Categories: Travelogue

by chris


Ranworth to Stracey Arms

In August 2022 we undertook our first extended cruise as a family to the southern Norfolk Broads, using the Stracey Arms as our jumping off point for making the appropriate tide through Great Yarmouth at slack water (roughly an hour after low water). Pictures below are taken en-route from where the Thurne joins the Bure.

Stracey Arms to Geldeston Lock

A fairly early start took us towards Yarmouth with the tide on the ebb with the added benefit of saving some fuel. Our initial intention was to head up to Norwich and pull up on the outskirts but having never explored the Waveney, we took a turn to port rather than starboard at Burgh Castle and headed south into unexplored territory. We kept going through Beccles, skipping Oulton Broad and Lowestoft and despite minor trepidation regarding bridge clearance as to whether we would keep our screen up or take it down, we proceeded to the limit of navigation at Geldeston.

Geldeston was beautiful but also quite lively with a multitude of canoes and paddleboards clogging the staithe. The water was incredibly clear allowing you to see fish taking your bait with a soundtrack of children jumping off the nearby bridge late into the night. We did have a drink at the Locks Inn, a busy community pub with local musicians gathering to play cover versions of Status Quo tunes and swarming wasps. It was a nice atmosphere but at it’s best when dusk fell with bats wheeling up and down the staithe in the shelter of the trees.

Geldeston Lock to Loddon

With Geldeston being such a popular spot, we didn’t want to outstay our welcome and although it was tempting to pop around the corner to a mooring close to Geldeston village, we chose to head back up north, stopping off at Beccles en-route for fuel and provisions. Avoiding the Beccles Yacht Station charges, we pulled up on free moorings next to the bypass bridge and jerry cans in hand, made our way to Morrisons for some E5 and supplies. A useful tip is not to have your hands covered in sun cream when trying to carry two full 10 litre jerry cans !

We recovered a pillow which flew overboard and then progressed on our merry way, stopping off at the Waveney River Centre for water which required a £1 coin for 10 minutes. The fuel pumps were shut if we had needed diesel.

The next waypoint was Somerleyton and St Olaves, passing under Haddiscoe Bridge along the Haddiscoe Cut across to Reedham. Passing under this bridge was a bit of a milestone having been unable to pass underneath to get to Lowestoft some 25 years before with a Hunter 272 sailing yacht.

The confluence with the River Yare was turbulent and we had to push against a fairly fierce ebb tide past the Reedham Swing Bridge. The speed of the tide persuaded us it might be better to carry on rather than pull up at Reedham so kept on, past the Reedham Chain Ferry into the beautiful River Chet.

This stretch of river into Loddon proved to be one of my favourite passages with many Marsh Harriers wheeling above the reeds and Chineese Water Deer browsing in the adjacent fields when you could catch a glimpse above the reeds.

Following the advice gleaned from a quick browse of the internet, picking up a mooring spot at Pyes Mill moorings would be prettier and quieter than at the Loddon Staithe. This turned out to be correct with walking access using a trodden path across a private meadow taking around 20 minutes. The landowner now apparently allows the meadow to be crossed ‘respectfully’ but reserves the right to close it from what I understand. Loddon is a lovely place with plenty of eateries and pubs and a fairly useful Co-Op. Don’t expect the cash machine to work though !

In the evening we grabbed some nice fish and chips and the following morning enjoyed a fry up from a small cafe near the town staithe.

Pyes Mill is definitely a favourite spot and we enjoyed conversation with some great neighbours, including a local owner of a live-aboard Freeman 23.

Next stop Bramerton…

Loddon to Bramerton

With Geldeston being such a popular spot, we didn’t want to outstay our welcome and although it was tempting to pop around the corner to a mooring close to Geldeston village, we chose to head back up north, stopping off at Beccles en-route for fuel and provisions. Avoiding the Beccles Yacht Station charges, we pulled up on free moorings next to the bypass bridge and jerry cans in hand, made our way to Morrisons for some E5 and supplies. A useful tip is not to have your hands covered in sun cream when trying to carry two full 10 litre jerry cans !

We could have easily spent days enjoying Loddon but this was a voyage of discovery so with a fairly relaxed start we left with the intention of getting to Norwich with an overnight stay. We had second thoughts about staying overnight at Norwich on a Friday so modified the plans to pull up at Bramerton Common.

En-route we decided to pull in at Brundall to top up on fresh water and pick up a flag staff with ensign and a boathook. Cruising your own boat without an ensign is really like being half-dressed and having lost two hats and only just recovered a pillow flying overboard, a boathook was a good idea.

It was great to see several suppliers I’m familiar with working for a marine electronics company including Brian Ward and French Marine (who very kindly sorted me out with a spare fibre washer for my gearbox filler plug).

Having grabbed a bacon sarnie at Broom’s and had a little wander into town for supplies we departed Brundall, almost immediately distracted by a small cut on our port bow which we explored, leading us to a stunning secret mud-weighting spot called Surlingham Broad. We would definitely have to re-visit this spot but for now we just passed through.

