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Rockland St. Mary

Rockland St. Mary lies in the Yare Valley between Surlingham and Claxton. The long village street, which runs from west to east, finally drops down a steep hill to the New Inn and the staithe. The staithe connects the village to Rockland Broad.

Rockland Staithe

Rockland Staithe

Rockland Broad

Rockland Broad from the Short Dyke

The name Rockland derives from 'rook grove' - a fact which the nature writer Mark Cocker found particularly fascinating. Cocker, who lives in the next village of Claxton and is author of Crow Country, spent many years observing crows, rooks and jackdaws in the Yare valley. He was originally inspired by watching the amazing roost which takes place just across the river at Buckenham.

When the guidebook writer W. A. Dutt visited Rockland in the early years of the 20th Century he found that many of the inhabitants were still employed in traditional Broadland trades:

“Half an hour’s strolling brought me to Rockland village, an isolated hamlet with a small staithe at which the wherries moor, and a narrow channel connecting it with the Broad. With its swampy osier grounds, yellow reed stacks, and thatched cottages, it is a typical Broadland hamlet, and the majority of its few inhabitants are more or less dependent on the Broad for a livelihood”

However, like many villages surrounding Norwich, Rockland is now largely a commuter village.

In one of my long Norfolk dialect poems entitled The Waddingham St. Michael Shew the narrator, Henry Skipper, takes a visiting film crew onto Rockland Broad to get some location shots. While out, a wake from a passing cruiser over-turns one of the rowing boats - depositing the director into the water. As a result he loses his toupee and a search ensues:

They soon start a lookin and that wunt long
Afore the camra bluk thort he'd got it,
But when he get it in, y'see, that tan
Out to be a rabbet wot hed drownded.
Next orf the sound bluk reckoned he'd got it
But when they get it in that wus only
An ole glove wot someone must hev hulled out.

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Rockland Broad was also home to two of Norfolk's most colourful characters. The first was Jimmy 'Scientific' Fuller who made his living around the turn of the 18th/19th Century shooting and collecting birds. He was even known to shoot ospreys. He worked on the broad for fifty years and can be seen (below) in his gun punt.

Jimmy 'Scientific' Fuller c. 1913

The other character was Archie Taylor, who lived in a thatched cottage on the staithe, cut reeds and hired out rowing boats. According to fishing legend John Wilson, Taylor was also a dab-hand at catching specimen roach using a wet fly.

Rockland Broad is also home to a number of sunken wherries known rather ominously as 'the Slaughters'. The thought of these old vessels and the Broad's reputation as a top pike fishing venue - inspired the following haiku of mine:

In the staithe, flatfish
And ruffe. Among the bones of
The old wherries - pike.


More photographs of Rockland





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