PETER FROST goes sailing

Wander into the boat sheds at Hunter’s Yard on a dyke off Womack Water in Ludham and it’s like stepping back across eighty years of Broad’s pleasure boating history.

Percy Hunter, with his two sons Cyril and Stanley, started it all back in 1932. By the time war broke out the yard was renting out well over a dozen traditional Broads sailing craft.

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The yard is still hiring out those same pretty varnished yachts and half deckers today and new and experienced Broads sailors still delight in being able to be part of the liquid history of Broadland.

Percy’s boats were, and still are, often known as his Lovely Ladies. They haven’t changed much in eighty years.  As Bank’s beer’s wonderful slogan puts it these craft are ‘unspoilt by progress’.

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Percy’s Lovely Ladies form a fleet with varnished mahogany, bronze fittings and gaff rigs. They have no engine or electric power but they do have oil lamps and simple gas cookers, most important they sail really well.

The Hunter family operated the Yard until 1968 when it was sold to the Norfolk County Council to become the Norfolk County Sailing Base. I learnt to sail there in my teens and so did thousands of other local youngsters as well as young people from all over the country.

When the base was threatened with closure in 1995 the public said no! A Trust was formed to keep the classic fleet afloat. The spirit of Broads boating was too important to let die. Over £100,000 was raised and the Heritage Lottery Fund chipped in with a grant of £200,000.

On 1st April 1996 the Norfolk Heritage Fleet Trust took over the yard and emblazoned its original name, Hunter’s Yard over the door.

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Today Hunters is a fully operational hire boat yard, keeping wooden craft boat building skills alive and best of all it retains all of that atmosphere of the 1930’s. Yachts and half decked day boats can be hired, sailing tuition is available, they even organise voyages with an experienced skipper.

One warning, sail a Hunter’s Yard boat and you’ll know what it is like to be famous and pursued by the paparazzi. Everyone will want to take a picture of you in your beautiful boat.

Hunter’s yard has their 80th anniversary brochure out now. They can be contacted on 01692 678263 http://www.huntersyard.co.uk

What else happened in 1932?

There was a coalition Government; a world wide recession; growing unemployment; failing banks and savage government spending cuts. So what has changed?

The Kinder Mass Trespass sowed the seeds for legislation allowing access  for allto the countryside. Without the Trespass there would be no National Parks including the Broads.

The airship Graf Zeppelin starts regular passenger flights to South America; Ghandi is arrested and goes on hunger strike in British India;

Britain gives Iraq independence.

In Germany an Austrian painter and decorator called Adolf Hitler becomes a German citizen by naturalisation and starts his rapid rise to power; Oswald Mosley founds the British Union of Fascists. The Nobel Peace Prize was not presented in 1932.

Notable births of the year 1932  included; The Mars Bar; Johnny Cash; Elizabeth Taylor; Coronation Street’s William Roach; Alma Cogan; Prunella Scales; Petula Clark and Little Richard.

This article appeared in the now defunct magazine Canals, rivers and boats in 2012.


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