen who sailed the navigation and wider Broads in their Keels and Wherries. We are in awe of them all.

A painting of a Norfolk Keel heading for Breydon Water by David Dane who has kindly permitted its use by this website.

A transport of delight

I was at an event the other evening where I was giving a little talk and somebody was very suprised to learn that in the days of the Navigation wherries were actually built in Aylsham. Today there is no trace of this trade or industry in Aylsham, I guess the nearest boat builders are now in Wroxham (and I know that you will be quick to tell me if I’ve got that wrong). Of course the wherries built in Aylsham would have been work-a-day boats; smaller than some because of the limits of the Navigation but nevertheless well suited for the task expected of them. There is a wonderful book entitled “Black Sailed Traders” by Roy Clark which tells the history and story of the wherries and the men who sailed them. It was first published by David & Charles in 1961 and was reprinted in 1972. Sadly it is now out of print but if you can get a copy it is a truly great read being both well written in a narrative style and full of facts which you just seem to take in. The book also has appendicies listing the wherries and you can see those owned in Aylsham right there in black and white together with the names of those that owned and operated them; an important record.

I’ve been unable to escape over the years from transport; it has been a passionate interest in nearly all its forms. If it is bygone and has a sail or 4 wheels, is powered by steam or flies held together miraculously with string (well rivets anyway) and if it carries passengers about their business or runs on tracks then I am your man. As a young boy I was passionate about buses; this was in the day when they had open rear platforms and had a driver and a conductor. Where I lived, many miles from here, they were nearly all Bristol built buses with coachwork from the old and now long gone Eastern Coachworks in Lowestoft. Imagine my pleasure therefore in the event we’re having in Coltishall on August 26th from 12 noon until 5pm. People will be able to travel by train to Hoveton and Wroxham on the Bittern Line (sadly Greater Anglia have seen fit not to sponsor us despite the fact that we hope people will use their service) or Wroxham on the narrow guage steam powered Bure Valley Railway. Alternatively you could arrive by car and park in the overspill Roy’s car park opposite the BVR station. Now the more astute of you will have realised that this is very nearly 2 miles from the event but we’re going to take you there on a 1959 Bedford bus (oh delight – the boy in me is joyous beyond bounds). We will have to charge a small sum for this service but we will limit it to a figure aimed to just cover the bus costs. When at Coltishall there will be games, exhibitions, food, drink, entertainment and the wherry Albion. We will also have the arrival of canoes that will have travelled the full length of the Navigation carrying a token cargo. There will be other boats and suprises galore – lets just hope the weather doesn’t follow the pattern of 100 years previously. All photos below are copyrighted to the owners of the vehicle and vessel and we have their permission to use. We look forward to seeing you and hope you enjoy what will be an experience.

The very bus we will be using - isn't she lovely? Her name is Lyn Ann by the way.
Albion

Boats in my dreams

In my life I’ve seen and done quite a bit – there’s been guns pointed at me – I’ve been in drug dens (in a professional capacity), appeared on TV and the radio and nearly got drowned in Loch Ness. I’ve been to sea in a violent storm in a small boat and I’ve got off the back of canal boats and pushed as there wasn’t enough water to really float (the summer of 76). I’ve spoken, literally, to thousands at meetings and I reckon I’ve probably driven to the moon and back and a bit more besides. Oh yes I’ve also been head first through a dry stone wall in a motor-cycle accident before crash hats were a legal requirement (some say this explains a lot). I’ve had children and now a grandchild as well and I’ve been knocking on deaths door at least once. So why do I still get nervous when I’m doing my little talks about the Navigation such as the one at Burgh last friday?

The answer I suspect is that if I didn’t I would come across as blase and it would also appear as though I was on auto-pilot which hopefully i’m not. What a nice evening it was with a little talk, the showing of a couple of DVD’s (available at a very reasonable cost from the Trust), some interesting and even tough questions about the history but also I’m glad to say the work of the Trust which looks to the future. They also had a really lovely Bar B Que and the weather for the first time for days stayed kind. I hope we can do similar things at other locations along the Navigation as it is important that what we do includes all the communities tied together by the thread that is the river. In its day the Navigation served not just Aylsham but all the communities along the way. If you would like a talk please let us know.

As we approach the event in August a lot of our efforts are going in to preparations and planning but we do need to spare a thought for the wider field and what we’re going to do after the event with our newly raised funds. Firstly we will move from open meetings to meetings for members – they will still be public and people will be able to come and join but the wholly open door and collection of disparate groups that have come together to celebrate the 100th will by the very nature of things cease to happen. I hope though that we can continue as now until at least one meeting after the event when we can celebrate the publication of the book which is now in preparation. I can reveal that it will be titled “Sail and Storm – the Aylsham Navigation”. I hope to shortly be able to tell you how and when you can advance reserve a copy. 

