You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Today, we are so proud to have welcomed Mandy Foyster back from her incredible adventure, dedicated to raising funds for the RSPB and Norfolk Wildlife Trust in memory of her mother in law, Doreen. As well as daily updates on BBC Radio Norfolk, she shared her experiences along her travels with us over email. Over the next few days we’ll be posting excerpts from her 12 day trip!
Mandy sets sail
This Saturday I will set sail from Horstead Mill on my 75 mile 'Inflatable Tour of Norfolk' to raise funds for the RSPB & the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
I've prepared as much as I can & despite waking up to a half deflated boat yesterday (due to a leaky valve which I've now replaced) I think I'm ready to go. I have named my boat 'HMS Loopy' ~ I am nervous but also excited & really looking forward to seeing all the wildlife. I am sure I will have fun & adventures but I'm also expecting it to be my most difficult challenge to date.
Day 1 - Saturday
I've had a good first day in my little boat. I left Horstead Mill at 11am & I paddled up past the Rising Sun where I spotted my school friends having a little tipple. Then it was on through swan & heron country towards Wroxham. The swans are so friendly & were swimming all round my boat & peeping in ~ looking for food I think. I saw a heron & lots of funny water birds which had tufty hats on their heads & kept diving down & surfacing somewhere else.
Rowing through Wroxham was exciting ~ my first big Port! A gentleman waved & told me to keep rowing and smiling, he informed me I only had another 70 miles to go ~ he must have heard me on the radio. Lots more people kept waving & asking if I was the crazy lady who was rowing round Norfolk? At Wroxham Broad I stopped for a picnic in the company of geese ~ some of whome were nesting. Some lovely youngsters in passing boat offered me a drink (hic) or a tow ~ I politely declined both offers. I reached Salhouse Broad at 5pm, earlier than I had expected & decided to carry on rowing. I saw little deer next to the river peeping at me out of the woods & then at Horning I passed the 'Southern Comfort' boat on it's way out for a party on the river. The big & faster boats made a big wash which was very exciting to row through ~ just like being on one of the water rides at Alton Towers ~ what fun! I moored up at Woodbastwick for the night & as I write this I have visitors ~ two geese have come to see if I have any leftovers from my tea & they are making hissy noises outside my boat. Night night from Mandy in her bivi bag floating on the river. Xxx
Day 2 - Sunday
Day 2 has been interesting & challenging. After sleeping lightly through a rainy Saturday night surrounded by two beautiful otters having a very loud squabble in the river ~ I awoke to a dry but overcast morning.
I packed away my sleeping bags & scrubbed the decks before pulling anchor & casting off for St Benet's Abbey. My arms were tired but I soon got into the rhythm of rowing & happily hailed 'Good Morning me Hearties' to all my fellow shipmates aboard their boats. They all like my ship's name 'HMS LOOPY' ~ They think it is very apt!
I stopped at St Benet's Abbey for a little walk on dry land & a picnic. I also pumped my boat up a bit more as it was leaking air again through the old patch. There was a sailing race taking place on the Bure between St Benet's & Thurne ~ it was exciting to watch. I rowed past a dredger which was like an enormous crane at the side of the river & then at Thurne I turned left, setting course for Acle and found myself rowing against the incoming tide and a blustery head wind.
Oh what a battle I had to reach Acle, at times the wind blew so strongly I was going backwards rather than forwards. Several passing boats slowed down & asked me if I needed help which was most kind of them but I was determined to battle on. Eventually after lots of rows forwards & some rows backwards I zig-zagged & crawled my way up to the Acle Bridge where I am now moored up for the night. It is VERY windy and I hope the little cover over me & my boat doesn't blow away in the night! My lovely husband Steve has kindly given me the shipping forecast for the next few days and I plan to be up early in the morning to sail with the outgoing tide.
That's all for now ~ night night from HMS LOOPY in Acle.
Day 5 - Wednesday
Loopy rowed across Breydon, whoohoo ~ we did it! Today after meeting a very friendly seagull & saying farewell to the kind gentlemen at Gt Yarmouth Yacht Station, I set sail on the turn of the tide to begin my Breydon Water attempt. Ralph Graham from the RSPB turned up to escort me across & the Spirit of Breydon patrol boat piloted by John & Jon was also waiting in the harbour for me. I had not expected their help, but I was so grateful, as was my husband Steve who also came along to support me.
