PETER FROST goes sailing on the Broads.
Once upon a time there were more than three hundred wherries sailing the rivers and broads. They were the aquatic farm carts and trucks of their day.
Every town and village had a staithe and the black sailed barges delivered all sorts of cargo such as building materials to maintain the many otherwise isolated waterside windpumps, waterside buildings and indeed the staithes themselves.
Wherries took beer to a hundred waterside pubs many with no road access at all. Reed and thatch cutters and farmers would send of their marshland produce to market by wherry.
Wildfowlers and eel fishermen would use the wherries as the first stage on the journey to the markets of Norwich, Yarmouth and even London.
In those long Victorian and Edwardian summers some skippers scrubbed out the holds and took holiday makers for Broadland trips and holidays to make extra money.
Today there are just two remaining trading barges built specifically for the Broads and a score or more sunken hulks protecting the banks at various sites in the Broads.
Best known of the surviving trading craft is the 114 year old Wherry Albion.
The good news is that Albion is available for charter, by the day or for a week or two’s holiday. She is also often about on the Broads offering short and long trips for casual visitors.
This means you can follow in Edwardian footsteps and explore the unique Broads wetlands beneath Albion’s vast black sail. For details of all Albion’s activities and how you can join in contact www.wherryalbion.com
There is one other trading wherry the privately owned Maud. She was raised after spending many years sunk in the Broads and has now been wonderfully restored by local millwright Vincent Pargetter.
There are also a small fleet of specially built pleasure wherries that offer sailing holidays as they always have. They are owned by a charitable Trust and you can find out more from their website www.wherryyachtcharter.org