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Canoe hire more popular

PUBLISHED: 11:23 17 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:18 05 July 2010

Canoe hire on the Broads has enjoyed a dramatic surge in popularity with people of all ages discovering the joy of getting closer to nature.

One of the companies leading the way is Bank Dayboats, at Wayford Bridge, near Stalham, which has even launched successful camping canoe trails this season.

Canoe hire on the Broads has enjoyed a dramatic surge in popularity with people of all ages discovering the joy of getting closer to nature.

One of the companies leading the way is Bank Dayboats, at Wayford Bridge, near Stalham, which has even launched successful camping canoe trails this season.

Sixteen parties have already taken out canoes for two or three-day expeditions, heading for existing campsites such as at Oby or Clippesby Hall or camping rough at Salhouse Broad or, with the permission of landowners, on riverbanks.

Other firms taking part in the Broads Authority-inspired canoe hire network have also reported a successful season, including Martham Boats and Whispering Reeds, at Hickling, which is already planning to increase its number of canoes for next summer.

Tony Urwin, who runs Bank Dayboats with his wife Angie, said: “We started with six boats when the Broads Authority launched the canoe network in 2000, but we have now built that up to 30, and this summer has seen us go from strength to strength. Frankly, we would now like to get rid of the day boats and concentrate on canoes.”

Mr Urwin, who is chairman of the Broads canoe hire network, said next summer all nine members would be taking part in camping canoe trails.

His wife confessed she had to be “dragged screaming and kicking into a canoe the first time” but was now a complete convert who found the noise of motorboats irritating.

This year they had noticed a particular surge in demand for after-work, evening canoe sessions.

“Office workers arrive from Norwich after a hard day and simply take their jacket and tie off and get in the canoe. They all report it to be the perfect way to de-stress. By the time they get home they say they are not going to kill the kids any more,” she said.

Mrs Urwin said paddling up and down the North Walsham and Dilham Canal on a two or three-hour expedition was the perfect way to see a variety of wildlife close up, from otters and kingfishers to marsh harriers and swans, not to mention the curious cattle and sheep on the banks.

“It's a real chance to get back to nature. It's a great way to reach the quiet hidden parts other boats can't reach,” she added.

Mr Urwin, who was once a national powerboat racer but now prefers the slower pace of his canoe, said: “It is great for families because it brings them close together. Even young children enjoy it and we give them junior paddles.

“We even have one customer who is 98 years old and comes in his Harris tweed suit with his grandson. They have a wonderful time.”

Aase Tusting, a director of Whispering Reeds at Hickling, said their firm was also reaping the rewards of canoe hire.

“We only started this summer with two canoes but it has certainly taken off and we are looking to add two more next summer,” she said.

Broads Authority spokeswoman Hilary Franzen said they were encouraged by the success of both the canoe and bike hire networks which they had established as sustainable forms of tourism at a time when the hire boat trade was in decline.

Firms had received funding for canoes through Defra's sustainable development fund.

Blob. Canoes can be hired from Outney Meadow Caravan Park, Bungay; Waveney River Centre, Burgh St Peter; Rowan Craft, Geldeston; Salhouse Broad; Sutton Staithe Boatyard; Bank Dayboats, Wayford Bridge; Barnes Brinkcraft, Wroxham; Whispering Reeds, Hickling and Martham Boats.

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