CRUISING THE RIVER THURNE

Summer 1963.

It was only a few days, but the two of us were living a very basic life, and three days was just  enough to be enjoyable, without becoming an endurance test.

We started our journey going upstream, which would not have mattered if we had been in a power boat, but we were in a sailing boat, at the mercy of the winds and currents. The current at least was consistent against us. We were in The Versator, my Enterprise dinghy (sail number E8223), and slept in an old tent which had belonged to my sister Tiggie. Tents in those days were of cotton, mostly white as this one was, although green was also popular. Tents had separate groundsheets and guy ropes that needed regular attention in tightening them up. When it rained they need loosening, because the natural fibres shrank in the wet.

All our food and clothing was packed into the boat, although my clothing, as you can see, consisted of a tracksuit. The river Thurne is only six miles long, but tacking up a twisty river against the flow made it many miles further than that. The river is also tidal although it seems many miles from the river’s eventually flowing out to sea.  At the northern end of the river near its source it is in fact very close to the sea. We finished at Horsey Mere and went across Hickling Broad on the way there.

Joe Mason and Enterprise, 1963

Joe Mason and Enterprise, 1963

It was very kind of my cousin David (Anderson) to leave his young family to spend a few days on my boat, but also (I suspect) something of a holiday for him too. He not only got a few days out on the water that he loved, he also got a break from his children! My second cousin Rachel (his third child and only daughter) had been born on June 10th of that year, and would have been a squealing baby. He was teaching R.E. at Wymonham College at the time and this river trip was of course during his summer break. During term time he was  in charge of the school chapel in an old Nissen hut; it still survived when my daughter Polly was briefly a pupil there 7 or 8 years ago. It isthe only remaining piece of original World War II architecture, when it was a USAAF hospital. Someone is even planning to get married there.

The first night of our cruise was just spent on the river bank with the dinghy pulled out of the water and the tent a few yards away. We had begun the journey at Thurne mouth (see picture), and the second day would have involved going under the medieval bridge at Potter Heigham. This would have involved lowering the mast by undoing the bottle screw on the fore stay and carefully handling it down. The shrouds could stay in position, although the bottle screws would have need loosening a turn or two. We seem to have done it all without any problem because I can’t remember it at all. We must have paddled the boat through the bridge.

The next night we spent beside Horsey mere with a friend of David’s who was running a young people’s summer camp. He and David were involved in a long discussion about the relevance of Freud. David was in favour of a Freudian explanation of the Gospels which on latter reflection I think was a mistake. I think he soon changed his mind as well. At the time I just sat and listened to this talk, enthralled. Needless to say, much of this went right over my head.

After tacking up a narrow and twisting river the open spaces of Hickling Broad and Horsey Mere were a welcome change. A deeper draught vessel would have been confined to the marked channel, but as the crew of a centre board dinghy we had a little more leeway. The next day was spent in retracing our way back to Thurne mouth. This time we were going with the stream of the river and it only took a day. The whole trip took just three days and two nights, but living in the open air, out if a little sailing dinghy with all our food and water aboard, that was about right. I was fourteen which was the perfect age for such an outdoor adventure. It was summer with  misty early mornings and light evenings, and we were lucky with the weather.

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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