Thursday 17 March 2016

Loddon: Anger at WW public meeting

MORE than 100 people packed into a public meeting tonight to hear a grim assessment of the costs required to repair a section of the Wherryman's Way footpath along the Chet near Loddon.

The stretch between Loddon and Hardley Flood has been closed since last summer. This evening  representatives from Norfolk County Council and the Broads Authority made it clear they thought the cost of repairs meant the present route should be abandoned for good. Many villagers at the Lecture Hall in George Lane, Loddon thought otherwise and made their feelings known forcefully.

Russell Wilson, senior trails officer with the county, told the meeting that the footpath between Loddon and Chedgrave Common would reopen by June, with the old matting surface being replaced with a more hard-wearing one made from granite. But further downstream he painted a picture of a path all but washed away. Bridges were unsound, entire banks had disappeared and the situation was getting worse almost day by day. There were, he said, no quick fixes. Providing a new footpath would cost at least £250,000 but providing the firm foundations beneath it would require extensive piling and that would cost between £1.5m and £2m. 

Adrian Clarke from the Broads Authority was even more blunt; telling an occasionally bad-tempered meeting that "the grim reality is that the money we are talking about here is astronomical". It wasn't the Broads Authority's responsibility to maintain footpaths, he said,  and because the path itself wasn't on a flood defence, the Environment Agency could walk away too. 

The best alternative, said Mr Wilson, was to work with the local landowner to provide an alternative route on the other side of Hardley Flood, while still offering views across it. Negotiations here appear to be at a very early stage.

Loddon's boatyard owners were well represented at the meeting. They insisted that breaches in the wall between the Chet and the Flood were already affecting the level of the river - and therefore the viability of their businesses. Mr Clarke promised that the Broads Authority would "maintain navigation" but said they had no plans to repair breaches. 

Other villagers talked of the impact on tourism and the sheer beauty of the Hardley Flood section of the walk. "You are writing off two communities," said one. Some also questioned the figures. There was also criticism for a perceived lack of maintenance. "You spent all this money setting up the Wherryman's Way, how have you allowed it to get this bad?" was a typical comment.

I asked about  the total budget of the two organisations. The Broads Authority income is approximately £7m a year, I was told, the footpaths department of the county council about £500,000. Faced with such massive potential repair bills, there are certainly no easy answers. 

Sunday 6 December 2015

Wherryman's "No Way"

IT GETS worse on the Wherryman's Way in the Loddon area. The closure I mentioned back in July has now been extended all the way back to Chedgrave. And it's the fact that the council is not going to even look at the problem until the early summer of 2016 which is really annoying local people. What follows is verbatim from this week's Beccles and Bungay Journal. You can find the full article here: 
"The area around Hardley Flood, which forms part of The Wherryman’s Way - a 35-mile footpath running between Norwich and Great Yarmouth - has been closed by Norfolk County Council due to the erosion of two bridges and the path becoming unstable.
 The council has said work to assess the problem will not start until early summer, causing frustration among residents, councillors and businesses which are losing trade as a result of the closure.
Andrew Milner, who lives in Chedgrave and has been walking the route for the past 25 years, said: “Last winter two of the four bridges at Hardley Flood started to collapse because the bank washed away.
“In the summer they extended the closure back to Chedgrave Common and now they have extended it all the way back to Chedgrave itself.
“They have closed off a huge section of the footpath which means that the circular walk is now closed off, as well as the short walk people do from Chedgrave to the common and to the bird hide on Hardley Flood, which brings lots of tourists in."
 * To complain about any Norfolk footpath. Follow this link.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Wearily waiting for a weir

Hardley Flood

SO when is one of Norfolk’s major footpaths not a major footpath? When it’s the Wherryman’s Way and there are pricy repairs waiting to be done, it seems.
I haven’t been down there myself recently, but word reaches me that a bridge over a weir next to Hardley Flood still hasn’t been replaced months after problems first arose.
That means we’re in peak season and you can’t complete the Wherryman’s Way without taking a diversion which seems to be barely publicised on the route itself. Responsibility seems to lie somewhere between the Broads Authority and the county council. All you get on the Wherryman’s Way website is “We are currently investigating solutions to this and will post details of timescales here when we have them”.

