Overweight Ducks and The Beautiful Norfolk Broads

It’s a funny old world that we live in.  Bombarded as we are about the merits of eating healthily and maintaining a healthy weight, yada yada yada, I could not believe my eyes when I read an article recently in The Daily Mail about ducks getting too fat!  Yes, you read that right. Visitors to Ferry Meadows in Peterborough, UK, have been banned from feeding the ducks white bread as wardens there have noticed that they, (along with the park’s geese and swans too, apparently,) are getting too fat!

This got me thinking that perhaps ducks are changing in other ways too.  Way back in June my family went on a lovely boating holiday on The Norfolk Broads. We have a bit of history with the Broads (see below!) but this time we couldn’t help but notice how brazen the ducks have become!  We were often joined by one, two, several ducks flying right up on our boat, looking in at our widows as if to say, “Well, where’s my bread then?”.  It seems that they have learnt to adapt very nicely, thank you, to the holiday trade.

DSC07147

“Where’s My Bread then?”
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

“Hurry Up Mrs!”
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

"Maybe if I just hide here they won't notice me" (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

“Maybe if I just hide here they won’t notice me”
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

"Anyone?" (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

“Anyone?”
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

"We're Still Here!" (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

“We’re Still Here!”
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Believe me, these ducks ate plenty of white bread and they didn’t look too fat to me!

Ahh, The Norfolk Broads – even the name evokes powerful, heart-warming memories for me.   This is because every year when I was a young girl this is where my family took our annual family holidays. What made it even more exciting was that we would have one yacht for us and another for my grandparents, they making the trek from ‘up north’ and us from ‘down south’.  We would meet in Horning, a delightful riverside village, at the boatyard.

I loved it when the waters were calm and still and we would pootle lazily along the meandering rivers, but I also remember being quite frightened when we would be sailing in strong winds across a broad, particularly Barton Broad. The yacht would heel over, the dark, grey waters lapping right up to the gunwale.  I can hear now the  cracking sound as the wind would whip sharply into the mainsail and someone yelling out, “Going About!” as we all had to crouch down and quickly move across to the other side of the well as the heavy boom would swing sharply just above our heads.

It was after a day’s sailing when we were safely moored up against a peaceful riverbank that I would feel the happiest.  As an evening mist would begin to wrap itself all around us, we would put up the awning for the night. After supper, my brother and I would be tucked up into our cosy bunks in the forepeak where we would tell stories and laugh and make up silly games, finally falling asleep as our cheeks glowed from the Norfolk air, lulled as we were by the gentle lap, lap, lap of the water against the bow.

A Yacht with its awning (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

A Yacht with its awning
Norfolk Broads
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

In the mornings, the first thing I would do was to pull open the tiny curtains covering the round port holes in our cabin and look out at the river only inches away, and I would be mesmerized by the early dancing light on the water.

It was my grandfather who started this family tradition in the 1930s when my mother was very young.   He, my grandmother, Mum and my uncle took their annual holidays on the Broads but of course, as Mum tells it, things were very different then.  There were very few motor boats, mostly yachts, and there were no frills.

Mum has memories of my granny having to get on her knees in the well of the boat to light the calor gas stove just to boil the kettle for a morning cup of tea.  She also remembers mooring up to river banks and walking along fields and pathways to find the local farm to buy fresh milk for their breakfast!  Health and safety today wouldn’t dare allow such a thing now, I’m sure!

Happy Norfolk Broads Memories! (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Happy Norfolk Broads Memories!
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

This is one of my favourite photos from my childhood, I love the pure enjoyment in our smiles!  This is me (in the middle) with my lovely little ‘bruv’ in front and my Granny behind.  Notice our old style yacht, still with the front awning up, and notice the jumpers and coats – it is summer! 1960s

My brother and I were mere babes when we had our first Broads holiday.  My brother learned to walk on a yacht as he could hold onto each side of the galley it being so narrow and so an ideal first-steps aid!  I had a near miss once, so the story goes.  Mum was bathing me in the galley sink (I was maybe one year old) when all of a sudden the bowsprit of a passing-by yacht which had obviously run into some trouble (this is not at all uncommon on boating holidays!) came crashing through the side of our boat, narrowly missing my back by inches. There by the grace of God…

Careful on Board! (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Careful on Board!
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Another family favourite.  Dear Granny, ever vigilant, holding on to me for dear life as I look out into the early morning sunshine. 

