Herbert Woods Broads holidays business celebrates 90 years of history with plans for summer regatta

Broads boating pioneer Herbert Woods working on his boating designs at Potter Heigham.<Copy: Stephen

Broads boating pioneer Herbert Woods working on his boating designs at Potter Heigham. <Copy: Stephen Pullinger> edp 24/10/2002

It is a name synonymous with the Broads. And as the Herbert Woods business marks 90 years since it was founded, LAUREN COPE looks back on an impressive history.

Herbert Woods boatyard in Potter Heigham building its new style cruiser called Dazzling Light.Partne

Herbert Woods boatyard in Potter Heigham building its new style cruiser called Dazzling Light.Partner Michael Whitaker.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Born into a family of boat-builders, it was only natural that Herbert Woods carved out a career around the region's waterways.

Starting out as an apprentice with the Norfolk Broads Yachting Company in 1907, then managed by his father Walter, Mr Woods quickly showed a flair for the industry. When a neck problem saw him turned down for service in the First World War, he worked with aircraft in Ipswich until his unwell father, who had since bought the yachting company premises, asked for his help with the Potter Heigham-based family business - Walter Woods & Sons - in 1922.

In 1926 he built his first cruiser, the Speed of Light, and took on the business after his father's death.

Determined to build a new style of boat suited to narrow rivers and shallow Broads, he produced so-called 'light' cruisers, which are still used in the name of today's Herbert Woods boats.

The Herbert Woods boat yard at Potter Heigham in 1939<Copy: Stephen Pullinger> edp 24/10/2002

The Herbert Woods boat yard at Potter Heigham in 1939 <Copy: Stephen Pullinger> edp 24/10/2002

The 90th anniversary this summer will be marked by a regatta and family day in July, which will include a trip on the Spark of Light, the oldest Herbert Woods cruiser still afloat.

Michael Whitaker, partner at Herbert Woods, said: 'He wanted to design cruisers specifically for the Norfolk Broads - and as well as being a pioneer, he was an outstanding sailor himself.'

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Soon after taking on the business, Mr Woods began the arduous task of digging acres of marshland to form the Broads Haven marina, still in use today. The project saw 60,000 tons of clay removed - and it took until the mid-1930s to complete.

He later built the now well-known Herbert Woods tower to house a water tank, which became a look-out post with machine guns when the Second World War broke out.

During the conflict, Herbert Woods took on work for The Admiralty and Air Ministry, employing more than 300 staff and building more than 200 vessels, including Motor Torpedo Boats and Harbour Defence Motor Launches.

The hire cruiser fleet was moored across Hickling and Wroxham Broads to deter enemy flying boats from landing.

Among Mr Wood's lasting achievements are the 14-foot Norfolk dinghy, which he designed, and the Lady Yacht Club, the name of which was inspired by the Perfect Lady yachts, which he set up to encourage younger members of staff to sail.

Since his death in 1954, the business has been owned by various organisations and has seen about £3m worth of investment over the past five years.

It now has 130 hire cruisers, all still with Light in the names, as well as a fleet of hire picnic boats, day boats, canoes and fishing boats, waterside cottages and a marina for 140 private craft.

The regatta will run from 10am to 5pm on Sunday,July 10 at the base on Bridge Road in Potter Heigham. Contact amandaw@herbertwoods.co.uk for information.

Do you have a story about the Broads? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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