A Boating Guide to Beccles
Beccles and the River Waveney
Known as the Gateway to the Southern Broads the market town of Beccles stands on a hill over looking the Waveney Valley in the county of Suffolk. It is 22 ½ miles from Yarmouth and 10 miles from Oulton Broad by river. In the town there is ample opportunity to stock up on provisions with a good range of shops and supermarkets including Tesco, which is open weekdays from 6am until 12am.
Beccles Yacht Station (South Side)
The yacht station at Beccles Quay, known locally as the Cut is set in attractive tree lined surroundings. One quay faces north the other south they both catch the morning and evening sunshine. The quay headings and mooring post have recently been replaced and are much improved. Although only a few feet apart the two sides have a different feel. The south side of the yacht station pictured above is nearest the town and is probably the more attractive with flower boxes and hanging baskets lining the pathways. Multi-coloured lamps strung from the lampposts, illuminate the quay at night
Mooring is stern-on with side-on moorings available on the main river, both water and electric hook-up points are available. It is here you will find the Harbour Masters complex, which includes showers, disabled toilet and laundry facilities. The facilities are open everyday throughout the season with a limited service offered from November to March. Moorings can be booked by ringing the yacht station on 01502 712225 or VHF channel 73.
Next-door is The Quay Café, it provides light snacks and ice creams. The tourist information centre next to the café was open during the 2015 season but due to funding issues may not be open from 2016 onward. Pump out and fuel is available at Hipperson’s opposite the yacht station at Gillingham Dam with Beccles and all its amenities is just a short walk away.
Beccles Yacht Station (North Side)
The north side of the yacht station is quieter, there are water points, picnic tables and a children’s play area with an adjacent field for ball games. It is close to the bypass road but the mature trees help screen what little road noise there is.
Beccles Old Road Bridge
The cast iron bridge across the Waveney built in 1884 by the Beccles Navigation Commissioners replaced an earlier three-arched stone bridge. Robert Maitland Brereton designed the bridge with the ironwork by Head Wrightson & Co Ltd of Stockton-on-Tees. Stonework from the old bridge used in the construction of the abutments on the new bridge helped to keep costs down. The new bridge allowed for wider craft to pass through the bridge and had 18 inches extra clearance. Today the headroom at average high water is 6 ft 6 in with an average rise and fall of between 2 to 2 ½ feet.
If the air draft of your boat is low enough then the trip up the Waveney to Geldeston is well worth it. If you don’t have time to go all the way to Geldeston then I would still recommend you take a shorter trip just to be able to see Beccles from the river. Failing that there is a footpath on the opposite bank, which follows the river all the way to Geldeston. The footpath can be joined immediately over the old road bridge on Gillingham Dam. The path offers great views of Beccles including the famous detached bell tower at St Michael’s Church.
The Bell Tower and St Michael’s Church at Beccles
Built in 1515 and standing 97 ft tall the 16th Century detached bell tower of St Michael’s Church dominates the skyline for miles around. Run by volunteers The Bell Tower is open to the public between Easter and late September. When conditions allow the visitor may climb the 122 steps that lead to the roof of the bell tower. The reward for making the climb is the views of up to 20 miles over the Waveney Valley and beyond. In the belfry are the 10 bells that ring out the chimes for the clock on each quarter hour and on the hour until 8pm. If you don’t have a head for heights or the inclination to climb to the roof then there is a Tourist Information Centre on the ground floor containing lots of information about Beccles and the surrounding area.
Also of interest to the boating visitor is Beccles and District Museum. It is is located in Leman House in Ballygate it is home to a large collection of photographs covering all aspects of life in and around Beccles. Of particular interest is the River Post Room where they have information about the River Waveney past and present.
The Big Dog Ferry
Is your boat too high to negotiate Beccles Old Road Bridge? Do you not fancy the walk to Geldeston along the footpath? If you would still like to visit the Locks Inn at Geldeston then you need the Big Dog!
The Big Dog Ferry runs from Beccles Lido to The Locks Inn at Geldeston. On request it will also pick up from Beccles Quay so you can still enjoy the riverside at Beccles and a trip along the upper stretches of the Waveney to the head of navigation at Geldeston Lock. To book or find out more then please call 07532 072761 between 8am and 8pm.
Eating Out in Beccles
The town is well served with good pubs and restaurants many have TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence. The Waveney House Hotel above is in a particularly good spot with its conservatory and terrace beside the Waveney with views over Gillingham Marshes. Moorings are available for patrons but book in advance to secure your place.
Beccles Lido is a traditional, outdoor heated swimming pool situated beside the River Waveney. Mooring is available right outside the lido, which is upstream of Beccles Old Road Bridge. The large 33m x 15m pool has a deep end of 3.5 metres with a 1 metre springboard. There is an adjacent toddler pool and baby pool, with an extensive grassy areas ideal for sunbathing. The lido is owned and run by the local community under a charitable trust and is open from late May to early September 7 days a week including evenings.
Photos of the Big Dog Ferry and Beccles Lido reproduced courtesy of Graham Elliot.