I was nervous and excited as I set off rowing, after passing under the two bridges I was out in the big river turning right & aiming for Breydon Bridge. It looked so big and I felt very small in my little inflatable. As I rowed under the bridge the force of the wind suddenly hit me and I had a real battle to get out onto Breydon Water. Thankfully the wind, although quite strong, was coming in gusts and I was gradually able to make some headway on my voyage. I had to row very hard & concentrate in order to control the HMS Loopy and for a while I did wonder if I was getting anywhere at all. Gradually though, Gt Yarmouth became smaller & further away and I was bowled over by the experience & the view from the middle.
The chaps in the RSPB boat helped me to stay on course by shouting directions across to me and advising when I was drifting too far. The Spirit of Breydon announced on their loud hailer to other boats to "please pass the charity rowing boat slowly". My lovely husband Steve cycled along the footpath on the shore, encouraging me from a distance. My arms gradually became more and more tired but there was no giving up and nowhere to stop for a rest ~ I just kept on going. At last after nearly 4 hours of non stop heavy rowing I turned into the river Waveney and moored up at a Marina (arranged for me by the chaps on the Spirit of Breydon). After a big hug with my husband, a lovely cup of tea, a photo shoot and a surprise visit from two other friends I settled down for the evening. I am soooo tired but very grateful & happy that I was able to do it. I have promoted myself to Captain of the HMS Loopy with hat to match! We did it ~ a middle aged lady rowed across Breydon Water in an inflatable toy boat ~ what happy Loopy fun! Tomorrow we travel south down the Waveney in search of new adventures. Captain of the HMS Loopy ~ signing off now ~ Goodnight x
To make a donation in recognition of Mandy's incredible endeavours, visit http://www.justgiving.com/Mandy-Foyster.
Over the next few days we are sharing Mandy Foyster’s incredible adventure, paddling 75 miles of Norfolk’s rivers in a toy boat over 12 days, all in aid of the RSPB and Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Here’s the next instalment of her amazing feat:
I awoke on Thursday tired but looking forward to a slightly easier day. However a familiar hissing noise from my boat soon made me realise that today was going to pose it's own challenges. On inspection I discovered a new puncture right on the edge of a seal. I tried to mend it using my own patches & sealant but due to the awkward position of the hole the repair would not hold. Thankfully I was moored in a boatyard marina and one of boat builders kindly helped and stuck a heavy duty patch on for me. It was tricky and although much improved, I was still losing air ever so slowly as I rowed off towards St Olaves. It was a pretty journey past the marshes & reedbeds. I saw marsh harriers soaring above the reeds and an unusual big brown patterned duck with 7 beautiful ducklings ~ I was in wildlife heaven. How my dear Mother in Law Doreen would have appreciated all of this and I thought of her as I paddled my way steadily up the river.
I reached St Olaves later than planned & was delighted to be greeted by Dave the chef from the Norfolk Mead hotel and his two little girls. He kindly bought me a cup of tea before I rowed off again in search of a place to stop for the night. I moored up at Herringfleet but worried about the way the HMS Loopy was slowly leaking air I have decided to sleep in my bivi bag on the riverbank tonight. It is magical sitting here writing this email sitting up in my bags in the open air with a headlamp on. I can hear a strange sound which I am wondering could it be a Bittern booming? Earlier I saw two little dear bounding through the reeds and now I can hear an owl & all sorts of animal noises.
The riverbank is not quite as comfortable as my dear boat 'Loopy' but at least I can sleep soundly without fear of sinking! From me & all the amazing wildlife ~ Goodnight. Xxx
I awoke on the riverbank refreshed after 6 hours sleep to a beautiful morning & the bird sounds from the marshes. The HMS Loopy seemed refreshed too & we were both soon on our way again. The river was very close to the railway line for a while and I passed under the railway bridge at Somerleyton. On a few occasions this morning the 'Inflatable Tour of Norfolk' briefly crossed into Suffolk ~ just like when the Tour de France does a stage in another country ~ ho ho. Dave Abbot from the Gt Yarmouth Yacht Station accompanied me for some of the way in his little motorised boat ~ it was lovely to have his company. I excitedly told him about the noise I had heard the previous evening when I had wondered if it had been a bittern booming. Dave informed me that the sound had probably been the fog horn sounding at Gt Yarmouth ~ how I laughed at my silly mistake. We spotted bright yellow marsh marigolds growing on the riverbanks and also the sign to Oulton Broad just before arriving at the Waveney River Centre.
Kind James, who owns the river centre, had offered me a free mooring and use of the facilities so I was able to wash all of my clothes and get clean again. In the afternoon the EDP photographer came to take some pictures of me rowing on the river.
