Out on the coast just south of Great Yarmouth is the town of Lowestoft, which is where trains travelling over the swing bridge at Reedham end up. I managed to pry Felicity loose from her keyboard late morning and we hurried to the station just in time to catch the midday train.
There is a second swing bridge further down this line across the River Waveney, which forms the boundry between Norfolk and Suffolk. When we visited Burgh Castle last week I wrote that we saw the Waveney joining the Yare River near Yarmouth. Near the swing bridge at the town of Somerleyton however, part of the river branches off into Oulton Dyke which ends up at Lowestoft harbour and is considered the mouth of the Waveney there.
To make things even more interesting, the source of the Waveney is a ditch near the town of South Lopham. On the other side of the road is the start of the Little Ouse river, which flows north to Kings Lynn. This means that Norfolk is pretty much an island, at least if it is raining hard.
We hadn’t done any research before leaving, so we headed out of the station and turned north towards the coast. At the beginning of Waveney Road, we stopped to admire a mural on Columbus House illustrating the defeat of the Spanish Armarda in 1588. If you look closely at the photo you can see dozens of seagull nests on the ledges above and below the mural. Many of the buildings in this area have nests on ledges and window sills.
Our walk led us past an industrial area, which included a huge Birds Eye frozen fish factory. Since the middle ages, the town has been a major fishing port, but like so many other places in this part of the world the fishermen were too efficient for their own good, and there are not much fish left these days.
When we finally reached the coast, we discovered that we were at Ness Point, the easternmost extent of the British mainland. The windmill in the background behind me is for display purposes, as Lowestoft is trying to promote itself as a centre for alternative energy.
The concrete walkway extended a long way up the coast but it wasn’t very interesting, and it was too windy to stop and each lunch. We turned inland at a campground filled with hundreds of removable cabins that looked only marginally more attractive than a refugee camp as a place to have a holiday. It mainly promotes itself as the easternmost campground in the country, because there is not much else going for it.
A road called The Ravine led us up through an attractive park to a war memorial where we sat on a park bench to eat, surrounded by cannons pointing out to sea. Nearby an iron bridge built for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee led us across the ravine and up toward the High Street.
The cute little thatch-roofed building is the gate house to the Sparrows Nest, which was originally an estate used as a summer residence of a wealthy landowner. The main building was used during WW2 as the headquarters of the Royal Naval Patrol Service. It is now a maritime museum.
Further down the road we stopped to look at a lighthouse on top of a block of apartments. Lighthouses were first built along this coast in 1609, and in this location the original light was down nearer the coast, but it kept getting destroyed by the sea so this high level light was built in 1874.
Another few hundred metres along we came across the Armarda Post which commemorates the English victory over the Spanish. The post gets replaced every 100 years. The sign reads in part:
The sailing vessel Elizabeth from Lowestoft was commandeered and used successfully as a fireship in the battle against the Spanish fleet anchored off Calais. Although no ship was set alight, the fireship scattered the Spanish galleons to such an extent that by the time they were able to regroup the battle was effectively lost.
We walked along the High Street, past quite a few interesting buildings, some of them abandoned or derelict, then across to the north side of the Waveney River. This is the main tourist area of the town, but considering it is the middle of summer and we only saw a few dozen people, my guess is that business is not good. The glass pavilion in our photo is empty and unused.
The final photo is one of two statues of Triton, the fish-tailed sea-god, son and herald of Poseidon. These were commissioned in 1849 by Morton Peto, a prominent railway developer and Member of Parliament who purchased some very cheap coastal land in this area and built tourist housing and the seaside promenade, making a fortune in the process. At that time he was reputedly the largest employer of labour in the world. As entrepreneurs are inclined to do, he eventually went bankrupt and died in obscurity.
As we were waiting for the train back to Norwich, I looked online to see if we had missed anything, and discovered that apart from being the easternmost point, Lowestoft is also the site of the oldest known human habitation in the UK. Flint tools dating back 700,000 years were found in 2005 in the cliffs to the south of the town. The town name comes from the personal name Hlothver and toft, a Viking word for ‘homestead’.