A Posh Resort

What another walk?

For this week’s walk I headed south — which means I had to cross the river.

There’s been a bridge over the Yare since 1417. Before then travellers had to rely on a ferry. But it wasn’t until 1553 that the bridge was altered to make it a drawbridge. To allow shipping through? Nope. The burgesses of Yarmouth invested in a drawbridge for the exact same reason as a castle has a drawbridge – as defence. The burgesses of Yarmouth, at great risk to themselves, had not only supported but had actively aided Queen Mary to take the English throne (See Foundations 1, The Family, on Crimson’s History which give the background). The bridge lasted till 1570 when strong tides and ‘tempestuous’ weather swept it away. A new bridge was rapidly raised.

There had been two ferries over the Yare in the reign of Edward II (1307-1327). In addition to the Haven Ferry—which took only foot traffic—there was a horse ferry further down river. That horse ferry was still operating in the 1980s (as a foot & cycle ferry) but with the closure of the Birds Eye factory it was no longer viable. The two ferries were separately owned. The downriver (horse) ferry belonged to the manor of Gorleston – in 1509 the ferryman paid 8s. 4d. rent to his lord. The foot ferry belonged to the burgesses of Yarmouth.

Haven Bridge - opened

Haven Bridge—still a drawbridge (Source: Alex Drozd on Flickr)
Imagine the chaos this causes to traffic in and out of town. And the newer Breydon Bridge, built to serve the bypass, must also open and all to allow the cruisers–with their tall aerials—to pass.

Once over the river I’m into foreign territory—or so it must have seemed during the inter-town battles of the medieval-through-Tudor period. (See A Town Of Three Rivers). Peace reigns now that Southtown (formerly Little Yarmouth) is part of the borough of Great Yarmouth.

The bus deposits me at the south end of the High Street of Gorleston-on-Sea. Yep, you’ve got it. I’m spending the day at the beach.

But why go to Gorleston when Yarmouth boasts one of the best beaches in the country?

Yeah, and Yarmouth also boasts a seafront loud with amusement arcades, plus an amusement park with white-knuckle rides, and the smells of hot dogs and candyfloss and . . . you get the picture. Gorleston, however, has always been the quiet, reserved, posh resort.

Gorleston is mentioned in the Domesday Book—when it was the manor of Earl Gyrth, King Harold’s brother. It shared with Great Yarmouth the North Sea herring fishing; it also produced its own salt from salt-pans to preserve the fish. However, by Edwardian times the herring stocks were dwindling—though Yarmouth retained its fleet until the late 1960s. But while fish lost importance, tourism gained, and Gorleston blossomed as a seaside resort.

Gorleston 1905

Gorleston-on-Sea 1905 (Source: British Seaside Postcards)

With a white sandy beach the equal of its neighbour, a promenade on three levels, a theatre, a pier, a bandstand, and the obligatory model boat pond, Gorleston became a favourite for the ‘quieter types’.

Gorleston Pavilion Theatre

Gorleston Pavilion Theatre.
The architecture is typical of the Edwardian resort.
(To my shame, I have never attended a show here).

But enough of tourism. Back to the walk. To reach the beach I have first to walk alongside the river. Now without its fishing industry, and its North Sea ferry to Denmark, it still receives cargos of timber from Scandinavia, industrial grade salt, and sometimes organic fertiliser—our noses alert us to the delivery! But the port’s prime raison d’être is to service the North Sea gas rigs.

The Yare Haven, looking north

The Industrial Port of Great Yarmouth (looking north)

Yet in places the history of the port seeps through, such as with the remains of the dolphins here.

Gorleston Dolphins

Ribs of an old dolphin, fronted by granite boulders, from Scandinavia, with high mica content—hence the glitter.

Yeah, I know, those posts sticking up don’t look a thing like the ribs of a dolphin. Wrong dolphin. In this context (quote from Wiki):

“A dolphin is a man-made marine structure that extends above the water level and is not connected to shore.

“Typical uses include extending a berth (a berthing dolphin) or providing a point to moor to (a mooring dolphin). Dolphins are also used to display regulatory information like speed limits etc., other information like advertising or directions and navigation information like a day beacon as well as ranges and lighted aids to navigation.

“Mooring dolphins can also be used to ‘cushion’ ship impacts, somewhat similar to fenders.”

These are ‘mooring dolphins’, and their remains can be found, on the Gorleston/Southtown side of the river, from here to beyond Breydon Bridge—where there is actually a modern version in harsh cold metal.

Just before the Yare veers sharply to port to disgorge its turbid waters into the North Sea, there is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s station.

RNLI Gorleston Boathouse

Great Yarmouth & Gorleston Lifeboat Station

Since Great Yarmouth and Gorleston share a river it makes sense that they should share a lifeboat. Yet it wasn’t always so. They only merged in 1926.

