Monday, 17 September 2012

Burgh St Peter: A new ferry for the Burgh Bulge

Waveney Ferry trip 015

ONCE upon a time ferries were a big deal on the Broads. Most carried just passengers, a few so-called “horse ferries” could carry horses and carts too. Gradually they fell by the wayside so that by the mid-1990s only Reedham Ferry remained. But now there’s a new kid on the block down on the Waveney. Or rather an old kid re-incarnated. An ancient ferry route from Burgh St Peter to Carlton Marshes was reinstated this May – after a 60-odd year interlude if  this newspaper article, has got it right.

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At which point even Broads fans can be forgiven for thinking Burgh St Where and Carlton what?  This map might help. (Click on it to bring it up full frame.) We’re talking about the stretch of the Waveney which suddenly rears northwards after a sedate journey east from its source near the Lophams.  As it turns steadily anti-clockwise it leaves a virtual island on its Norfolk bank. Burgh St Peter is the village at the extreme end of that bulge, while Carlton Marshes on the outskirts of Oulton Broad lies directly opposite. It’s the kind of “peninsula” that deserves its own name. The Burgh Bulge perhaps. In fact I’m going to coin that now. The Burgh Bulge, pass it on

Thanks to this new ferry, anyone cycling from the Norwich area to Lowestoft has a third route to consider - the others being on the A146 and via Haddiscoe. But there’s really no contest. Travelling through the Burgh Bulge is just so much quieter, mainly because it really is the road to nowhere. The only problem at the moment is what greets the cyclist on the other side of the river. You’re on a narrow footpath along the bank followed by a track across the marshes. Neither are really suitable for a road bike. Bored, I got on the saddle half way across and then had plenty of time to contemplate the error of my ways as I fixed a puncture two minutes later. Hey ho. 

But hats off  to the Waveney River Centre for investing the time and money in this project. It’s not just weekends or in the summer. It’s a dawn to dusk, seven days a week job, throughout the year. It will only get more popular as the word spreads. Alan was my ferryman. Thank you sir for the ride.

* I paid £2 single, a return is £3. More details here.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Carleton Beck: Abroad thoughts from Home

“Whenever I reach for the boots and binoculars and head out of my door I could go in any direction from the house to find wildlife. Yet something hard-wired in my brain means that the internal compass always trends to the River Yare.” Mark Cocker, Crow Country 2007.

Carleton Beck 006

RETURNING home from work in Norwich along the main A146 to Loddon last night, I felt that familiar old tug on the steering wheel: the one pulling me off the main road and inexorably down to the Yare Valley.

Just being on the back road helps you unwind. And then that powerful magnet somehow hauled me out of the car at Claxton and I wandered down to Carleton Beck as a giant moon started to rise in the eastern sky.

We’re lucky enough to go on holiday every summer and I do a version of this every year. I need to make a conscious effort to re-acquaint myself with the sights, the sounds and in particular the smells of marshy old Norfolk. This year we’d been to the Black Forest in Germany where water virtually hurls itself off the steep hillsides, and makes a racket most of the way down. Gradients were everywhere and it really does take a while to re-adjust to these flatlands.

And I do need to consciously re-calibrate. I’m not from Norfolk and occasionally, after a holiday, the lack of that third dimension reminds me of how melancholy I found the landscape when I first pitched up in this corner of England 20-odd years ago. (I still don’t buy “Big Skies” for example. Big skies imply an absence of interesting land to me.) Anyway last night did the job. Colder than the continent of course. Dank and earthy, with the smells of nettles and brambles more pungent for their novelty. Still summer, but with autumn limbering up in the background. The water in Carleton Beck did nothing slowly, but it will make it down to the Yare in the end. Honest.

Do locals need to do this sort of thing every year. Or does it all come a bit more naturally to you guys? And at the risk of leaving you on a complete downer, I’ll close with some wise old words from Cameron Self’s Literary Norfolk website:

“Retreat now into
Old Norfolk: let the sluggish
Waters absolve you.”