Summary - Somerleyton to Beccles, Distance 15 miles (24.1kms), Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 134
Day 2 - Somerleyton to Beccles
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I had been deposited back at Somerleyton near the road to the railway station. Resting my rucksack against an Angles Way pointer I rearranged its contents in preparation myself for the day’s walk. I looked up and I was confronted by the sight of a spaniel charging toward me teeth bared and snarling. Immediately I straightened, preparing to defend myself, with the rucksack, but its owners called it back and it skidded to a halt in front of me. The couple, of late middle years, walked by smiling, the man quipped ‘I can get you a couple of bricks for that, if you like’, as I hoisted the rucksack on to my back. ‘No, it’s quite heavy enough as it is’, suppressing a minor stagger under its weight. For a while we walked together talking about the weather, the usual British pastime.
I left them while I followed the course of the Way through a boat yard – this is area where Sir Christopher Cockrell tested the first working hovercraft model in 1955/6 - only to rendezvous with them again on the far side. Just before we parted the couple suggested that I would be better to cut through a local wood, ‘Or is that breaking the rules?’ the man enquired. I’d made up my mind to enjoy this walk and I offered that I was open to new routes. Leaving them, again, I heard the woman mention something about a ‘Pound’ and I pondered this as I wandered away from them. I passed through the wood and found myself on a dusty track at right angles to my southerly direction of travel. I noticed a derelict overgrown brick wall beside the track. On closer inspection I saw that it was curved almost to a full circle with a narrow entrance facing the path. By the opening was a plaque mounted on the wall indicating that it was a circular animal pound. ‘Ah, that was what the woman was on about’, I muttered to myself and briefly stepped inside just for the novelty.
I regained the Angles Way and turned right to follow this new track. This had been flooded on the previous years’ walk and I had been forced to climb the embankment beside the track and gingerly haul myself along the barbed wire fence. This year there were just a few muddy depressions in the deepest ruts. I weaved my way along the track when a squirrel burst out of the undergrowth ahead of me and stood frozen to the spot on the path ahead of me its black eyes fixed me in its gaze, its little chest heaving. I tried to slip my camera out of my pocket to take a picture of it. Before I could frame the shot a guy on a mountain bike bore down upon us, from the opposite direction, and the squirrel streaked away into the ferns.
I followed the Way downhill to the Blundeston Marshes walking beside meadows and harvested fields, through boggy woods and around the southern end of Flixton Decoy until I came to the western outskirts of Oulton Broad. Oulton was once a village in its own right but it is now effectively a western suburb of Lowestoft. The broad itself is part of the Norfolk Broads, even though it is in Suffolk, and is sometimes known as the Southern Gateway to the Broads.
The Angles Way weaves its way through the roads of Oulton where the road names reflect that the author George Borrow,famous for writing the books Lavengro and The Romany Rye settled in Oulton. I felt quite at home as the roads where I had grown up were named after local artists and authors, my own was named after the painter Thomas Lound (Lound village is just up the road from Oulton) and the adjacent road is George Borrow Road while the local pub was named the Romany Rye. So the Borrow and Romany Roads I now walked along evoked a feeling of familiarity – not withstanding that it was the fifth time I’d passed along them in two years.
After following the Way’s circuitous route around the broad I emerged at the Wherry Hotel overlooking Oulton Broad and crossed the Mutford Lock to the quayside. Here was a scene from my childhood outings. The broad was filled with dinghies and pleasure boats, the sky was vibrant bright blue and the water was bright with reflected sunlight. The broad was alive with flotillas of swans, across the broad the Maltings, now converted into apartments, stood out above the water’s edge. Everywhere happy tourists ambled about licking melting ice creams. It was a wonderful sight so I decided to take my main break of the day and I took a seat on one of the benches overlooking the jetties and relaxed taking in the view.
I was amused by the sight of a young man trying to impress his girlfriend in one of the small hire boats, after a brief instruction from the proprietor he headed out; scrapping the bow of the boat along the jetty, colliding with another boat before finally making his way out onto the broad, in reverse.
Sitting there, eating my cheese and tomato sandwiches, I became aware of a middle aged man talking animatedly to an elderly couple on my right. He was, in contrast to the casual holiday makers; dressed in an old brown suit, white shirt and striped tie. He stood gesticulating to the couple with a leaflet. I tried to ignore him
Giving up on them he came and stood in front of me and immediately launched a diatribe on world politics and established religion, it was a speech riddled with paranoia and despair. Interwoven with his general themes was his story of a half Spanish half English teenage tearaway in the nineteen sixties. How a relatively minor offence put him into the penal system leading to him emerging as a hardened criminal several years later. Initial working as a bouncer, then a tattoo artist as an adult he led an immoral life until he became a Born Again Christian.