Call me a pessimist, but that feels like early 2016 least.

Sunday 23 March 2014

The Wherryman’s Way: sold out

Layout 1

The Wherryman’s Way has sold out. Thanks very much to all 1,500 of you for buying it. Amazingly I never walked into a bookshop and saw it in the bargain bin.

Four years on, I would love to update the book, but at the moment the publishers Halsgrove have no plans for a second edition. Halsgrove make that decision on purely commercial grounds of course. If enough people contact them, they think again.

If you would like to see the book back on the shelves, do feel free to use the link  below and click  “email me when available” at the bottom of the page. I know three emails have already, err, flooded in.

In the meantime I’m working on a second book to be called Riverside Norwich. You can see how I’m getting on here.

Thanks for your support.


Steve Silk

* Email Halsgrove here.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Reedham: chimneys sweep up the Yare

cooling towers_barge_cantley_river yare_polkeys mill_aerial

THEY reckon it’s 25 years since cargo this big last made its way up the Yare. And as these superb photos from Mike Page show it was far from plain sailing. We’re looking at huge sugar evaporation towers gingerly making their way up from Great Yarmouth to Cantley. Old timers will tell you that massive loads like this used to be commonplace. These days they’re a news story.

cooling towers_barge_cantley_river yare_polkeys mill_aerial


Cooling towers_cantley_reedham Bridge_aerial

Cooling towers_cantley_reedham Bridge_aerial

Friday 24 May 2013

Surlingham Broad at Sunrise

Surlingham Broad by FJ

CONGRATULATIONS TO Fraser Johnston for winning a National Parks photography competition with this stunning photo of Surlingham Broad. I don’t know Fraser and I’m lifting the photo from the NP website. But I do know Surlingham Broad. It is always a special place. Fraser’s comments come from the same website:

"It's a beautiful memory of a beautiful winter's morning setting off in the canoe after camping the night before. The position the shot is taken from puts the viewer right in the action, taking the stern position in the canoe."

I’ve never been so intrepid as to camp nearby in the summer, let alone the winter. We’re all tempted now aren’t we?  In a word. Wow.

Monday 13 May 2013

Hardley Mill: Rockley’s reflections

Hardley Mill 2013 RRockley
HAS Hardley Mill ever looked this good? This beautiful photo from Hardley Windmill Trust chairman Richard Rockley shows the big changes on the landward side of the mill. New drainage works here have changed the landscape quite dramatically. In Richard’s words: “at last it is possible to get the iconic ‘Broads mill reflected in water’ shot.”
Work continues apace on the Wherryman’s Way’s only working windmill. Of course the team have had the sails on for some time now, but it’s only this spring that the restored Appold turbine pump has begun working. In other words the windmill’s sails have actually been used to drain water for the first time since the mill’s demise, we think in 1947. At which point I love to quote Loddon octagenarian Cecil Nicholls (pictured above). He knows this stretch of the WW like the back of his hand and has a fantastic memory for the late 1940s:
“I got home about 4.30 and suddenly this storm started to brew up from nowhere,” he told me. “I’ve never seen thunder and lightning like it.”
“A little while later my father came back and said the mill’s sails had been wrenched off. The newspapers said they had been struck by lightning, but I think they were blown off.”
Whatever the precise cause, those particular sails would never turn again. The mill was quickly abandoned and later replaced by an electrical drainage pump.
Of course the real work of keeping these fields drained will continue to be done via electricity. But that doesn’t take away from the considerable engineering achievement on the ground. Or - for that matter – from the beauty of seeing a pukka windmill in the Yare Valley and knowing that it actually works.
* More from Hardley Windmill Trust’s own website here.
* Lots more on the mill from this blog’s archive here.

Saturday 11 May 2013

Surlingham: A facelift for St Mary’s


PREPARE for a warmer welcome at St Mary’s Surlingham in the months to come. To be honest, I’ve never had any other kind of welcome at this well-loved church directly on the Wherryman’s Way. But the parish has long felt that it hasn’t got good enough facilities to do the job properly.

