Photo gallery: Princess Royal visits How Hill and Herbert Woods boatyard on Norfolk tour
17:32 09 April 2014
The Princess Royal today visited a much loved Norfolk institution to mark the launch of a fund-raising appeal to secure its future.
She walked through the grounds and house of How Hill, the environmental study centre near Ludham familiar with generations of schoolchildren, on the first leg of a Norfolk tour which also saw her pay tribute to one of the founders of the Broads hire boat industry at nearby Potter Heigham.
The Princess was greeted by How Hill director Simon Partridge and Nick Price, chairman of How Hill Trust, who informed her that the appeal was being launched to mark the trust’s 30th anniversary.
She was told the aim was to put the trust on a sustainable footing for the next 30 years - to safeguard its work in providing subsidised education courses for schoolchildren from across the region.
Mr Price said: “At the moment we are operating at a substantial loss; our reserves are depleted and we want to start building them up again.”
Part of their strategy would be to reach out to businesses in the area for donations, he said.
The Princess was introduced to Ruby Edwards, widow of legendary How Hill reedcutter Eric and a stalwart in the centre’s kitchen for more than 30 years, before chatting with John Packman, chief executive of the Broads Authority.
Dr Packman said: “I explained the Broads are not natural, they are man made, so they need a lot of maintenance; if you don’t cut the reed and sedge you lose everything that goes with it, including precious wildlife such as the bittern.”
He said the Princess had asked him about dredging and he had been able to inform her the BA had dredged a record volume this year.
She then met three young reedcutters, Chris Henshaw, Paul Eldridge and Lawrence Watts, who are following in the footsteps of Eric.
Lawrence said: “She asked how we cut it and we told her these days it is a lot easier with machines.”
The tour of the picturesque grounds finished with some thatch laying and pond dipping demonstrated by youngsters from Ludham Primary School.
The Princess visited Herbert Woods boatyard in Potter Heigham for a heritage day to mark the 60th anniversary of the death of the Broads pioneer.
She was introduced to members of Herbert Woods’ family, including his youngest daughter Jennifer Broom, who flew in from her home in New Zealand, and presented a long service award to boatbuilder Dennis George who has worked for the company for 50 years.
The Princess stepped on board Sovereign Light, one of Herbert Woods’ most modern cruisers, before looking over boats from the company’s past, including Spark of Light, built in 1927.
Director Michael Whitaker, who escorted her around, said: “She told me she had not been on a cruiser before although she has sailed on a white boat. She was interested in how cruisers are now very much like private boats. I think she was impressed by the standard and fit-out.”
He said Mr Woods’ family had told him they were sure he would have been proud to see the Princess visiting the yard, and to see the great strides in developing the marina and renewing the fleet.
Mr George said: “The Princess thought it was marvellous to do 50 years.”
The Princess also later visited HM Prison Bure at Scottow and YMCA Norfolk in Trowse.