Granny &Dandy Norfolk Broads  (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Granny & Dandy, Brother & Me
Norfolk Broads
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

All aboard!  Yet another favourite, my brother, in front of me, with my Granny and Dandy as we called him.  Mum and Dad are in the other yacht taking the photos! 1960s

Some 15 years ago, we all (Mum, my family and my brother’s) took a holiday on the Broads together and we reminisce about it to this day with great joy.  Going back this June after so long, we did notice some changes.

For one thing, where did all the ‘gin palaces’ come from I would like to ask?  Now, if I was ever invited to go out for the day on a ‘gin palace’ to the French Riviera and pootle on down to, oh I don’t know, let’s say, Cannes, or possibly Monaco, do you think I would turn it down?  No, of course not.

But on the Norfolk Broads?  I don’t think so.  It just seems, well, so obscene!

Just as a very quick explanation, the Norfolk Broads are an expanse of navigable rivers and lakes (‘broads’) that were once thought to be part of the natural landscape. It wasn’t until  the 1960s that Dr Joyce Lambert discovered that they were in fact flooded medieval peat excavations. (credit: Wikipedia)

As early as 1878, sail boats could be hired from John Loynes and Harry Blake but in recent decades the number of people sailing has declined considerably.  Even in the 15 years since we were last there, we noticed this time that there very few people sailing, chosing to motor boat instead.  Indeed, that’s what we did!

Unfortunately, the huge popularity of motor boating holidays on the Broads caused  serious problems with water pollution  which in turn had an adverse effect on wildlife and plant life.  All is not lost, however.  Thanks to the efforts of the Broads Authority, since the 1970s the Broads Restoration project has been underway.

This has involved the removal of fish (biomanipulation) to allow water fleas to graze the algae to clear the water. Decades later, we certainly saw great evidence of this by the vast amounts of beautiful lily pads floating gracefully on the now clean waters, something we had not seen before. They only grow in clean water, so this is great news indeed.

Lily Pads of the Norfolk Broads (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Lily Pads of the Norfolk Broads
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Lily Pads of the Norfolk Broads (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Lily Pads of the Norfolk Broads
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust is also undertaking constant conservation work to protect the wildlife and wild spaces of the Norfolk Broads and this is evidenced by the truly spectacular wildlife and nature reserves now found there.

One delightful animal we certainly had never seen before on our Broads holidays were otters.  This is because by the 1970s entire river systems no longer supported them, mostly due to pollution.  Now, however, thanks to an extensive conservation effort banning pesticides, providing otters legal protection and a significant improvement in water quality, otters have returned to their previous haunts on the Norfolk Broads.   No photos unfortunately, but I did take one of a sketch of one at a nature reserve!

Sketch of an Otter taken at a Nature Reserve Norfolk Broads (c) Sherri Matthews 2013

Sketch of an Otter taken at a Nature Reserve
Norfolk Broads
(c) Sherri Matthews 2013

This, then, is the post which I had intended to write and share with you many weeks ago, but was unable to.  I just wanted to share a piece of my heart with you, a place which means so very much to me. 

A place where even the ducks have changed but what the Norfolk Broads means to me has never changed, and it never will.

A Sunset Evening at Salhouse Norfolk Broads (c)copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

A Sunset Evening at Salhouse
Norfolk Broads
(c)copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

My dear mum shared this delightful saying with me, although I am not sure where it came from, but I leave it here with you now:

“The Norfolk Broads are a breathing space for the cure of souls.”

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
This entry was posted in Childhood Memories, Family Life, Nature & Wildlife, Norfolk Broads and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Overweight Ducks and The Beautiful Norfolk Broads

  1. Heyjude says:

    Ah, such a lovely post Sherri. We only got to a bit of the Broads on our holiday, but it is so beautiful, though very busy. I’d like to spend more time in that region at a quieter time. Childhood memories are so precious and it is great that you have so many lovely photos of that time.
    Have a great weekend, Jude (from a very wet Ludlow) xx

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    • Sherri says:

      Ahh, thanks Jude! So glad you enjoyed reading this! Yes, we did notice it was quite busy even in June before the school holidays got underway, and even more so once fishing season kicked in! These photos are just about the only ones I do have and so are very precious to me. My grandfather (Dandy!) died suddenly when I was only 13 but my granny lived to be 94! Hope you had a lovely holiday, sorry to hear you returned to rain. We are just getting it now but I thought we were in for another heatwave! It is so muggy still though! You have a great weekend too 🙂 xx

      Like

  2. celestialmike111 says:

    A funny heartwarming and informative piece – really enjoyable!