Now lots of local fund-raising combined with a £38,000 grant means they’re preparing the ground for a £77,000 extension. That means a new kitchen and toilets plus disabled access to the building as a whole.

“Until now the church has been used in a limited way for community events,” said organiser Louise Swift.

“But the lack of facilities made it difficult.  When the building is finished several local groups plan to make greater use of the church and more concerts and exhibitions will be possible.  Sunday afternoon 'teas' on this part of the Wherryman’s Way are also a possibility!”

* More on this project at and click on “special interest”.

* Find out more about the Community Construction Fund here.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Roll up for the Rockland rollercoaster

Rockland New Inn from website

IF you’ve visited the Woods End pub at Bramerton recently you’ll know that it’s had a very smart facelift. Now it turns out that the man behind all that painting and decorating is about to re-open The New Inn at Rockland with his wife. And yes this one’s had a few quid spent on it too.

Andy and Gail Cadey have lived in Rockland for a few months. Seeing what was happening at the new look “Water’s Edge, Woods End” seems to have persuaded them to take the plunge a few miles down the Wherryman’s Way. Gail will be the boss, Andy will help out, but continue with the day job. And tomorrow is D-Day. The doors open at 7pm. Hold on tight as they become at least the fifth couple in three years to give the Rockland New Inn rollercoaster a whirl.

“We’ve spent a lot of money improving the interior,” Andy told me today. “It had an exterior facelift 18 months or so ago, but it was looking a bit tired inside.”

“We’ve improved the play area as well. We’ve made it secure, there’s only one way in and out now. We want to be a really good family-orientated pub where you can come and have a home-cooked meal. We’ve got a great chef too.”

For the moment the Cadeys aren’t on a lease. It’s a temporary deal with pub owners Punch to allow both sides to test the water. But the clear ambition is for the long term.

The bank holiday weekend is nearly upon us and the weather looks good. As ever guys, the very best of luck.

* See how wrong my prediction of a long lay-off was here.

“Water’s Edge, Woods End

Thursday 11 April 2013

The Rockland Rollercoaster

Rockland New Inn from website

PUNCH Taverns says it wants the New Inn at Rockland St Mary to re-open again as soon as possible. The company denied suggestions that managers would give up on it as a pub and try to sell it as a house, adding that they were talking to a number of would-be leaseholders. But they said they would welcome enquiries from other people too. If they’re still touting for offers, it has to be early days.

Punch, to be fair, always return my calls and give me a statement, but you do also have to read between the lines. My interpretation of this latest missive is that we are at least a month, if not two, away from a functioning pub. Wherryman’s Way walkers heading east need to plough on to the Beauchamp Arms for beer or Langley Abbey for tea and coffee. If you’re heading the other way then it’s the excellent Coldham Hall at Surlingham. Meanwhile the recent sad history of the New Inn goes as follows:

November 2010 – Closes

April 2011 – Opens

June 2011 – Closes

July 2011 – Opens

November 2011 – New team takes over

December 2012 – Closes

Monday 25 March 2013

Picture Post: The Guardian does the WW

WW guardian map

THE ARTICLE is great too, but I fell in love with this image the minute I opened Saturday’s Guardian. Rachel Tudor Best is the artist. I think she’s summed up the Wherryman’s Way in a very beautiful and succinct way. See Patrick Barkham’s accompanying words here. Click on the artwork to bring it up full frame and you might spot Billy Bluelight.

Friday 22 March 2013

Picture Post: St Wandregesilius by air

St Wandreg aerial

DID I mention that aerial photographer Mike Page has more than 45,000 images in his collection? After Buckenham and Cantley (see previous post), he’s just dropped this one into my inbox. It shows the burnt out ruin of St Wandregesilius at Bixley taken a few summers ago. (Read the full sad story here.) That southern wall looks all the more precarious from on high …little more than a facade. How long can it survive in that state I wonder. Thanks again Mike.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Picture Post: Buckenham and Cantley


AERIAL photographer Mike Page continues to get some great shots. These latest photos show just how wet the Yare Valley is after a sodden start to 2013. From a WW perspective the first one also shows just how splendidly isolated The Beauchamp Arms is. That’s Carleton Beck winding its way down to the river in the foreground. The road to the pub is shown by the avenue of poplars. Buckenham Marshes lie on the other bank. And with Katy W’s help, we think that the light-coloured building almost on the horizon is Hassingham Church.