The Great Yarmouth lifeboat was the earlier, beginning service in 1802. Not that it was called out. In 1825 it was replaced by a boat funded and manned by the Norfolk Association for Saving the Lives of Shipwrecked Mariners. The RNLI took over the station in 1857 and two years later built a new lifeboat house—at a cost of £375, It closed in 1919.

Meanwhile, across the river in Gorleston, the RNLI installed their first lifeboat in 1866. A new boathouse was built in 1881, and two years later a second boathouse was built alongside it. The latter closed in 1926, leaving what is seen today—the boathouse that dates to 1881. The station received its first motor lifeboat in 1921..

The current lifeboat, a Trent class–Samarbeta (Swedish for ‘working together’)—was officially named in 1996 by Princess Alexandra, The Hon Lady Ogilvy.

Gorleston Lifeboat

A Trent-class Lifeboat—as in use at Gorleston
(It proved exceedingly difficult to get a good shot of the Gorleston liefboat so this photo is from Wiki’s Trent-class Lifeboat)

Where the Yare turns to meet the sea it broadens to a pool capable of accommodating a ‘3-point turn’ of the general class of shipping handled at this haven—though it does need the pilot’s service to achieve it without serious damage to harbour walls!

Yare Haven 'pool'

Yare Haven ‘pool’.
Blinded by the sun, I could hardly see the old wooden dolphins on the opposite shore, a reminder of busier days.

And can a port exist without a lighthouse?

Gorleston Lighthouse

Built in 1878, Gorleston lighthouse is 11 metres tall.

While taking that photo I heard behind me the telltale sounds of the pilot’s boat.

Gt Yarmouth & Gorleston Pilot

Gt Yarmouth & Gorleston’s pilot heads out of port.

Though I couldn’t yet see it, I knew that just beyond the harbour’s mouth would be a ship waiting for the pilot to bring her in.

Ship Entering Yare's Mouth

The pilot brings the ship in

By her colours I’m guessing this is a ship of the Putford line, a supply vessel for the North Sea rigs, taking out food and other essentials (replacement tools, DVDs—toilet paper), bringing back various wastes (industrial, organic, human).

Putford Achiever at Yarmouth Harbour

She’s the Putford Achiever.
I love the deep bellied sound of her engines as the water in the ‘pool’ catches and amplifies it. With the bigger ships the ground beneath your feet can noticeably throb along with it.

As I write this (Saturday 27th September), the Achiever is in the North Sea at Latitude 53.36313° / Longitude 2.554912°, at a speed of 2.7 knots, heading 105° towards the Inde Gas Field. Built in 2003, she flies a Cayman Island flag, out of Georgetown; with a gross tonnage of 2018, a length of 70.05 m and breadth of 16 m. Her previous port was Den Helder in Netherlands (on 31st July). Amazing the details we find on the Internet!

Before hitting the beach I walked out to the end of South Pier. Originally built in 1560 by the Dutch engineer Joas Johnson (See A Town Of Three Rivers), it’s now much repaired and strengthened. I’m here to see our White Elephant, aka the Outer Harbour, that adheres to the river’s North Pier, fronting South Denes

Gt Yarmouth's Outer Harbour under construction

Great Yarmouth Outer Harbour under construction (Source: Wikipedia)

Work began in June 2007. The idea was to provide a container and passenger terminal, to compete with Felixstowe, to attract beefier shipping, a return of our North Sea ferry—and ultimately to convince the Ministry of Transport that the A47 really does need to be widened and dual-carriageway constructed. The estimated cost of project was £75m.

So what happened?

Nothing. The Ministry of Transport had said: ‘Show us you have the need of a dual-carriageway for the A47 by showing us the increased traffic.’ The shipping said, ‘Show us first the improved roads.’ Stalemate. Wasted money. The Outer Harbour has never been used. It wouldn’t even pose for a decent photo!

So, I turned back to the beach.

Gorleston Cliffs from south pier

Looking back at Gorleston cliffs from the end of South Pier.
The weather forecast said less than 5% chance of rain. But those clouds you see above the town slowly gathered, and blackened. Humph!

I hit the beach as soon as able. Although Norfolk isn’t as flat as it’s made out to be it doesn’t have high hills (maximum high point is 300’, though that is more or less straight up from the sea); in their absence, beach-walking can’t be bettered for strengthening legs—which is the reason for these walks.

As I crossed Haven Bridge I’d noticed that the tide was high. It now was ebbing, leaving behind a newly-scoured strand dotted with shells and sparkling stones. Most of the stones here came from the Cromer Ridge on the North Norfolk coast. A glacial deposit, though flint and quartz predominates, rarer stones can sometimes be found—jet from Whitby, amber from the Baltic. I’ve picked up several fossils here, and a stone with the Fehu rune pecked on it. Nature’s own script? A Viking stone? Or some modern joker? Who knows. It has pride of place amongst my collection (along with the Mesolithic flint core picked up at West Kennet in Wiltshire).

