River Waveney – Geldeston Lock to Burgh St Peter

The River Waveney rises at Redgrave Fen and is navigable to hire craft for 22 miles from Geldeston Lock to Breydon Water where it flows into the River Yare.

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Geldeston Lock

Customers enjoying the sunshine at The Locks Inn, Geldeston
Customers enjoying the sunshine at The Locks Inn, Geldeston

Geldeston Lock and the nearby Locks Inn are in an attractive setting amongst the marshes. The Inn can be reached by car via a track from Geldeston, but parking is limited. Once a mill keepers cottage and later home to the lock keeper it was granted a public house licence in the 17th century.  The Locks Inn serves local ales from the Lowestoft based Green Jack Brewing Company and holds live music and events on a regular basis. The Big Dog Ferry operates from Beccles Lido to the Inn in the summer months – a pleasant 45-minute journey.

Geldeston or Shipmeadow Lock as it was once known is the head of navigation, the public moorings here have a good depth of water with room for about 5 boats. Mooring is also available adjacent to the lock at the head of navigation beside Shipmeadow Marshes (fee payable). Further downstream on the left bank and nearer Geldeston village is Geldeston Dyke. The dyke is quite wide and ½ mile long but can be shallow nearer the village, those wishing to moor should check there is sufficient depth of water.

Geldeston & Geldeston Dyke

At the head of Geldeston Dyke is the village of Geldeston, here you will find Rowancraft where you may hire canoes to explore the upper reaches of the Waveney. In the village overlooking the village green is the Wherry Inn.

The narrow river now meanders gently through Barsham Marshes on its 3 ½ mile journey to Beccles. Cables cross the river at two points near the village of Dunburgh, the first is 39′ the second 40′. The river turns north into Beccles, red-bricked malt houses, boatyards and colourful gardens sweep down to the waters edge. Above the bell-tower of St Michael’s Church looks out over the river and Gillingham Marshes.

Care is needed as Beccles Old Road Bridge is approached, the tide flows fast here and the bridge is very low having only 6ft 6 headroom at average high water.  Mooring is available at Beccles Lido (fee) for those waiting for low tide.

Passing through the bridge on the left bank are the boatyards of Quayway Boats and H.E. Hippersons. On the right bank is the attractive tree lined yacht station with stern-on moorings for a large number of craft (fee).

Beccles

The River Waveney at Beccles
The River Waveney at Beccles

Beccles is an attractive market town set high above the Waveney, it has a good range of shops including leading supermarkets and independents. There are ample opportunities to dine out in a varied range of restaurants and public houses. Friday is market day the stallholders sell the wares in the aptly named New Market. St Michaels Church with its detached bell-tower stand in a commanding position in the middle of the town. The tower affords good views over the Waveney valley and is visible for some miles.  The Bell Tower is open at certain times during the season, more information is available by ringing 01502 712109.

Beccles Lido is a traditional, outdoor heated swimming pool situated by the river Waveney. There is a large 33m x 16m swimming pool with a deep end of 12ft. There is an adjacent toddler pool and baby pool, with an extensive grass area ideal for sunbathing.  The pool is open from late May to early September and is open 7 days a week.

The Beccles and District Museum is located in Ballygate and has information on the history of Beccles documenting important industries of the past including clock and watch making and printing. The architecture in the town is predominately Georgian good examples of which can be seen along Northgate.  Northgate runs uphill adjacent to the river away from the yacht station, a number of narrow alleyways lead down to the waters edge. Look out for the old signs on some of the buildings as they give an indication as to their former use. The river upstream of the old bridge is particularly attractive with its red-bricked malt houses, boatyards and colourful gardens sweeping down to the waters edge.

The Waveney Stardust a purpose built broads cruiser, centrally heated with wheelchair access and full disabled toilet facility is available for groups and families. It is designed to offer people, who would not otherwise be able to use a traditional boat, the opportunity to see the Norfolk and Suffolk waterways. Cruises run from Hipperson Boatyard, Gillingham Dam.

Beccles Yacht Station (fee) is set in attractive tree lined surroundings close to the town’s amenities.  Facilities at the yacht station include showers, disabled toilet, and laundry facilities, and for children, a large grass area and playground. At night the area is lit with coloured lamps that reflect in the water all adding to a delightful setting.  The yacht station can get very busy during July and August and it is advisable to book a spot with the Harbour Master on 01502 712225 (summer) and 01502 523470 (winter) or via VHF channel 73.

Ahead is Beccles Bypass Bridge, which has headroom of 12ft at average high water. Free mooring is available here for yachts to de-mast and at Beccles Marsh, although the proximity of the bridge with the noise from the passing traffic makes the fee payable at the yacht station worthwhile.

On the right bank is Beccles Amateur Sailing Club – established over 90 years with a sailing programme from April to November.  Just under a mile from Beccles are the moorings at Hill House Farm (fee).

The tree lined river winds it’s way gently through the marshes towards Burgh St Peter. Keep clear of the bank along this section as they are protected with matting.

The villages here are set back from the river above the floodplain. There are a number of good places to moor along this section but check for sufficient depth of water.

At Aldeby are the remains of the old swing bridge that used to serve the Beccles to Yarmouth railway line, the central brick pier still stands in the middle of the river. A little further on, on the left bank is Aldeby Hall Staithe with space for 4 boats to moor. Look out for the Wherry Stone one of a number of standing stones laid as part of the millennium project

Further downstream on the right bank is Worlingham Staithe with space for 3 boats.

On approaching Burgh St Peter and the Waveney River Centre the river opens out with views over Peto’s Marsh towards Oulton and Lowestoft. Peto’s Marsh often floods and attracts birds including the Golden Plover, Lapwing and Dunlin.

Burgh St Peter & The Waveney River Centre

Eddie II at the Waveney River Centre at Burgh St Peter
Eddie II at the Waveney River Centre at Burgh St Peter

The Waveney River Centre at Burgh St Peter is in a delightful setting surrounded by trees with a grassy bank rising gently from the river with good views over the Waveney valley towards Lowestoft. A sculpture of a leaping Pike entitled Eddie IImarks the entrance to the marina which has good moorings, free for short stays, a charge is levied should you wish to stay longer (From £10 2014).

The Waveney Inn, situated just behind the marina offers visitors a contemporary bar and restaurant and now boasts luxury hotel rooms too. Entertainment includes live bands throughout the season and barbeques at bank holiday weekends.

The Mariner’s Stores stocks chandlery, fishing tackle, general groceries, camping gear, clothing and local gifts.  The centre has a range of holiday accommodation including two luxury holiday apartments overlooking the staithe featuring views over the marshes and the Waveney valley, lodges, caravans and day boats can also be hired.

Also at the centre there is a heated indoor pool and spa with it’s own café open during the season. A children’s play area at the back of the moorings features a slide, monkey bars and a new 3-level tower with views over the marina and marshes.

The unusual church of St. Mary’s is just a short walk away from the river centre and is definitely worth a visit.

Shortly after the Waveney River Centre the river bends left with Oulton Dyke on the right.

River Waveney – Burgh St Peter to Herringfleet

Photos of the Locks Inn, Big Dog Ferry and Beccles Lido reproduced courtesy of Graham Elliot