    Like

  3. Denise says:

    Wildlife Trusts do some amazing work. I especially like the photos you have of similar scenes, from across the ages! Thanks for your post.

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    • Sherri says:

      Yes, they certainly do. The work that the Norfolk Wildlife Trust is doing on the Broads is excellent and it is really paying off. There are birds there which were never there before, such as Black Headed Terns (even though they have brown heads, go figure!) and Marsh Harriers. The nature reserves are excellent. Thank you Denise, I’m really glad you enjoyed this post and the photographs from my family archives 🙂

      Like

  4. jennypellett says:

    Sherri – you are not going to believe this – BUT – I spent many a happy family holiday staying in Norfolk, at a place called Winterton on sea, and we would hire a boat for a day from Wroxham and potter off to Potter Heigham. If I remember rightly, there used to be an eccentric sort of department store at one of these two places where we’d stock up on flip flops and beach equipment as well as groceries for our holiday cottage. Dad took my sister and me up the Hornsey windmill (actually a pump) while Mum stayed on the ground with my brother in the pushchair. ne of the highlights of a week in Norfolk for my sister and me was to visit the fairground in Great Yarmouth.
    Our lives are ever inter-twining. It’s spooky. We probably passed your yacht in our day hire tub – or would we have to give way to you? I think we would. We’d be the boat with the man in ghastly red shorts singing at the top of his voice. That would be my Dad.

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    • Sherri says:

      Oh Jenny, I can’t believe it!!! Are you sure we didn’t go to the same schools or something? Once I stopped laughing so much from reading what you said about your dad and then having a massive coughing fit because of it, I am finally able to reply! Firstly, yes, it is Laythams at Potter Heigham and it is still there, as eccentric as ever! Or,it could have been Roys of Wroxham, again, still there! Just as you describe. We used to be able to go through the bridge at Potter Heigham and we always paid a visit to Horsey Windmill but this time our boat wouldn’t fit through, and I can assure you that our boat was far from a gin palace! Now you have to get a pilot and even the pilot said ‘no go’ which was a huge disappointment. What about the days when we would take our chances and if we happened to crash into the side of the bridge, oh well??? Honestly, where’s the spirit of adventure these days?
      I grew up in Suffolk from the age of 10 and we often used to drive up for the day and hire a day boat. We more than likely did see each other. I don’t exactly recall a man in ghastly red shorts singing at the top of his voice, but I do remember seeing a man in very short and very tight bright pink shorts standing on top of a boat waving to everyone that passed by! Sound familiar? 🙂 x

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  5. What a nice family tradition! Nothing beats being lulled by nature to sleep 🙂

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    • Sherri says:

      Ah, thanks, yes, there was a lot of turmoil in my childhood but these precious memories of my family holidays on the Broads are some of my happiest and it was lovely to have that as a tradition. To this day I love the sound of lapping water 🙂

      Like

  6. beingnenne says:

    I find it amazing that one little post about supposedly fat ducks took you on an awesome ride down memory lane. Great post!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much! I do tend to do that but don’t want to go off track! When I saw the article about the fat ducks that was my ‘lightbulb’ moment as to how I could link the two stories! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you will visit my blog again 🙂

      Like

  7. mumblypeg says:

    Oh what a well described walk down memory lane. I loved seeing the happy photos of those past days. I must look out some more that I have and make sure thay are saved. I even have a pic of one of the ducks balancing on the edge of the dinghy. They never used to do that! A lovely post full of joy and happiness, Blessings and love xx

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh, I was so hoping you would read this today! My memories of these wonderful times give me such joy and fill my heart with love. Of course, I wrote it with you in mind dear mumblypeg! Still can’t get over how brazen those ducks were! And the swans too! So glad you enjoyed this…blessings and love to you too 🙂 xxx

      Like

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