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Liveaboards Past & Present

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NBF
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Liveaboards Past & Present

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Navigating the Past and Present: The Rich Tapestry of Life on the Norfolk Broads


The Norfolk Broads, a network of navigable rivers and lakes nestled in the picturesque English countryside, have long been home to a diverse array of people whose lives have been intertwined with the waterways for centuries. From the stoic wherrymen to the resourceful eel catchers, the history of the Broads is a tapestry woven with the stories of those who have made their living and their homes on its tranquil waters.
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Dating back to medieval times, the Broads have been a vital hub of trade and transportation, with wherrymen plying their trade along its waterways. These skilled boatmen navigated their flat-bottomed vessels, known as wherries, loaded with cargo ranging from grain to timber, facilitating trade between the bustling ports of Norwich and Great Yarmouth. Their expertise in maneuvering through the shallow channels and winding rivers was essential for the region's economic prosperity.

Eel catching also played a significant role in the lives of Broads dwellers, providing sustenance and income for many families. Eel traps and nets were set along the water's edge, and generations of eel catchers honed their craft, passing down traditional techniques and knowledge from father to son.

However, alongside the rich tapestry of Broads history lies a more contentious narrative of modern-day struggles faced by liveaboards. The incident at Jenner's Basin serves as a stark reminder of the tensions between boat dwellers and the Broads Authority. In 2019, liveaboard boaters at Jenner's Basin, near Norwich, were served eviction notices by the Broads Authority, citing concerns over safety and environmental impact. This move sparked outcry from the boating community and raised questions about the rights of liveaboards to call the Broads their home.

Furthermore, the derogatory language used by some officials to describe boat dwellers, such as referring to them as "feral people in a shanty town," highlights the stigma and discrimination faced by this marginalised community. Such language not only perpetuates negative stereotypes but also undermines the rich cultural heritage of those who have chosen to make the Broads their home.

In response to these challenges, organisations like the Broads Boating Community and the National Bargee Travellers Association have advocated for the rights of liveaboards and worked to preserve the unique way of life on the waterways. Their efforts underscore the importance of recognising and respecting the diverse communities that have shaped the history of the Norfolk Broads.

As we reflect on the past and present of life on the Broads, it is crucial to acknowledge the contributions of wherrymen, eel catchers, and other residents who have called these waterways home. Their stories remind us of the resilience and adaptability of those who have navigated the challenges of life on the Broads for generations.

The reality of the situation today is that a very small minority of residential boaters ruin it not just for other liveaboards but for the whole boating community including hirers.

If it is possible for individuals to possess a flotilla of boats which are in effect being used illegally on the Norfolk Broads then it is the system that has failed and it is the system that has to be addressed.
The current toll system does not work as untolled boats are free to roam the waterways, so what's the point in having tolls. If somebody is flat broke or receives minimal benefits, then there is zero point taking them to court.
Untaxed road vehicles are towed away by the police, it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference if somebody is living in the back of it. Then the same should apply to boats as otherwise there is absolutely no point paying tolls.
I think some leniency should be adopted such as allowing people time to pay tolls or even a more contemporary system like how we all pay our road tax.

The situation has got out of hand and the same formula is being applied again and again expecting a different result...it is insanity.

Moving forward, it is imperative that we work towards a more inclusive and equitable future for all who cherish this unique and cherished landscape.
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