Wroxham base opened for wherries’ restoration

It was the vision of Aitken Clark, former chief executive of the Broads Authority, to see three decaying wherries restored to their former glory and sailing on the Broads once again.

So it was fitting - 10 years on - for his widow Frances to formally open a new wherry base in Hartwell Road, Wroxham, where work on their restoration can progress in all weathers.

Unveiling a commemorative plaque yesterday, Mrs Clark said: 'I think someone up there will be smiling down and saying 'well done, fantastic'.'

Part of a �1.5m project, a third of which has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the building will provide a base for the undercover, year-round restoration and maintenance of the Edwardian pleasure wherries Hathor, Norada and Olive, which were bought by the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust six years ago.

The revamped site includes a workshop, storage areas, office, mess and archive room. A new slipway means work on the hulls can be undertaken on the site.

Trust chairman John Ash said: 'This is a major milestone. At long last these three precious craft have a safe home. We can now focus on restoring them to their previous graceful glory.

'The project value is just over �1.5m, which includes restoring the wherries to sailing condition. Norada is being restored at present and will be re-launched in the summer. The programme is then to restore Olive and Hathor in successive years.

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'We have employed a 16-year-old apprentice, Jake Stott, from Lowestoft, and hope to take on another within the next two years. So that more people can enjoy these wonderful vessels, we are developing an education and access plan for schools and youth groups, in addition to chartering for holidays and private groups.'

The three boats are among just eight wherries left in the Broads, remnants of a time when hundreds plied the waterways, Mr Ash said their target was to have them restored by December 2013, enabling people to 'step back to Edwardian times'.

Roy Swanston, a regional committee member of HLF, said the educational and training aspect of the project made it especially exciting.

Following the opening, a new Aitken Scholarship was announced to support the development of young people and volunteers working with the organisations on which Mr Aitken left his mark - the Broads Authority, Europarc, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, the Global Nature Fund Living Lakes Network and the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust.

Trudi Wakelin, for the Broads Authority, said: 'This is an opportunity for young people and volunteers associated with the five organisations to participate in a series of study visits designed to be inspirational and to enthuse a passion for the natural environment.'