Against my normal inclination I engaged him in conversation and gently challenged some of his points, his reposts were argued with passion, if not having any foundation in reality, I wouldn’t concede my positions and neither would he. We argued ourselves to stalemate and he stood for a while before launching into another tirade. Arriving at a point where he stated we were all answerable for our sins, I responded ‘Well, I have no excuses’, and it stopped him in mid-flow. ‘I don’t normally get that from people’. He thrust a leaflet toward me, which I accepted, and he walked away to try his luck with the people on the next bench. Looking at the leaflet the cover had a black and white picture of him as a handsome young man sitting astride a Honda motorcycle in, I would assume, the nineteen-sixties. It told his story and also had an insert detailing passages from the Bible and how they substantiated our momentum toward Armageddon, I particularly liked the section on how 666 is concealed in every bar code – this isn’t true – but the thought of eternal damnation being on aisle 6 of my local supermarket has a certain appeal. Ah well, it takes all sorts. I didn’t throw the leaflet away and shoved it in the leg pocket on my walking trousers, just in case. I felt I was going to need all the help I could get with the walk, after all this was a kind pilgrimage.
Setting out again I took the alternate route through Nicholas Everitt Park as it curves out into Oulton Broad affording good views out over the broad. I made my way through the crowds in the park until I returned to the Way. I departed Oulton Broad, to the West, finding my way carefully through the cramped chalets of a holiday camp.
Passing the Suffolk Broads and Wildlife Centre the Angles Way turns northwest toward the River Waveney across the Peto’s and Share Marshes. The flat meadows, made the going easy but here and there scattered cows stood passively chewing as I passed. The embankment at the river’s edge was shrouded with reeds that grew to above my head I could vaguely discern a narrow gap through them but I could not see the ground at my feet. By shear luck I avoided falling in a ditch when I placed my foot on a plank bridge across it. Once across I made my way up to the river edge and began the long walk to Beccles. I don’t like river walking, the paths are invariably uneven, made up of dense grassy tussocks and the routes meander frustratingly with the course of the river. This particular section of river has a special place in my heart as a scene of my worst walking experience.
On Saturday 19th July 2003 I tried out, for the first time, the Great Yarmouth to Beccles walk along the Angles Way, a distance of about twenty eight miles. Although the day was very hot I’d made my way from Great Yarmouth through Oulton Broad to the riverside path along the River Waveney as it meanders toward Beccles. A short distance along the path I became aware of the mooing of cows ahead of me and cow pats scattered on the path.
Rounding a bend I found my way blocked by a herd of Frisian cattle, ‘No problem’, I thought, ‘I’ll just push my way through them’. I was surprised to find that one of them stood defiantly in the middle of the path. Taken aback I stopped my advance while it rejoined its fellows. Again I approached and this time none of them tried to bar my way and soon I was amongst them but the path had narrowed and I struggled to make any progress through them. They began to panic pushing and shoving me out of the way. Bruised, battered and now covered in cow excrement I dropped back. Keeping pace with them I felt frustrated at their slow progress. I needed to get past them and I then had a bright idea. Why not take the number from one of the cows’ ear tags, then call the local police station and hey presto they would contact the farmer who’d come to collect them, simple, the cows would be happy, the farmer would be happy and I would be happy, easy.
Taking out my note pad I carefully walked up to them as they slowly made their way along a section of the path overhung by bushes and trees. I was scribbling down the various numbers from the tag when I felt excruciating pain in my legs and right arm. In shock I looked down to find bees on my exposed skin, I was wearing shorts, on the cows and in a swarm around us. Now in situations like this it is said you shouldn’t run. I ran, the cows ran - fortunately in opposite directions - and luckily the bees followed the cattle. At a safe distance I stopped and surveyed the damage. Bees were attached to the back of my right leg and arm, brushing them off I could see their stings still pulsating and pumping venom into me. Gingerly I sat down and began to remove them with caution. ‘Typical’, I thought, ‘I’m out in the middle of nowhere and I’m going to die from anaphylactic shock’. Weighing my mobile phone in one hand and my map in the other I wondered whether I would have enough time to call for rescue, give a map reference and make a last gasp message of love to my wife. I thought I’d better stand up to check myself out, I didn’t feel great, a bit dizzy but that could be from the dehydration, the sun or the excessive walking but I was OK, I wasn’t about keel over. Abandoning the path I’d cut across the marshes heading for the Swan Inn at Barnby. Here I spent next couple of hours sitting outside the pub; shaven headed, I’d had my head shaved for charity the previous day, cow pat spattered and covered in throbbing, swelling bee stings waiting for my wife.
On this occasion things were different, I definitely wasn’t wearing shorts for a start or trying to walk twenty eight miles in blazing heat. I chipped away at the miles following the river; wearing lighter boots helped with the uneven path. I even had time to take in the beauty of this tree lined river. The river surface was from time to time curved by the prow of a pleasure boat making its way down the river, the undulating water reflecting the blue sky.
I saw no one, as I walked, except a few anglers along the riverbank as I neared Beccles. Here, on my side, the views opened to give views across the southern floodplain of the Waveney. The ground of the opposite bank climbed from the river in regular green fields interrupted, here and there by a farm. Overhead a Boeing Stearman flew low over the river valley.
I headed into to the town centre and grabbed a pint at the King’s Head Hotel. It was undergoing refurbishment but one of the bars was open and although I received a friendly welcome from the barmaid I didn’t find the clientele as forthcoming so I took seat outside and waited for my pickup in the early evening sunshine.
Weather: Warm and bright with little wind Finish: 16:30