This next one downriver is even wetter. We’re now looking across the marshes towards Cantley with the sugar works looking oddly insignificant on the far left. Thanks as ever to Mike for his generosity in sharing his photos.

* Mike Page’s website can be found here.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Woods End takes it to the Edge

Woods End 010

IT’S all change at The Woods End at Bramerton. This historic pub re-opened just over a week ago with a complete new look. In fact it’s now “Water’s Edge, Woods End” with new leaseholder Lee Webb determined to throw off a bad reputation – especially online. That’s the power of Tripadvisor: that’s the tyranny of Tripadvisor some would say.

The master plan, says Lee, is to make the Water’s Edge a “destination restaurant” with the main market being the thousands of people down the road in Norwich. Wherryman’s Way walkers will rejoice that it’s to become an all-day venue too. He’s not there yet, but the plan is for an 8am start with breakfast, coffee and Danish pastries available for hungry ramblers.

And while he’s a leaseholder, he stresses that he pays rent  to a property management company rather than a pub chain. In other words he’s not tied, drinks-wise. Real ale fans are offered Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Woodforde’s Wherry. On the menu; starters of leek and potato soup, crispy pork belly, pan-seared queen scallops, salmon gravadlax and icelandic prawns; the mains are more crispy pork belly, crispy chilli beef, pan-seared sea bass and char-grilled sirloin steak. Starters are £5 or £6. Mains vary from £8.95 to £18.95.

Above all, he stresses, he wants to be reliable. Always open, seven days a week, without the annoying hand-written “Due to Family Illness…” notes that have been known here in the past.

So can he make a go of it? Maybe it’s because I’ve written so many of these New Dawn pieces that I’ve grown a bit more world-weary with each one. Lee’s answer though, is resolutely upbeat. “I’m going to bring service back to the industry,” he says. “If you’re going to have to keep getting up to get served you might as well be at home. We’ll come to you and we’ll look after you.”

There’s been no big launch yet. He’s been happy to let people find him so far. But 130 covers for Mothering Sunday wasn’t bad for Day Three. Good luck to you, Sir.

* Read about the last new dawn at Woods End in 2010 and my bid for “Boots as well as boats” in 2009.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Langley Staithe: still good for bad birdwatchers

barn owl

THIS miserable winter deigned to ease a little this afternoon. But while the thermometer in my garden claimed 8 degrees, it didn’t feel like it down at Langley Staithe.

This beautiful spot continues however, to offer easy pickings for the lazy birdwatcher. I spotted the first barn owl before I’d even got out of the car. Unusually he was hovering over the water before retreating to his favourite patch – the marshland to the south of Langley Dyke. A  heron was there too, looking to go fishing in one of the smaller dykes that criss-cross this landscape. Then a kestrel with surprisingly yellow talons in the woods to the north of the dyke and finally a second barn owl up towards the Yare.

Normally the owls glide gracefully. Today’s Force 5 meant it was all a bit hurried and hurtled. But throw in a couple of crested grebes on the river and it wasn’t a bad haul for 15 minutes work.

Then the sky grew black from the east, the wind picked up and the rain started. There’s nowhere to hide out here. The grebes’ ornate head plumes started to look ruffled, the kestrel retreated grumpily along the telegraph poles as I approached and the owls disappeared completely. Winter was back and we all went somewhere warmer.

* Photo by Nigel Blake taken from the RSPB website. More on barn owls from them here.

* My drivetime Barn Owl article here.

Langley: WW footpath closed till May

Langley 0313 005

A REMINDER that the Wherryman’s Way footpath between Langley Staithe and Hardley Staithe remains closed.

The paperwork next to the stile says it will re-open on May 17th once flood defence work has been completed. In the meantime walkers are denied any riverside access between The Beauchamp Arms and Hardley. 

Saturday 2 March 2013

Bixley: St Wandregesilius– a revival?


