Ross’ Wildlife Boat Trips

Hello folks, This post will be a quick review of a boat trip I went on last week. Mum, Granny & I were spending the week in Norfolk and stumbled across a man called Ross with a boat full of birds. Ross’ Wildlife Boat Trips is a one man wildlife tour out of Horsey Mere on the Norfolk Broads. According to his website Ross has been leading boat trips on the broads since 1997, and I can well believe it. His is perfectly at ease on the water and knows Horsey Mere like the back of his hand. His expert knowledge doesn’t just cover the mere though, Ross has an Honours Degree in Marine Biology too!

Horsey mere itself is a beautiful area with an abundance of wildlife, especially birds. There is a small visitors info booth with a shop offering a variety of hot and cold drinks and snacks including some gluten-free cereal bars etc. It’s the perfect place to buy a drink and a snack an enjoy the view over the broads and down to Horsey water pump. (bit like a windmill) The visitors centre is a little wooden kiosk with swallows nesting in the roof (in full view of everyone buying cups of tea) It’s a lovely spot to sit and watch the world go by!

Family of swallows in the visitors info booth.

The paths are sloped and either well-worn grass or slightly gravelly paving. Ross’ boat trip leaves from the end of the path which is about 100 meters from the info booth, the path is accessible and fairly flat but a little scary at points since there’s no rail between you and the water and there are a few pot holes! If you’re unsteady on your feet or have balance issues I’d recommend staying away from the edge! If you’re concerned about the walk just give Ross a ring I’d imagine he could make alternative arrangements.

The boat its self, MV Lady Ann is a small cozy affair which unfortunately isn’t wheelchair accessible (even for adventurous wheelies like me). Theres a step from the jetty to the boat then another step down and a low ceiling to duck under, Ross is happy to help you on and there is a hand rail too. Mum dropped me off by the boat then took my chair back to the car, I walked on (minding me head) and then sat at the front, you can lean against the sides but it’s not exactly luxury seating so if you struggle with sitting for long periods you might like to take your own cushions. Ross does have small stepping stools to pop your feet on if the seats are too high, this helped me massively with my back pain (lordosis etc) and there are thin cushions on the benches too.

The boat has one rather unique feature that is worth mentioning. There are Swallows nesting on board! Right at head hight as you walk in! According to Ross they’ve nested there a few times before and have successfully fledged 15 or so chicks from the nest, when they are nest building the swallows stay close to the jetty and wait for the boat to come back but when they are feeding babies they come out on tour with you and follow the boat through the marshes! The swallows had just fledged one lot and were in nest-building mode when we were there so they stayed behind and waited for us to get back.

Once we were all settled on board (about 8 of us in total) we had a brief safety talk and a few funny stories about what to do in the event of any emergencies. Our instructions mainly involved not falling in the water and making sure we ‘point and laugh’ if we spotted anyone else in the water. This was done really well in a lighthearted manner but he got the point across. When everyone was happy we set off. Ross really knew his stuff, not only was he an expert in the wildlife of the mere but he also knew about the mere’s history and lots of facts about the other boats on the water too. I won’t go into too many details incase you decide to go, it will all sound better coming from Ross than me.

Although I was primarily there to wildlife-watch the history of the mere is actually really interesting especially the reed farming and the ways the mere has been managed in order to support the thatch industry and promote a wide variety of wetland species too.

We made a loop of a wide open area before heading up a narrower channel lined with reeds. Ross has a real skill for spotting birds and wildlife and despite also being in charge of the boat he was almost always the first one to spot something new. He also has a keen ear for bird calls and he regularly stopped the boat to tell us about different birds hiding in the reeds.

We were on a late afternoon trip (not the best time for birds) and it was a little drizzl-y too but I loved every second of the trip.

Highlights from our trip included a female Marsh Harrier, a Kingfisher, Reed Buntings, Reed Warbler, a pair of Common Cranes, a juvenile Great Crested Grebe (still in stripey plumage), a pair of Mute Swans, a Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly, a Bittern (in flight), a Hobby (in flight) and a Common Gull… Interestingly both Common Cranes and Common Gulls are surprisingly un-common!

Norfolk Holiday-002

On the return leg of the journey Ross turned off the engine and demonstrated another way to move a boat. this time using a big long stick..

Pole-ing (Quanting) the boat back served a few purposes, Ross got some exercise, saved some fuel and we got to listen to the birds, moving quietly through the mere was lovely and the bird song was a real treat. This was also another chance to learn about the history of the mere and a brief glimpse into how working on the mere used to be in the days of olde.

All too soon we were nearly back, this was when we were treated to a fly by by the elusive Bittern. Ross stopped and let us watch for a while before we returned to dry land. (and surrounded by Swallows)

As we arrived back on land a chap from another boat asked if we’d seen any wildlife? we listed a few things and the chap then asked if we’d seen the Lock Ness Monster too! … isn’t that just the mark of a perfect wildlife tour? you list your sightings and people think you’re making it all up!

I cannot praise Ross highly enough and I really recommend this trip to anyone, pricing is available on Ross’ website. The trip works out at under £10 each and its worth every penny.

For further updates Ross is on Facebook and Twitter too.

If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear them

Ciao for now

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