I was at an event the other evening where I was giving a little talk and somebody was very suprised to learn that in the days of the Navigation wherries were actually built in Aylsham. Today there is no trace of this trade or industry in Aylsham, I guess the nearest boat builders are now in Wroxham (and I know that you will be quick to tell me if I’ve got that wrong). Of course the wherries built in Aylsham would have been work-a-day boats; smaller than some because of the limits of the Navigation but nevertheless well suited for the task expected of them. There is a wonderful book entitled “Black Sailed Traders” by Roy Clark which tells the history and story of the wherries and the men who sailed them. It was first published by David & Charles in 1961 and was reprinted in 1972. Sadly it is now out of print but if you can get a copy it is a truly great read being both well written in a narrative style and full of facts which you just seem to take in. The book also has appendicies listing the wherries and you can see those owned in Aylsham right there in black and white together with the names of those that owned and operated them; an important record.
I’ve been unable to escape over the years from transport; it has been a passionate interest in nearly all its forms. If it is bygone and has a sail or 4 wheels, is powered by steam or flies held together miraculously with string (well rivets anyway) and if it carries passengers about their business or runs on tracks then I am your man. As a young boy I was passionate about buses; this was in the day when they had open rear platforms and had a driver and a conductor. Where I lived, many miles from here, they were nearly all Bristol built buses with coachwork from the old and now long gone Eastern Coachworks in Lowestoft. Imagine my pleasure therefore in the event we’re having in Coltishall on August 26th from 12 noon until 5pm. People will be able to travel by train to Hoveton and Wroxham on the Bittern Line (sadly Greater Anglia have seen fit not to sponsor us despite the fact that we hope people will use their service) or Wroxham on the narrow guage steam powered Bure Valley Railway. Alternatively you could arrive by car and park in the overspill Roy’s car park opposite the BVR station. Now the more astute of you will have realised that this is very nearly 2 miles from the event but we’re going to take you there on a 1959 Bedford bus (oh delight – the boy in me is joyous beyond bounds). We will have to charge a small sum for this service but we will limit it to a figure aimed to just cover the bus costs. When at Coltishall there will be games, exhibitions, food, drink, entertainment and the wherry Albion. We will also have the arrival of canoes that will have travelled the full length of the Navigation carrying a token cargo. There will be other boats and suprises galore – lets just hope the weather doesn’t follow the pattern of 100 years previously. All photos below are copyrighted to the owners of the vehicle and vessel and we have their permission to use. We look forward to seeing you and hope you enjoy what will be an experience.