I purchased some more food and a little fishing net as I am curious to find out what is in the river. Other than that I'm spending the evening tidying my ship & studying the tide table ready for tomorrow. I am beginning to feel very tired now and my arms ache all the time but thankfully my good ship 'Loopy' is still afloat and I will be sleeping in him again tonight. Tomorrow (Saturday) I will voyage back to St Olaves and, if I can catch the tides correctly, up the 'Cut' to Reedham. Love from Mandy x
I had a good nights sleep aboard the HMS Loopy and set off to retrace my oar steps to St Olaves. It was a difficult voyage back up the Waveney due to a gusty headwind and I struggled to make progress. At one point the wind was so strong I began to go backwards despite rowing my gloves off ~ so to speak. I managed to grab hold of the reeds so that I could at least stay stationary until the gusts died down. This did give me a lovely opportunity to photograph the beautiful marsh marigolds. In Somerleyton my kind friends Nancy & Tim met me with a flask of tea and some bananas. I then headed for the 'Cut' where I was greeted by Wally Mason the reedcutter and a photographer. To my surprise and delight Wally presented me with a card, flowers, chocolates and a bundle of real reeds from the marshes. He said in his strong Norfolk accent "you've bin seein all those reeds as yer row past, well here's some fer you to keep ~ they'll last yer 70 years". I was really touched by his kindness and utterly delighted with my reeds ~ what a lovely souvenir.
I battled my way up the 'Cut' which is completely straight until I reached Reedham. There I was greeted by another kind friend, Sue, who had brought me more tea in a little flask ~ heaven. I then, with my aching arms, prepared my bed & cover over my boat ready for another night on the river. Whilst munching my bread & bananas lying in the HMS Loopy I was thrilled to have a swan join me for tea. He was so beautiful and allowed me to hand feed him through my boat tent window ~ magic.
Goodnight from Swan Lake xxx
To donate in recognition of Mandy's incredible efforts, visit http://www.justgiving.com/Mandy-Foyster.
In this final instalment, we hear about Mandy’s final few days on her epic fundraising adventure. After nearly 12 days paddling 75 miles along Norfolk rivers in a toy boat, will her boat hold out? What other wildlife will she see along the way? Will she make it all the way back to Norwich? Read on to find out....
After a restful night floating on the river at Reedham I was joined by my friend Mr Swan for breakfast ~ what a great opportunity for a unique selfie! Then I said goodbye to Billy at the Reedham moorings and rowed off again on a whole new river.
The Yare soon took me past the Reedham chain ferry and onwards towards Cantley. I had not timed my journey very well and was soon rowing against the tide and the wind. My arms are now so tired & it was a tough journey. The Cantley Sugar Beet factory loomed nearer all the time like a big battleship on the horizon. I prepared for possible combat with this ship by donning my pirate gear & trying to look scary ~ Aarrhh hhaaaa....
The ship turned out to be a friendly one with, to my amazement, a seal swimming & snorting in the river next to it. I was surprised to see a seal this far up the river & delighted to be able to catch it on camera. I moored up for the night at the Reedcutters pub where I met my friends Annie & Simon who had brought me some more ships biscuits. The kind owners of the Reedcutters let me have a shower and then gave me a roast dinner to eat in my boat ~ what a lucky lady I am.
On Monday I aim for Strumpshaw and on Tuesday I'm heading for Whittingham. The HMS Loopy and it's equally loopy captain will be completing it's voyage on Wednesday in Norwich.
I am now very very tired but utterly determined to finish. Goodnight me hearties xxx
Monday has been very very difficult but with it's nice moments too. I said goodbye to lovely Lynne at the Reedcutters Pub and started my journey with the tide in my favour. At first all seemed well but as the morning progressed the wind became stronger and was either a cross or headwind making it almost impossible at times to move forwards.Opposite Langley Dyke I had to cling ont o the reeds to stop the HMS Loopy from being blown back down the river. Some workmen who had a digger & a boat near the dyke came over to see if I was the crazy lady in the inflatable they had heard about & also to ask if I needed any help.
