An insider's guide to the county's best kept secrets
Richardson’s Boating Holidays – Calypso
Tel: 01692 688981
Take to the magical waterways and get away from it all in a romantic love boat for two
How to find it
Richardson’s Boating Holidays own the largest fleet of cruisers on the broads and have the best reputation. They’re based in Stalham on the A149 between Wroxham and Potter Heigham, 14 miles from both Norwich and Great Yarmouth. With around 300 boats catering for all holiday requirements, there’s bound to be a cruiser that’s just right for you.
Arriving in the boatyard you’ll find a reception, showers, life jacket hire point, indoor and outdoor car parking facilities and several named quays where the cruisers are moored up ready for your arrival. The boatyard boys are friendly and jovial and you immediately feel at one with life on the water. They reassure you of any doubts whilst taking you through a detailed induction of all on board facilities and steering/mooring procedures. If you’re new to boating life, all this can seem a little daunting but there’s really no need to panic as everything becomes second nature once you take to the waters. They take you down the river for a short demonstration and give you the opportunity to take to the wheel, have a go at driving and attempt mooring. You’ll probably get in a bit of a muddle at this point but that’s part of the fun. As long as you feel safe, the rest falls into place on your travels.
Load your possessions on board and set sail.
What to expect
Every boat is different and I cannot vouch for them all but my favourite to date is a delightful little couple’s cruiser named Calypso, 28ft long and 10ft 9 wide. Refitted in 2010 it has a well thought out open plan layout with full walk around bed, cooking facilities, ample living space, front and rear access for easy mooring and warm air heating. The latter is especially a Godsend if you’re thinking of going early Spring/Autumn as it can be pretty chilly at night on the water. It also has a pull back roof over the seating area to enjoy the sun in summer.
A new way of life
Life on the river is slow and gentle; all about taking things at your own pace. There will be plenty of people ignoring the 4 to 6 mph speed limits and attempting to bomb past you creating a wash in their haste but I can’t help thinking that they’re missing the point. Messing about on the river is meant to be a relaxed affair. The appeal of a boat as home is that you haven’t got to be anywhere by a set time. You can moor up wherever and whenever you like. If you drift past and spot an intriguing gift shop or see an idyllic riverside pub, you can just stop right there. For 10 minutes, for an hour or for the whole day; it doesn’t really matter where you end up or how far you go. Just go with the flow and leave all plans for when you’re back on dry land; schedules aren’t needed here and that alone can feel so liberating.
It’s not just about hopping off; the scenery on the broads is stunning. You’ll see a vast array of wildlife, herons wherever you look. Windmills are a delight to see as are the banks of residential areas where there’s endless homes that will leave you in awe.
How many days you take the boat out determines how far you can get obviously but even in a weekend, there a plenty of places to pass through. Neatishead, How Hill or Ludham are good first night stops. Barton broad is a large expanse of water you’ll go through first which can be quite rough on a windy day. Horning is a lovely village with a tasteful river view pub The Swan Inn (review to follow) and a quality Deli and Gift shop, The Galley (click here for a review). Ranworth also has a good family pub, The Malsters (review to follow) and Ludham a lovely art centre, Broad Skies Gallery (review to follow). I could go on and on but I’ll let you explore for yourself.
There will be stressful moments, I can’t lie. Mooring up can be a tricky pursuit since the logic of steering a car doesn’t follow suit with a boat. The back end of the cruiser is what moves first so steering almost has to be reversed from what feels like common sense. This can take a bit of getting used to but everyone is always so helpful and will guide you in from their boats and help with the ropes. There’s a strong sense of community of the water.
Cruisers can cater for up to 12 people but if there’s just the two of you, I cannot recommend Calypso enough. With a driving seat big enough for you both to sit on together and a comfy spacious bed for nights in with some love songs on the radio, it’s surprising how romantic this boat can be. On warm nights you can lay on the roof and star gaze together too.
Richardson’s is a family run business that started out with just one cruiser for hire in 1958. With an association to boating for over six generations, they know what makes a good cruiser and what makes a good holiday. They’re constantly updating their boats both inside and out as well as manufacturing new designs such as the Broadsman that features a low wash hull. If you’re looking for a firm to trust, Richardson’s should be your top choice. Ring for a brochure and advice on which style of boat will suit you best.