The Broads National Park is a unique mosaic of gentle landscape, lakes and rivers covering 303 square kilometres and indeed is a very beautiful place. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and home to 11,000 species and one third of the rarest species in the UK. Occasionally you may see a bittern or an otter or a swallowtail butterfly, more likely a kingfisher.
Because of its beauty it is popular with holiday makers, those who hire cruisers or sailing yachts or come from the many caravan sites in the area and hire a ‘dayboat’ . There are lots of private boat owners too, and, of course, a whole industry around holiday making, a large agricultural industry and businesses common to all towns and cities in UK. Norwich is the big cathedral city from which the river Yare flows through the centre of the Broads out to the sea at Great Yarmouth. There are two other main rivers, the Bure in the North with its tributaries, the Ant and the Thurne and the Waveney in the South.
The Chet is a small river off the Yare and is the regular walk for one of our Waterways Chaplains. The rivers connect a number of broads, they are lakes really, but are the result of ancient peat diggings and great for sailing and fishing.
The Broads is managed by the Broads Authority , who deal with everything from the environment and planning permission to boat licencing and has it own dedicated police officers ‘Broads Beat’ part of the Norfolk Constabulary.
The Broads Chaplaincy hub started in 2020 and now has 4 chaplains, Pete and Tricia Gillett become probationers in May 2021 to join Angie Baldwin and Mike Cadman. Like all Waterways Chaplains, their role is to support, aid and assist those who live on or near waterways. It is a large area to cover, but they are out and about talking to people and just being available. There are at least 60 ‘liveaboards ‘ (people who choose to live on their boats) and the Chaplains work to build up support and availability for them too.
Mike is a dentist and even helped with toothache. Angie and Mike have been interviewed on Radio Norfolk and the work publicised in the Network Norfolk Christian website, so very quickly, we have been welcomed into the whole Broads community and have become valued for our work.
The Broads Authority have welcomed the team, as have the Broads Beat police, and pass on their concerns for those in need. The Broads Chaplaincy fills a gap where the official authorities do not have the resources. Houseboats occasionally sink and the owners need support and friendship and, sadly there has been a suicide where much needed support has been given. It is not always easy living on a small boat and boaters can have mental health issues and again they provide support and just show they care, even going so far as transporting outboard motors.
People talk to the Chaplains when they are wearing their gilets. They can be ‘travel couriers’, tourist information officers, mooring assistants, and yet sometimes give that deep and meaningful support which so many have needed in the past year or so. The Broads community is a good one and they are pleased to be part of it.
All the time, the Chaplaincy team know that the God who made this very beautiful place loves and cares for the people who live here and visit on holiday. As Chaplains, we all know that Jesus Christ died for them, indeed for us all, and showing that love and care when we are pastorally proactive gives the opportunity to be spiritually reactive.
We hope above all, that our lives, the smile on our face through lockdown, the attentive ear and the practical help, testify of the God we love and serve on the Broads; the God to whom we owe everything.
If you would like to support the growing team of Chaplains volunteering on the Broads, or Waterways Chaplaincy as an organisation, then please click on the link below. Thank You.