They were very kind but I wanted to battle on. Clinging onto the reeds or the bank or whatever I could grab hold of became a familiar feature of Mondays journey. A phone call to my husband & weatherman Steve confirmed my suspicions that I was being buffeted by gusts of up to 25 miles per hour. The river was choppy with real waves & curlers and the passing boats looked at me with sympathy as I struggled on. Every now & then I tied my boat to the reeds so that I could have a rest. It was during one of those rests that I suddenly remembered the chocolate Easter chicken which the kind 'Gowen family' had given me to take on my travels for 'when I needed a but of extra energy'. Clinging to the reeds on the blustery bank of the Yare in the middle of nowhere I decided that this was definitely a chocolate chicken moment and I happily munched away. It took me 7 hours of painfull rowing to reach RSPB Strumpshaw but it was well worth it. I disembarked on the riverbank & had a lovely walk through the beautiful nature reserve to meet some of the people who worked and volunteered there. I was also able to have a shower. Afterwards I decided to row on for a little way as there were brambles & hawthorn bushes on the riverbank at Strumpshaw & I did not want the HMS Loopy to go POP!
I rowed into Brundall and through Surlingham Broad to Brundall Fen where I am moored for the night. It wasn't possible to take many photos today ~ but I did take 2 of my boat tied to the reeds and 1 coming into Brundall.
Night night from tired lady in a boat. Xxx
What an interesting day I had on Tuesday. After a spot of early morning fishing when I landed the Brundall shark, I set off in the beautiful sunshine & gentle breeze. A passing boat hailed me ~ Pat & John aboard the Toucan had been following my exploits on the radio & kindly passed me a cup of tea. At Bramerton I stopped for a break & had my photo taken next to the staue of Billy Bluelight a runner who was famed for racing the ferry from Bramerton to Norwich. The kind owners of the Woods End pub recharged my phone for me and made me a sandwich.
The HMS Loopy had started losing air again and I discovered one of the patches had come loose. I did my best to reseal it and managed to clamp a piece of scrap wood on to press on the patch. Since then on I have made do by rowing for a while and then stopping to pump the HMS Loopy up.
I passed under the Postwick viaduct accompanied by another swan who had decided to follow me for a little while. The swans seem to like me ~ but they are eating all my food! I rowed on through Thorpe where I stopped to say hello to lots of people and now I am moored up at Whittingham. My sister Ali canoed past earlier with the Norwich Canoe Club and later she kindly brought me a mug of tea in my boat. This is my last night aboard my good ship Loopy. Tomorrow (Wednesday) we complete our journey at St Georges Bridge in Norwich at 2pm.
Goodnight from the captain of the HMS Droopy Loopy at Whittlingham. Xxx
Yippee ~ I've completed my Inflatable Tour of Norfolk. Last night at Whittingham I had to abandon ship and sleep on the riverbank again due to the HMS Loopy rapidly losing air. It was a cold night and when I woke up there was frost on my bivi bag. I gradually packed up all of my equipment one last time and pumped up the HMS Loopy who had gone all mushy overnight. I slowly rowed the short distance into Norwich and saw an unusual black water bird sitting on a fence near the railway bridge. I took some photographs but I have no idea what it was ~ if anyone can identify it from the picture I'd be really keen to know what it was.
Rowing through Norwich & going under all the bridges was very exciting. I stopped for a little while at Norwich Yacht Station to pump up my good ship one last time. The final leg of my journey took me past Pulls Ferry, the Cow Tower and under 4 more bridges. As I approached St Georges Bridge I was astonished to see balloons & flags & crowds of people waiting and cheering me in. Oh what a lovely surprise and me & the HMS Loopy thoroughly enjoyed our finish. When I climbed out of my ship my first priority was to have a big hug with my lovely husband Steve. After that it was so good to be able to meet the people from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and all my family & friends & school children who had come to welcome me home.
I was given some lovely momentos & flowers and an inflatable banana from my friend Nancy ~ this really made me laugh. Radio Norfolk & Mustard TV both interviewed me & then finally it was time to pull my dear ship the HMS Loopy out of the water and deflate him.
Of course this has been a very personal challenge for me this year ~ raising money for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and the RSPB in memory of my dear Mother in Law, Doreen. On behalf of these charities and my Father in Law, Roy, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has sponsored me and helped me during the voyage of the HMS Loopy. Farewell for now from Mandy ( back on dry land again ) xxx
What an incredible woman Mandy is! Like me, I am sure you are in awe of the tremendous efforts Mandy has gone to to raise funds for wildlife conservation in Norfolk.
If you'd like to make a donation to recognise Mandy's wonderful effort, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/Mandy-Foyster
If you fancy taking on a challenge of a lifetime to help the RSPB raise funds for wildlife conservation, please get in touch with Gena Correale-Wardle, firstname.lastname@example.org.