“The era of the old Broads boys is coming to an end” - Ferry Marina is sold on by boatyard boss
- Credit: Archant
A businessman who invested millions to bring the boatyards of the Norfolk Broads into the modern day has sold his last remaining major site to focus on other projects.
Len Funnell purchased his first boatyard in Wroxham in 1979, moving to the Broads from Grimsby for a life beside the river.
Since then Mr Funnell and his wife Hazel have spent 40 years buying, modernising, and selling boatyards and marinas across Norfolk, including Broads Tours, Herbert Woods, Loynes and Brundall Bay Marina.
'I went in, did it up, and then sold it,' he said. 'All of the money I made I would put into buying the next one, and save it from literally falling into the river. It's what the Broads deserve – to have nice marinas and boatyards with good moorings.'
He has now sold the Ferry Marina to a neighbouring company, to spend more time as a trustee of the Waveney River Centre, which his daughter owns.
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'It used to be me, Jimmy Hoseason, Martin Broom, Tim Whelpton, Raymond Jeckells and similar. Now I'm the last one left – the era of the old Broads boys is coming to an end,' Mr Funnell said.
Despite this, and increasing cost pressures on providers, Mr Funnell said the industry could still thrive on the Broads.
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'I think the future looks bright for a few businesses – probably the bigger ones that are there now, who will continue what they started and will grow.'
However, he continued: 'When I came to Norfolk there were 2,600 boats on the Broads. Now there are about 800. It's gone down and down every year and the tolls have gone up and up every year.
'The young businesses out there need support from the Broads Authority so that they can continue, but also so that the restaurants and pubs in villages on the river can survive.'
Mr Funnell added that although the boats are no longer wooden – and therefore no longer leak – the tools of the trade have improved, but the experience of holidaying on the Broads has always been good.
'We see people who used to come to the Broads as children coming back with their own children,' said Mr Funnell, 'The experience of being on the Broads has never changed.'