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The River Bure

The River Bure rises in North Norfolk - with tributaries converging from Melton Constable, Matlaske and Felbrigg. It flows in a south-easterly direction towards Great Yarmouth and the North Sea. It is one of the county's largest rivers and becomes navigable at Coltishall. It then flows through the busy holiday resorts of Wroxham and Horning before merging with the River Thurne close to the village of Thurne. In its final stretch, it meanders its way across the Halvergate Marshes before joining the River Yare at the tip of Breydon Water.

River Bure at Oxnead

River Bure near Oxnead Hall

The Bure has many literary connections. In its upper reaches, it flows through the village of Itteringham where the poet George Barker lived with his wife (the novelist) Elspeth Barker. Their flint and brick cottage stood close to the river and inspired him to write the following lines in his poem poem Morning in Norfolk:

The dawn has brightened the
shallows and shadows and
the Bure sidles and idles
through weed isles and fallen
willows, and under
Itteringham Mill, and
there is a kind of rain-
drenched flittering in the
air, the night swan still
sleeps in her wings and over it all
the dawn heaps up the hanging
fire of the day.

Further downstream, the Bure flows past Oxnead Hall - one-time home of the Paston family - where the Paston Letters were discovered. Only one wing of the original hall still stands but the house has been extensively rebuilt. At nearby Brampton, the discovery of some Roman urns inspired Sir Thomas Browne to write an antiquary's piece entitled: Concerning some urnes found in Brampton feild in Norfolk.

The Bure then passes through the villages of Buxton and Lamas - which both have connections with Anna Sewell - the author of Black Beauty. Anna Sewell found inspiration for the Birtwick Park in her novel from Dudwick Park in Buxton - a farm owned by her grandparents; it was here that she first learned to ride. She was buried in the graveyard of the Quaker Chapel at Lamas and, today, her gravestone has been set into the wall by the roadside. (The chapel is now a privately owned home.)

River Bure at Brampton

River Bure at Brampton

One of Sir John Betjeman's favourite Norfolk Churches was St. Peter's at Belaugh - which lies on a steep hill overlooking the river. In fact, it was St. Peter's which provided the inspiration for his life-long interest in church-crawling. He first encountered it when he came to Norfolk on family holidays.

St. Peter's Church, Belaugh

St Peter's Church at Belaugh

Betjeman (1906-1984) also mentions the Bure in his moving poem Norfolk - recalling both his father and his memories of the county:

There after supper lit by lantern light
Warm in the cabin I could lie secure
And hear against the polished sides at night
The lap lapping of the weedy Bure,
A whispering and watery Norfolk sound
Telling of all the moonlit reeds around.

Read complete poem

The Bure is also the central location for Arthur Ransome's children's adventure stories Coot Club (1934) and The Big Six (1940). The staithe at Horning provides the starting point for both of these novels and both stories employ a plot connected with casting boats adrift from their moorings. In Coot Club Dick and Dorothea sail up and down the Bure several times and visit Ranworth and South Walsham Broads and pass St. Benet's Abbey on their way to Potter Heigham.

St. Benet's Abbey

In Coot Club Dick, Dorothea, Tom and Mrs Barrable have to take the mast of the Teasel down in order to get through Acle bridge. Once they've negotiated the bridge they head for Stokesby and Great Yarmouth.
'Mile after mile the Teasel and the Titmouse flew down  those dreary lower reaches of the Bure. Windmills slipped by one after another, and the rare houses called by their distance out of Yarmouth, "Six-Mile House," "Five-Mile House," and so on. And still the ebb was pouring down, and the mud was widening on either side of the channel. Were they going to reach Yarmouth too soon?'

Another author who found inspiration from the river was C. P. Snow (1905-1980). His murder mystery Death Under Sail (1932) is set on a wherry which sails down the Bure from Wroxham. The skipper of the wherry is shot dead at the wheel and the case is taken up by the Norfolk investigator Aloysius Birrell.

More River Bure Photographs





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