To stick with the seasonal feel I have to tell you that the other morning I was down on the navigable river by the Staithe at Belaugh. It was cold and a mist was hovering just off the surface. All was quiet and I couldn’t help wondering how the trading boats would get on if they met here as it is quite narrow and I doubt if they could pass. I closed my eyes and for one second thought I could hear shouted warnings but just in case you think I’m going completely Doolally I quickly realised that the calls from the past were very much from a timeless present as it was the Geese honking as they stirred in the early morning light. This is a sound heard by us but it would also have been heard by the working men so many years ago. It would have told them, as if they needed to know, that autumn was here and winter not far behind.
At this point the river is still tidal albeit barely but of course once through the lock at Coltishall the boats would lose all tide and just have the current to contend with which at times of spate would have been considerable. The Mills and Locks would help to control flood water at times of spate so the torrential rain that fell in August 1912 must have been something else to completely overwhelm the infrastructure. Thankfully it really was a once in one hundred years event although that isn’t to say that there isn’t flooding occasionally in the present time. Thankfully there are no boats left to get trapped upstream only the memories lingering in and around the river.
Under normal circumstances the current would not have been that great, much as now, although still harder work upstream than down particularly if the boat was being punted as was normal when the sail couldn’t be utilised.
Weather in one form or another would have dominated the lives of the Wherry men (for they were all men) as it had the ability to both blight their lives and to give them a real boost. Balmy summer evenings versus frosty winter nights. I know which I would prefer but it had to be all the same to them.
As Halloween approaches we can expect frost and fog so beware in the gloom a wherry makes it way forward on its long gone journey. To where is it headed with it’s ghostly cargo? If you see it let me know.