As for the Trust we need to get our priotities in order and start working to improve things along the river. There are things we can do such as eradication attacks on invasive species, footpath improvements and better access for all coupled with responsible use. We will also need to introduce some interpretation boards along the line of the Navigation so it doesn’t slip back in to the mists of collective history. This sounds like pretentious twaddle but it really isn’t – we’ve been quite succesful in raising the Navigation’s profile and I want to ensure that after the 100th year it isn’t another 100 years before anybody looks to celebrating it again – it should be ongoing.

Interestingly I had a conversation this week about restoration. The official line and my genuinely held belief is that there is no appetite locally for restoration and it would in any case be very difficult technically but I do admit that I sometimes dream of boats on the Upper Bure again. Were it ever to be attempted it would have to be for others as I am at the wrong point in my life to start something that I could probably never see completed but I have been told that in the 1960’s there was a meeting held in Aylsham to try and raise enough interest for a restoration movement. I know nothing about this and if you were there or know something about it please do  get in touch.

The Navigation meanders on its way

Coltishall – August 26th

Regular visitors to this site will know that we have a commemoration of the Aylsham navigation on Coltishall Common on the afternoon of August 26th 2012 and we will soon be publishing some detailed plans of what’s happening. It will include the wherry Albion and possibly other historic boats, games, stalls, exhibitions, and much much more. There will be several ways of getting there and we have been offered the use of Roys overspill car park opposite the Bure Valley Railway Station in Wroxham (Hoveton to be accurate) from where we will be operating a shuttle service by historic old coach. You could also arrive by rail either from the Bittern Line or by way of the BVR and use the same bus transfer.

We will also be carrying a token cargo down the Navigation from Aylsham to meet with the Albion by canoe. A timetable will be issued and there will be an opportunity for you to attend along the river before coming on to Coltishall to cheer them on.

We still need a lot of people to assist with stalls and also as marshalls – if you or an organisation you represent would like to be involved please contact us. You might even like to have a stall. Contact stu.wilson100@btinternet.com

Sneak preview : A truly grand day out

“So just what are you doing in August?”, she asked …… “well”, I replied, “quite a bit actually” Firstly I have a few personal plans of my own for that month which you’ll excuse me if I keep to myself but I also have a really exciting day to look forworad to and I don’t mean my birthday which does also fall in the month. Ever since we started work on commemorating the Aylsham Navigation and setting up the Bure Navigation Conservation Trust there was one date hovering above and around us which we just couldn’t ignore and that is August 26th – the 100th anniversary to the day of the Navigations enforced closure by the flood of 1912. We are now working to make that a really good day to publicly launch ourselves and celebrate the Navigation at the same time.

Looking forward to the date there will be a celebration on Coltishall Common with games, stalls and exhibitions. The wherry Albion and other historic boats will be in attendance and we hope above everything else that you will be there too. We’re making it very easy to get there and interesting as well. Firstly if you really can the only way to arrive is by boat and you will be very welcome but mooring will be at a premium so come early. Or you could come on foot if you live in Coltishall or Horstead and even further afield if you’re adventurous. I do know that there will be a guided “health walk” on that day ending at the common and following the Navigation. You could also come on the train to Wroxham either on Greater Anglia services from Norwich or Sheringham and even further afield or the Bure Valley Railway from Aylsham where you can either alight at Coltishall and walk (quite a long way) or continue to Wroxham from where we are running a bus shuttle in an historic old coach. We will have to make a small charge to cover the cost of this but although the whole day is about raising funds it is also about awareness and we really want families to come along and our costs will be such that they can afford and not feel as though they are being ripped off. Or you can come by car and park in specially provided car parks in Coltishall or at the Roy’s overspill parking area opposite the Bure Valley Railway Wroxham station and then travel on the historic bus.

You will see a lot to interest you along with the river and the arrival of canoes carrying the first cargo down the navigation in 100 years. There will be games, a raffle, exhibitions, food and drink all accompanied by entertainment. There will also be an opportunity to talk to BNCT and even join us if you support what we’re doing. The book of the Navigation’s history will be on sale (hopefully) as a pre-launch concession. It is due for formal publication in September. Our specially made and highly acclaimed double DVD set will also be available on the day (although you can always buy a copy now by contacting the author of this blog (stu.wilson100@btinternet.com) ). We also hope that the special embroidery done by the ladies of the Aylsham Evening WI commemorating the Navigation which will be gifted to the Aylsham Heritage Centre will also be on display. There will also be a souvenier programme and lots of suprises. It will be a truly grand day out.

The AlbionColtishall to Horstead bridge just after the flood
The Coltishall - Horstead bridge immediately after the flood