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River Yare

The River Yare rises close to the village of Shipdham near Dereham and then winds eastwards towards Norwich. At Barford it is joined by the smaller River Tiffey. Then at Earlham, on the outskirts of Norwich, it passes through Earlham Park and loops round the University of East Anglia.

River Yare at Earlham Park

In Lavengro George Borrow captured the beauty of the Yare at this point:
 

'At some distance from the city, behind a range of hilly ground which rises towards the south-west, is a small river, the waters of which, after many meanderings, eventually enter the principal river of the district, and assist to swell the tide, which rolls down to the ocean. It is a sweet rivulet, and pleasant it is to trace its course from spring-head, high up in the remote regions of Eastern Anglia, till it arrives in the valley behind yon rising ground; and pleasant is that valley, truly a good spot, but most lovely where yonder bridge crosses the little stream. Beneath its arch the waters rush garrulously into a blue pool, and are there stilled for a time, for the pool is deep, and they appear to have sunk to sleep. Farther on, however, you hear their voice again, where they ripple gently over yon gravelly shallow.'

This scene has hardly changed since Borrow's day and the park is a popular place for walkers and for children to paddle in the summer. The Yare also provides an important corridor for wildlife at this point with its marshes and wet woodland. After passing the University lake, it skirts round the southern edge of Norwich and merges with the River Wensum at Trowse - where it becomes navigable. The Wensum is the larger of the two rivers at this point, but it is the Yare that takes on the name.

River Yare at Strumpshaw

River Yare at Strumpshaw

Flowing eastwards from Norwich, the river passes through Postwick - which was frequently painted by the Norwich School Artists. It then moves on to Bramerton where one of Broadland's colourful characters - Billy Bluelight - used to race boats up the river. His claim was as follows:
 

'My name is Billy Bluelight, my age is 45, I hope to get to Carrow Bridge before the boat arrive.'


The next village is Surlingham - which was home to the naturalist and writer Ted Ellis. Ellis lived in a cottage at Wheatfen Broad for many years and turned the surrounding marsh and fenland into a nature reserve. He was an expert on the eco-systems of the Norfolk Broads and a much-loved nature diarist for the EDP newspaper.

Wheatfen Nature Reserve

Wheatfen Broad Near Surlingham

Another colourful Broadland character made his living on Rockland Broad and this was Jimmy Fuller - alias 'Old Scientific'. He was a wildfowler and marsh man who earned money by shooting and collecting specimens. He was even known to shoot Ospreys - in fact, anything that he could later sell. The guide book writer, W. A. Dutt, once met him and provided the following account:
 

'Fuller appeared from behind a reed stack just as I was knocking at his cottage door and in a few minutes we were afloat in his gun punt. In the dyke leading from the cottage there was open water; but the Broad in spite of two days' thaw was partially covered in ice through which Fuller had broken a channel for this boat.'


Further downstream still, the river passes through Claxton - a small village which is now the home of another naturalist - this time Mark Cocker. In his book Crow Country - he provides a fascinating account of jackdaws and crows in the Yare Valley. Watching them pass overhead at Buckenham - heading for Buckenham Carrs - inspired him to try and understand more about their movements. The book is a personal account of this obsession which is centred on Norfolk but also takes in rookeries in other parts of the UK and Europe.

Two-thirds of the way between Norwich to Yarmouth lies the village of Reedham which perches on higher ground overlooking the marshes. There is a railway swing bridge here - allowing larger boats to pass and a chain ferry which carries cars across the river.

Reedham Ferry by Stephen Mole

Reedham Ferry (Photograph © Stephen Mole)
 

In his book The Rings of Saturn W.G. Sebald travelled along the railway line here and crossed the river at Reedham:
 

'Through Brundall, Buckenham and Cantley, where, at the end of a straight roadway, a sugar-beet refinery with a belching smokestack sits in a green field like a steamer at a wharf, the line follows the River Yare, till at Reedham it crosses the water and, in a wide curve, enters the vast flatland that stretches southeast down to the sea. Save for the odd solitary cottage there is nothing to be seen but the grass and the rippling reeds, one or two sunken willows, and some ruined conical brick buildings, like relics of an extinct civilisation.'


In Coot Club by Arthur Ransome - the children and Mrs Barrable sail up the Yare as far as Brundall in an attempt to keep out of the way of the Margoletta. On their way back they get stranded in the mud on Breydon Water - which leads to the climax of the story.

In his verse narrative, The Broads (1919) - Hugh Money-Coutts described Breydon as follows:
 

'On Breydon Water, when the tide is out,
The channel bounds no sailorman can doubt.
Starboard and port, the miry banks reveal
Where safety lies beneath his cautious keel.
But when the flood has wiped the water clean,
 - Hiding the muddy haunts where seagulls preen
Their wings, and shake their heads - black pillars mark
The channel's edge for each adventuring bark.
Beware; the channel shifts, and now and then
A post deceives the hapless wherrymen.'


Just beyond Breydon Bridge the Yare swings southwards and flows through Great Yarmouth before entering the North Sea.

River Yare at Yarmouth

River Yare at Yarmouth

Links:

More River Yare Photographs

Photographs of the Wherryman's Way

 

 

 

 

 

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