Sunday, 17 March 2013

Wherries and Waterways in Winter.

Winter arrived quite late in East Anglia this year and once established it has seemed very reluctant to leave.  The winter sun which can add a real sparkle to film at this time of year has remained hidden behind layers of oppressive grey cloud.   In spite of the poor conditions it has been possible to shoot some film on the better days.

Some of the most interesting footage this winter has been the progress the of the wherry yacht "Olive" being overhauled at Wroxham.   "Olive" was built by Earnest Collins in 1909 and named after his youngest daughter.  She began working as a holiday cruiser for Blakes the same year and continued working until 1958 when she was sold into private ownership.   Now in the care of of the Wherry Yacht Charter Trust  "Olive" was re-floated in February this year looking very spruce as her freshly painted hull slipped into the water.  Such a dramatic change compared to the tired looking craft that had been winched onto the slipway in July last year.  

Re-floating "Olive"

A few days later it was the turn of "Olive's" sister ship, "White Moth", to be winched onto the vacant slipway.  With the exception of the giant airbags I imagine the operation was not so very different from the traditional methods used long ago in the boatyards.  Watching this grand old vessel inching her way up the track  was a fascinating sight.   

Coltishall Boatyard c1900

Hundreds of man-hours are worked on these essentially Norfolk craft through the winter months.
Fingers numbed with cold and breath vapourising in the frosty morning air are just part of the job.

Another of my regular haunts is the North Walsham and Dilham canal. Spectacular progress on the canal has been maintained over the last twelve months.   Work has been concentrated on the dried out section around Bacton Wood and Royston bridge when the weather has permitted.   The very wet December and the January snow has slowed down the determined work parties but not stopped them altogether.

Winter on The North Walsham and Dilham
We have recorded several hours of video on the canal this winter.  The latest footage will soon be added to the series of DVD's which are now available from the NW&D Canal Trust.
Details also available from 

Winter on the canal can be an in-hospitable place when a stiff  North Easterly is blowing across the open Norfolk landscape.  My fingers have turned blue many times this winter operating the camera and my thoughts have often turned to the wherrymen who sailed these waterways in winter.  Imagine slipping the keel in mid January - Hands in ice-cold water removing stubborn bolts. 
Hard as nails!

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