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Up the Waveney from Breydon to Oulton Broad

The Waveney - Burgh Castle - St Olave's - Fritton Lake - St Olave's Priory - Herringfleet Hills - Somerleyton - Oulton Broad - George Borrow's Summer-house - Lowestoft
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The Yare and Bure are the two rivers to which visitors whose time for Broadland cruising is limited usually devote most attention; but there is yet another important and by no means uninteresting waterway to be dealt with. This is the Waveney, a river which brings you in touch with some of the pleasantest places in Broadland, one of the largest broads, and a lovely lagoon - Fritton Lake - which, although not in Norfolk, and in no sense a " broad," should certainly be visited by every voyager in the district. The Waveney flows into Breydon close to where the Yare mingles its waters with those of the famous estuary.

Overlooking the mouth of the river, on the Suffolk side, is Burgh Castle. This so-called castle, supposed by some antiquaries to be the old Garianonum, is one of the most perfect relics of the Roman occupation of Britain. To the least imaginative there is something impressive about its massive walls and solid watch-towers. Nearly two thousand years have passed since they were built, and Roman legions occupied them and the opposite camp at Caister; but the lapse of years has had little effect upon them. The propraetor Publius Ostorius Scapula, whose object it was to keep in check the warlike Iceni, is believed to have been responsible for their erection. The site of the so-called castle was a good one for old-time military purposes. It is on the brow of a hill near the confluence of the Yare and Waveney, and overlooks the wide valley that was once a great estuary. The walls built of flint, chalk, rubble, and Roman tiles, form an irregular parallelogram 640 feet in length and 370 in breadth. They are about 14 feet high and 9 feet thick. At the foot of the hill on which they stand the Roman galleys must have moored and landed their legions. On the summit of each of the circular towers is a cavity, variously conjectured to have contained a watch or signalling turret, a ballister, or some similar weapon of primitive warfare. In 1652 the ruins were in the possession of General Fleetwood, who married Bridget Ireton, a grand-daughter of Cromwell. A little over fifty years ago they passed into the hands of the Boileau family.

That part of the Waveney between Breydon and Oulton Broad is fairly wide and deep, rendering sailing - a matter of difficulty on some of the Broadland waterways - comparatively easy work. A wide expanse of marshland stretches away from the right bank, but the scenery on the other is varied, wooded slopes topped by rugged firs, heathery hills, birch and alder copses, and picturesque marsh farmsteads uniting to make the river a delightful one to sail upon. After leaving Burgh Castle, however, there is little or nothing to detain you until you arrive at St Olaves Bridge. Here you should moor a while and stroll to Fritton Lake. This lake which is about two- and-a-half miles long, is almost entirely surrounded by woods, and is undoubtedly the loveliest sheet of water in East Anglia. It is private property, but its waters are open to boating parties and anglers during the summer months upon payment of a small sum to the landlord of Fritton Old Hall, an old manor house now transformed into a place of accommodation for visitors. A garden full of fragrant old-fashioned flowers is one of the delights of Fritton Old Hall, and although the greater part of the woodlands is strictly preserved, a most enjoyable ramble may be taken through a portion of them connected with Host Hallam's charmingly situated home. The wild-fowl decoys referred to in the description of a cruise down the Yare are an interesting feature of Fritton Lake; but as they are worked during sharp winters only, the decoymen's methods remain a mystery to most visitors who come here. Fritton is the Walden of the Broadland, and there are many people who would like to dwell on its shores as did Thoreau on those of Walden.

Close by St Olaves Bridge and railway station are the scanty ruins of an Augustinian priory; but they are very scanty indeed, and you need not fear you have missed an antiquarian treat if you continue your cruise without seeing them. Even if you do visit them, you will speedily forget all about them when you come in sight of the heather-clad Herringfleet Hills, which, alas! have paid the penalty of their beauty and wide outlook by having to submit to the erection of a number of glaring red villas. In spite of these architectural eyesores, the scenery of this part of the river is charming, and the memory of it helps to beguile the time spent in sailing through the less interesting country lying between Somerleyton and Oulton Broad. To reach the broad you must leave the main channel of the Waveney on the right and sail up a fairly wide waterway known as Oulton Dyke, the entrance to which is about three miles above Somerleyton Bridge.

Oulton Broad, though a large and famous piece of water, is not lovely. For regatta purposes no broad affords a better course; but this is its sole attraction. At one time, before the Broadland was " discovered," and when George Borrow's house was about the only building on one side of the broad it, no doubt, was a somewhat different place; but even then it does not seem to have been very attractive and Borrow gives a very melancholy account of it in one of his books. It is a pity that the ancient summer- house in which he wrote " Lavengro " and " The Bible in Spain" is not the only building seen here now; for the " running up " of modern villas has robbed the broad of what picturesqueness it once possessed, and its nearness to Lowestoft has made it a far too popular resort. Oulton, however, has its advantages. All kinds of craft suitable for Broadland cruising may be hired here, including some of the famous pleasure-wherries; and the broad is within a few minutes' railway journey of the " Queen of Eastern Watering-places," which you may also reach by way of a salt-water channel called Lake Lothing. But both Oulton Broad and Lowestoft are in Suffolk, and can scarcely be dealt with at length in a Norfolk guide-book. Their appearance here is only justified by their forming part of the Broadland.

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Pictures for Up the Waveney from Breydon to Oulton Broad

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