REMEMBER St Wandregesilius? The gutted church in the hamlet of Bixley which I visited last October. Destroyed by arsonists in 2004 and almost untouched ever since, I said it was the saddest and most unloved place I’d ever been to in Norfolk.  Well I stand by “saddest”, but perhaps I was wrong about “unloved”. Here’s a comment posted on the blog soon afterwards by Mark Tatum-Smith from the Orthodox Church of the Joy of All Who Suffer at Mettingham in the Waveney Valley:

Hello Steve, I just came across your blog post now and share your sense that Bixley is a hallowed and special place. You may be interested to learn, however, that our church has established a clear historical link with this ancient shrine, and that just over a year ago we commissioned a new ikon of St Wandregesilius, translated the life from the French edition as well as composing a canon (series of hymns) in his honour.

You can read the full document here. In essence the church has traced a link between Mettingham (through its ancient castle) and Bixley. Today’s trustees in Mettingham see St W as “an inspiring and holy saint, as relevant for us today as he was for our ancestors in earlier times.” 

They continue: “Whilst St Wandregesilius was never able to fulfil his wish to make a pilgrimage to the British Isles, the trustees hope that the publication of this Life and the painting of a new ikon of him will spiritually bring this Saint of God back to this area where his relics and holy memory were once so honoured.”

Intriguing. Who knows what that might mean for the Bixley church in the long term.

* See the first article here.

Friday 1 March 2013

Loddon: Aston before villas


IT’S only the Nissen huts on the right of the picture that help me place this scene. Everything else about Loddon Staithe is totally unrecognisable 50 years on. Both boats and buildings belonged to the company which was known as Princess Cruisers and Aston Boats. scan0020

This is 1961 as the hire boat boom was gathering pace across the Broads. And it’s one of a number of great photos lent to me by Terry Howes, whose father Ron was yard foreman in the 1950s and 1960s. Before escapes to a Spanish villa became commonplace, a two-week holiday on the Broads was a big adventure. I’d love to know how many people the industry employed in Loddon in those years. Boats are still being hired from Loddon of course. But it’s much of a niche market these days.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Loddon: all aboard in 1917


DON’T you love the health and safety on board this wherry in 1917? And half of them are presumably medical staff. I know that there was some sort of war hospital within the Lecture Hall on George Lane in Loddon during World War One: so I’m guessing these are both staff and the fitter patients making the most of a sunny day.


Perhaps unsurprisingly the Chet at Loddon looks very different a century on. So different that it is probably difficult for most incomers to get their bearings. Let’s start with the large chimney at the centre of the photo. I’m taking it that that belonged to the old engine house next to Loddon Mill. (The part of the building which now holds comedy nights incidentally.) Work back from there and I am pretty sure everything on the far bank belonged to the seed merchants Woods, Sadd, Moore and Company. All that disappeared in the 1960s and 1970s, to be replaced in the early Noughties by new housing.

But where’s the photographer standing? Well probably in the middle of what is now the basin dug out for Princess Cruisers. That’s what makes the shot so unusual to modern eyes I guess.

The picture is one of a number of great photos lent to me by life-long Loddonite Terry Howes. As we know, all the best photos are in the loft, in this case the loft of Terry’s father Ron Howes who has just celebrated his 85th birthday. Mr Howes senior was foreman of the yard at Princess Cruisers in the 1950s and 1960s. Terry’s lent me a few photos from that era too. More next time …and a fuller collection on flickr too.

Friday 18 January 2013

Picture Post: The Chet in the snow

THE light was poor and the sky was grey. But there’s a rule that if there’s snow on the ground I have to walk down to Hardley Flood and see what’s going on. I’m not entirely sure why. It was bitingly cold of course and an easterly was whipping powdery snow off the trees and straight onto the camera lens. Parts of the Chet have frozen, but most was still liquid. It’s not quite the deep freeze of winter 2010 – at least not yet.

Hardley Flood snow 001

Frozen in at Loddon Staithe

Hardley Flood snow 013

Bleak on the path between Chet and Flood.

Hardley Flood snow 034

High Tide ice. (See also cardboard ice.)