The stretch between Brundall and Bramerton is incredibly pretty with several pubs with their own quays calling to us but this year we were on a tight budget so managed to find a nice space at the incredibly idyllic Bramerton Common moorings. The fishing was fantastic here and the sunset unmissable. At night, a small group of bats decided to perform aerobatics immediately behind our canopy, consuming all the mosquitos and allowing for a very relaxed glass of cooking wine into the night.

Bramerton to Surlingham Broad via Norwich

Another gorgeous morning at what must be one of our future favourite moorings. Today was about fulfilling an ambition to get into the heart of Norwich with out own boat. A couple of decades ago we took our Hunter 272 sailing vessel from Levington on the River Orwell, up the coast and in through Yarmouth looking to see how far up the Yare we could get. Having tickled the girders of Postwick Viaduct with our antenna, we managed to get as far as Whitlingham Little Broad but started touching bottom so had to retreat to the Commissioners Cut and walk into the city from there. This time we were able to make it all the way to the Norwich Yacht Station just past the Norwich railway station. As a point of interest, my father was a shipping agent responsible for managing substantial timber ships which would discharge here.

Being a Saturday, we’d been advised that Norwich might not be the best place to stop overnight and the Yacht Station notices such as ‘Make sure you drop down your mud weight’ and ‘pass your mooring lines through the rings on the bollards and back to your boat’ suggests there has been trouble in the past with revellers casting boats adrift. Although the moorings are locked, no one was there this weekend to provide security or take payment. The railings provide no real security from outside. We did feel the boat was safe enough to leave whilst we explored the Norwich market and walked to Morrisons to pick up fuel and supplies. It was also a match day, so hundreds of yellow-shirted fans were bursting from the seams of all the pubs in the area. Spirits were very good and at no time did anything feel threatening. With Norwich losing the match, I guess alcohol-fuelled celebration post match was off the cards.

Norwich market was a joy with much of it given over to street food vendors. We just looked for the longest queues and the type of people in them and decided to try ‘Taste of Shanghai’ – It was fantastic and incredible value for money. We skipped visiting the castle as although we’d have like to go in, entry was a little too expensive.

Having explored and topped up, we left Norwich, dodging the canoe-hirers that would try and hitch a ride by hanging on to our gunwhales and made for a quiet overnight stop at Surlingham Broad, using the opportunity to mud-weight for the very first time. It’s a beautiful spot however Gemma had a steaming headache from a combination of bright sun and exhaust fumes and fishing was very poor too. I think Surlingham Broad is much more about sitting back with a glass or two of wine watching the sun set.

Surlingham Broad to Langley Upstream

A leisurely start saw us leaving Surlingham Broad to a location more suitable to leave from to make our way back over Breydon Water.

We still didn’t have too much pressure to get home, but needed to head that way so headed back east, detouring past Rockland Staithe. The approaches were beautiful with an open mere offering home to an amazing range of birdlife from Cormorants to terns. The extremities were very weeded but the main channel was clear. Rockland Staithe was a little underwhelming although the New Inn pub did look like it would be worth visiting. It was a bit early for a pint so rather than settle in, we continued back to a less well known staithe called Langley Upstream. This was a thoroughly charming spot to spend the rest of the day and night, offering a useful jumping off point for our return over Breydon. Fishing was great for smaller Roach and Rudd and there was also facility for rubbish disposal. It’s fair to say there’s nothing else here, no pubs, shops or anything and all the better for it.

Langley Upstream to Ludham

Having caught our fill of small Rudd and Roach on bread flakes at Langley, the clock started ticking for the return across Breydon Water. Timing is fairly critical as fighting the tide at Yarmouth isn’t a bundle of laughs and getting it wrong does cost a lot of extra fuel and fumes.

We probably left a shade on the early side, but it did mean we could pretty much idle our way to Yarmouth, even contemplating a short stop at Berney Arms. As it happened, we were able to almost drift on the tide.

Passing through Yarmouth and into the Bure was fairly uneventful noticing that while the tide was still flooding at the lift bridge, the tide was ebbing going past the Yarmouth Yacht Station. It was now just a gentle midday cruise making our way back up the Bure until it intersects the Thurne for our final destination of our holiday adventure. We’d briefly tied up at the free moorings with our Swift 18 sailing boat near Hunter’s Yard in 2021 but hoped to get space the Womack Staithe for the last night. We arrived around 5 o’clock and stood no hope of getting in, so politely asked an obliging hire boat if they could move down by one mooring post on the free moorings to let us squeeze in.

Although Womack Staithe is very picturesque, it it pretty much like being in a sardine tin packed with the Broads equivalent of gin palaces. We also got there too late to shop for souvenirs and gifts, or to pick up any food supplies so wandered into Ludham it’s self. The supermarket was stocked with plenty of chocolate, booze and snacks but didn’t have much by way of ingredients to make a meal. With the butcher also being shut, dinner was like an episode of ‘Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook’.

It’s not a bad spot but far from a favourite of mine. Perhaps it’s one to enjoy more in the winter when the hoards have left.

The following morning was home time with a quick pootle home to our Ranworth mooring.