There’s something about walking along the surf-line, especially when the sea is as placid as it was this day. Yet every so often a wave would crash in and startle me out of my reverie.

Some distance along I suddenly missed what had been a characteristic feature of Gorleston beach—the groynes. They are still there, but only their tops could be seen. It’s fifteen years since I’ve walked this beach; in those years the sand has come along and covered them up, though they still exist further along, at Corton.

Gorleston Groynes

Groynes at Gorleston (sourced from Google Images)
I did take some photos but am ashamed to say there’s not one straight horizon amongst them!

GYBC Polite Notice

GYBC Polite Notice

The Polite Notice gives warning that, should we proceed further along the beach we’re going to be stuck when the tide comes in because, for now, there are no exits off the beach. But that can’t be so; I’ve walked this beach through to Lowestoft many a time. Nope, it can’t be done now. An entire stretch of beach has been closed while sea defences are constructed.

So I took no notice. The tide was going out. I’d keep walking until either I tired (remembering I had yet to walk back) or I encountered said construction work. As it happened, it was something entirely different that caused me to halt and return.

Extreme High Water Mark on Gorleston Beach

An extreme High Water Mark. Notice the bands of pebbles.

For those following Feast Fables, you might remember Kerrid musing on the extreme tides of autumn and spring. The above photo clearly demonstrates it. High tide doesn’t reach this high for the rest of the year. Yet for 2 or 3 days around the equinoctial full moon and again around the new moon, the sea twice a day reaches to here. The abrupt battering is caused by the waves’ undertow. It literally scours the beach.

The stumps you see in the background are all that is visible of the sea defences here (hence the need to renew). Above those stunted remains of the sea defences, are the cliffs. I was hoping to find a recent slippage to show how these cliffs are 100% loose sand but the cliffs didn’t oblige.

Sea Defences at Corton

Farther along — the sea defences as they should be.
The headland in the distance is Lowestoft Ness, the most easterly point in Great Britain.

I don’t know if you can see it clearly on the photo, but after the next groyne the sea comes in—right up to the sea defences. And on the next stretch of beach, beyond the second groyne, the sea was topping those sea defences. I’m not too happy at getting squeezed between crumbling cliffs and the cold North Sea, so I decided now was the time to turn around.

By the time I’d completed the return journey to catch the bus home, I had walked six miles, two-thirds of which was on sand. I was pleased. My legs weren’t hurting, I still had ample energy—though I confess, I didn’t do the dance aerobics, only the weights.

And next week’s walk? Weather permitting, I’m heading inland—to visit a glacial terminal moraine; as featured in this painting . . .

Munnings Ponies

Ponies, by Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959) (Source: BBC Your Paintings

About crispina kemp

Spinner of Asaric and Mythic tales
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14 Responses to A Posh Resort

  1. Brian Bixby says:

    Followed along as best I could on Google maps. We’ll need a land/architectural tour of Gorleston next, to see it in its Edwardian splendor.

    What are the shore rights of citizens in England? In much of the U.S., public access to the shore is supposed to be a right, but NOT in Massachusetts; however,in Mass., the shore between the high and low water marks is open to the public, even if the land is private, so long as they don’t loiter.

    Is the British gov’t still worried about a Norwegian invasion? Or were the concerned that the Scots would vote for independence, and then seize any port servicing THEIR oil rigs?


    • crimsonprose says:

      Ironically, Gorleston hosts the supply ships servicing the Scottish rigs! As to architectural splendour, I was hoping to snap some, only to find, even along the promenade, most of the B&Bs and hotels are now so modernised as to be barely recognisable. That’s why I included the Pavilion Theatre. At least that still exists. There used to be some excellent examples along the prom of Art Deco twiddly bits, but sadly now vandalised.
      Access is generally open to all. Technically speaking, the Queen owns the shore (or at least the last time I was current affairs-aware she did) which gives her scavenger rights in the case of ship wreck – but she doesn’t seem bothered; we never see her out there with her inconspicuous bin-bags. As I say, a technicality only. In in a very few places the beach is privately owned, but I think that’s only down to the MHW level. If I had kept walking, and if the defences weren’t being repaired/replaced, I would have come to the naturists’ beach. But even that’s not private. It’s dead weird, all kitted out for a hike and walking through a load of naked bodied. It’s a bit like walking through basking seals. We get those, too, on our beaches, though these days they’re mostly confined to Scroby Sands – where we have a wind farm. (Remember that from Neve?)
      You’ll enjoy following the next walk on Google Maps. But other than what I’ve already said, and that painting, I’m giving no clues.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: A Walk Along Water | crimsonprose

  3. Judy says:

    Love the drawbridge and lighthouse! The stones and bricks are wonderful textures..and so ancient. What a long walk!


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