Travel back in time (and style)…

12 September 2019

Travel back in time (and style)…

Originally published 2019

A couple of weekends ago, City of Stories river-tested Herbert Woods’ 1927 wooden cruiser, ‘Spark of Light’. This gorgeous, vintage vessel has been fully restored to its former glory, and now you can hire the boat (complete with skipper) for the whole day, so you can glide around the broads in style.

The boat is very special. It was built in 1927 in the Herbert Woods boatshed, and christened ‘Spark of Light’. It even played its part in the war effort, and was used as part of a raft on the broads to prevent German boats from landing there.

After the war, and damaged by bullets, the boat was restored, renamed and hired out for holiday, right up to the 1950s when she became the private vessel of Herbert Woods’ chairman.

Until now.

Over the Winter of 2016/17, ‘Spark of Light’ went through a major renovation, including a full rewire, new headlining and upholstery. Every effort has been made to preserve or replicate the interior in its original style, and modern features added to make her more comfortable.

The result is a truly beautiful vessel. Stepping aboard is like being a child at Christmas  – everything you can see is pristine, sparkling and feels like a new gift. Even the presence of our wonderful skipper, Peter, didn’t stop us from shrieking as we discovered all the boaty touches that you see in films: a whistling kettle hanging in the boat’s kitchen, gleaming portholes set in mahogany, and neat seating both above and below deck. To top it all off, waiting for us in the kitchen was the most beautiful cake in the whole world. Ever.

Herbert Woods

Photo: Herbert Woods

We set off down the river Thurne, sat on the deck of the boat, passing waterside houses and choosing which one we’d live in. Beyond the houses, the broads opens out into its recognisable flat wilderness, and it is completely quiet as the boat glides down the water.

We talked about how good this would be for a celebration with your girls, or getting the family together. As the boat is driven by a skipper, the stress of driving is taken out of your hands (literally), so you are free to relax, drink coffee, and take in the beautiful surroundings. The boat takes up to six people, so it’s perfect for a hen party, or small birthday/anniversary celebration with your nearest and dearest. Plus, if you call in advance, Herbert Woods can arrange a picnic, cake, and to stop off at one of the pubs by the river.

Herbert Woods

Photo: Herbert Woods

Before lunch, we stopped off at St Benets Abbey: a ruin you wouldn’t necessarily spot from the water were it not for a magnificent wooden cross stood in the distance. The Abbey was a monastery founded in the Anglo-Saxon Period, and used throughout the Middle Ages until it was closed in the 1530’s. It’s an awesome sight, and you can still explore the gatehouse and ruins today – you can see carvings on the bricks from hundreds of years ago!

After our trip to the Abbey, we hopped back on board the boat, and Peter took us to a grassy river bank, where we sat on the deck of the boat and ate our picnic. Enid Blyton style, we enjoyed rolls filled with egg, cheese and pickle and actual cucumber sandwiches – with fresh apple juice as opposed to lashings of ginger beer. It was the most beautiful way to end our trip.

We were out exploring the broads for three hours, although you can hire the boat and skipper from 10am – 4pm, for 6 people. At £300, that’s £50 each for a whole day of beautiful scenery, a magnificent boat and use of the kitchen, plus stops along the broads.

It’s a fun and relaxing thing to do, but what’s more it feels incredibly special: Spark of Light has got such a place in the heart of Herbert Woods  that you really do feel a sense of occasion, sat on her top deck exploring Norfolk’s finest scenery. We would absolutely recommend this to anyone, whether you’re looking for a daytrip that all the family will enjoy, or are looking to do something a bit different for a celebration.

If all this talk of messing about on the river has wet your appetite for more, then the Broads have their own newsletter. Sign up here to stay up to date with all the latest events, offers and news.