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Oulton Broad to Beccles and Bungay


Burgh St Peter - Its curious Church - Aldeby Priory - Beccles - Bungay - The New Cut.
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To reach Beccles and Bungay by way of the Waveney you must, if at Oulton Broad, return to the mouth of Oulton Dyke and there turn sharply to the left and continue your cruise up the main river. Even before leaving the Dyke you catch sight, across the marshes, of a little marshland church which, perhaps, will seem familiar on account of the frequency with which it is represented in Broadland guide books and among the photographs in the Great Eastern Railway's carriages. This is the church of Burgh St Peter - one of the strangest and ugliest ecclesiastical structures in the eastern counties. The upper part of the tower is like a flight of steps - in fact the tower consists of five storeys, each storey being considerably smaller than the one immediately beneath it. The village of Burgh St Peter, notwithstanding its being only about four miles from Lowestoft, is one of the most out-of-the-way places in Broadland. It is approached far more easily by river than by road or rail, the road route to Lowestoft being one of some fourteen miles. When a villager wishes to " go shopping " at the neighbouring port or to pay a visit to Carlton Colville, a neighbouring village, he must first row across the river and then find his way along an almost imperceptible footpath across the marshes. Burgh St Peter is one of the several villages in East Anglia whose inhabitants are fond of describing them as the " last place God made."

About five miles from the mouth of Oulton Dyke, but some distance from the riverside, is Aldeby. The name of a farm here - Priory Farm - may tempt you to go in search of ruins; but you will find little to reward you for your trouble. True, there was once a priory here - or rather a cell - but like that of St Olaves, it has almost entirely disappeared. Even at its best it only accommodated a prior and three monks; now its remains form part of a farmhouse.

The village church is not uninteresting, for its doorway is Norman, and other parts of it are very ancient. The parish church at Beccles, however, the lofty bell - tower of which is to be seen long before the town is reached, is a far finer building. The tower stands apart from the church, and apparently has never been completed, its construction suggesting that it was to have been surmounted by a spire. If this had been done, Beccles church-tower would be one of the best in East Anglia. Even now one cannot fail to be impressed by its height and massiveness. As the town is in Suffolk, and only mentioned here because it comes within the bounds of Broadland, it cannot be dealt with at length; but I may say that it is a pleasantly situated place, though possessing little besides its church to draw you from the river. A wide view of the Waveney Valley may be obtained from the churchyard, and, of course, an even wider one from the summit of the bell-tower.

Beccles is about seven-and-a-half miles from Oulton Dyke, and the river between these places is wide enough for the sailing of the largest craft employed in Broadland. Its scenery, however, can only be described as tame. Above Beccles the Waveney pursues a serpentine course; and although Bungay is only seven miles from Beccles by road it is ten miles further by water. The river is navigable to wherries and small yachts as far as Bungay, but no further; though a very pleasant trip may be taken in a rowing boat as far as a densely wooded bank or " hanger," upon the summit of which Mr H. Rider Haggard lives in Ditchingham House, which is stored with curios and sporting trophies brought here by Mr Haggard from all quarters of the globe.

The chief sights of Bungay are its old castle built by the Bigods, Earls of Norfolk; its churches of St Mary and Holy Trinity, the former of which has attached to it the ruins of a nunnery; and its market-cross, surmounted by a figure of Justice, and having a pair of hand-stocks still fastened to one of its pillars. Bungay is a Suffolk town; the Waveney being the boundary between Norfolk and Suffolk here and for some miles of its course. As I have said, the town is not easily accessible by water on account of the river's many windings. Yachtsmen are also often delayed by having to wait for the opening of locks at Geldeston, Ellingham, and Wainford Mills. Although the Waveney is one of the chief Broadland waterways, only one broad - Oulton - is directly connected with it.

The New Cut

In writing of the Yare I have referred to the New Cut, the entrance to which is at Reedham. This is a canal bout two-and-a-half miles long, cut some seventy years ago to connect the Waveney with the Yare, and thus render it possible for wherrymen to sail from one river to the other without going round by Breydon. Now that Broadland has become a holiday place, yachting parties are not slow to avail themselves of this more direct route. The canal is cut across the Reedham, Haddiscoe, and Herringfleet marshes; and the greater part of it is parallel with the railroad from Norwich to Lowestoft. A toll of one shilling must be paid for each yacht using the New Cut, which is collected by the bridgemen at Haddiscoe Bridge.


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The new Cut
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