Literary Norfolk Header and Logo

River Thurne

At only five miles in length, the Thurne is Norfolk's shortest river. It starts at the village of West Somerton and then makes its way through the middle of Martham Broad.

The River Thurne

River Thurne at Potter Heigham

The Thurne was once one of Norfolk's finest pike fishing rivers and in 1960 a 35lbs specimen was taken by Mr R. Pownall. In Arthur Ransome's children's adventure The Big Six (1940) - the 'Death and Glories' (Pete, Bill and Joe) land a 30˝ lbs pike which is later stuffed and displayed at 'The Roaring Donkey' pub. They are fishing what Ransome calls Kendal Dyke - but is normally known as Candle Dyke which connects the Thurne to Heigham Sound.

Here is the exciting description of their attempt to land the fish:

'For the first time, they could see how big the pike was. A huge fish, mottled light green and olive, rose slowly to the top of the water. He had shaken free of the reeds, which were drifting away. He opened a wide, white mouth, shook a head as big as a man's and plunged again to the bottom of the river, making the reel whizz.'

Further downstream the river reaches Potter Heigham - with its ancient stone bridge. This is another important Arthur Ransome location - for in Coot Club the children accidently moor here next to the Margoletta in the dark. This is ironic because the Hullabaloos have been chasing them since Horning - where Tom cast-off their motor cruiser in order to save a coot's nest. The Hullabaloos are a group of noisy, thoughtless tourists who are intent on getting their revenge on the children, but finally come to grief on Breydon Water when their boat hits a post.

Potter Heigham was also home to the Norfolk dialect comedian Sidney Grapes who ran a garage in the village. His collection of Boy John Letters which were published in the Eastern Daily Press just after the Second World War paint a delightfully humorous portrait of Norfolk village life and were all written using the Norfolk dialect. In fact, Grapes' garage actually stood on the banks of the Thurne.

Grapes' Garage c. 1924

Downstream of Potter Heigham lie the villages of Thurne and Oby. In 1979, the poet George MacBeth moved into the old rectory in Oby with his wife the novelist Lisa St Aubin de Terán. The rectory was a restoration project and inspired a number of the poems in his 1982 collection Poems from Oby.

In The Field, Tomorrow - a poem about purchasing some land close to the rectory - there is a lovely description of yachts on the river.

I wanted the bare field out there to be mine.
Each day, at my typing, I saw the smooth line

Of sycamores, breaking the sweep of the grass
To the farm and the river. I saw the sails pass

Far away, white and simple, where yachts moved at Thurne.
And I looked down, in pride, at my nearest stone urn.

From that urn to the sycamores, this was my land,
With the wide breadth of Norfolk, stretched gold on each hand.

And finally, there is a nice passage in Coot Club where the children are heading back towards the River Bure at Thurne Mouth.
'They slipped away from Pug Street and left the last of the Potter Heigham bungalows, and reached past the Womack Entry, and beat down to Thurne Mouth, and ran before the wind when they turned by the signpost into the Bure, without a hand on the tiller other than the beautifully horny ones, while the Coots stood by, giving a word of advice sometimes, and easing out or hauling in the mainsheet. Nothing went wrong, except that just once a pair of reed buntings very nearly made Dick steer in the bank.'

Coots forever and ever!

Arthur Ransome Society

Thurne Church





Supported by Norfolk County Council logoSupported by Norfolk Tourism


Home | About Us | Advertise on Literary Norfolk

©Cameron Self 2007-2014                                                                                                                Hosted by UK Web.Solutions Direct