Friday 18th September 2020
Wherryman’s Way is an eight-and-a-half-mile footpath along the north side of the River Yare between Great Yarmouth and Reedham. Half way along the River Waveney joins – at Berney Arms, famed for its no-road-access-isolated station, closed pub and disused windmill.
I’d planned to walk from Great Yarmouth to Berney Arms back on Monday 24th February; the day Greater Anglia restored train services to the Berney Arms branch after a sixteen month shutdown for signal and track updates. It was also the day GA’s new Stadler built FLIRT Class 755 trains began serving the station, so was definitely worth a visit.
Sadly, as I wrote at the time, the weather beat me and Lucy, Greater Anglia’s head of PR, who was on board the inaugral 755 journey, persuaded me it would be safer to give it a miss and come back on a drier day when water levels had receded.
Covid-19 rulled out a return visit during the summer but the late summer’s glorious weather this past week proved an ideal opportunity to head back to Great Yarmouth and take the walk to Berney Arms, and even better be accompanied by my good friend Ray Stenning of the UK’s best design agency Best Impressions.
Greater Anglia are currently running a stop-at-all-main-stations hourly Liverpool Street/Norwich service with some additional journeys making it half hourly at certain times. We caught the 09:30 departure which arrives in Norwich at 11:27, ideal for the 11:36 to Great Yarmouth which is one of two eastbound journeys on Mondays to Saturdays which go via Reedham instead of Acle stopping at Berney Arms by request at 12:03 (the other journey is the 07:36 from Norwich).
This train arrives Great Yarmouth at 12:13 which gives an ample time of 3 hours 11 minutes to take the four-and-a-half mile walk back along the footpath as far as Berney Arms to catch the one Norwich bound journey on Mondays to Saturdays which takes that route and stops by request at 15:24.
Great Yarmouth station is a sad shadow of its illustrious past. I remember holidaying in Norfolk as a child in the 1960s when it was called Yarmouth Vauxhall to distinguish it from the two other stations in the town: Yarmouth South Town – the terminus of the East Suffolk line via Lowestoft and Yarmouth Beach from where trains once ran to Peterborough.
Nowadays the station operates pretty much with one platform, although three others are available, in the open air, with a rather basic concourse area which was sporting a rather clever sand built model of a new Class 755 train.
The station isn’t served by any bus services, although there is a decent bus shelter right outside. A notice explains the Coastal Clipper only serves the station during the summer; sadly the promise of a return during this summer looks like it was a victim of a Covid cut.
You pick up Wherryman’s Way (together with Weavers’ Way – another footpath which follows the same trail to Berney Arms before branching off inland towards the village of Halvergate) round the back of the station building alongside a large Asda supermarket.
The first mile of the walk is within sight and sound of the A47 which sadly drowns out the more natural background noise of birdlife and the tranquility of the water. There’s also the Norwich bound railway line, parallel to the A47, with its hourly train service going by to spot.
But after that, as the footpath heads south-westerly along the water’s edge, you enjoy the peace and calm as nature intended.
Just the occasional bird call. And that’s about it. The footpath is quite narrow for the first section meaning you have to walk in single file but it soon broadens out to a more comfortable width and has also been treated with a surface below the grass to stop it becoming too squelchy is wet weather.
It really is a lovely peaceful landscape.
It took us about two and a half hours to reach Berney Arms, including a picnic stop along the way, and it was interesting to see the long closed pub located here is looking to reactivate with notice of an application for a ‘premises licence’ on display.
There is track access from the A47, but it’s unsuitable for regular public access so the only way to visit the pub is either on foot, by train, or by boat along the rivers – there were three or four boats moored up alongside on Wednesday afternoon while we were there.
There’s also the Berney Arms Mill here, an ‘Ancient Monument’ …
…. and now sadly passed its best….
…. and close by there are former farm buildings now used by the RSPB.
It’s a realtively short walk from here along Weavers’ Way to Berney Arms station platform where our four-and-a-half mile saunter ended.
Weavers’ Way crosses the rail line and here you’ll find the station ‘totem’ sign – except the National Rail symbol is now very weathered…
… and there’s also the standard former BR type notice board including information which impressively had been updated for May 2020 – I assume the train waited while the poster person put up the poster otherwise it would have been a long wait for the next train.
There’s a short footpath from the Weavers’ Way crossing point to the actual platform itself is characteristically made safe by guard rails on both sides – even though the crossing point is completely open.
A helpful direction sign lets you know which way the trains are travelling; and comes into its own on a Sunday when there’s a two-hourly service in both directions from the station – Sundays are a busy day for bird watchers and walkers.
Aside from my aborted February trip, the last time I visited Berney Arms was in June 2018 when long term blog readers may recall I’d noticed an enticing poster on the platform promoting job opportunities in UK Media’s “dynamic sales team” together with a helpful Local Map and Network Tour Map confirming your location. I wrote about it at the time.
Two years and three months later the weather hasn’t been too kind to the posters – and it’s interesting to see UK Media are supposedly still looking for those with a “passion to work in a fast-paced and target-driven environment” to join their “dynamic sales team”.
I can’t imagine a less “fast-paced and target driven environment” than Berney Arms – so I’m not sure even when the poster was first displayed whether it ever hit the right spot; but I love the idea you could still apply and “send your CV to Themediaworks@ukmedia.co.uk” and not forgetting to quote “Success”. Yeah, right.
Checking out my photos from June 2018 I see as well as the timetable disappearing (pretty much standard throughout the network at the moment due to Covid) also gone is the Onward Travel Information poster. Which is just as well probably….
…as there aren’t many onward travel options available.
If you love quirky stations, request stop stations, sparcely served stations, a walk alongside a river, bird watching (either one or all the foregoing), this is certainly a highly recommended day out. As winter approaches, take care to choose your times, as Berney Arms station is only served in daylight hours (for safety reasons). Late afternoon journeys only stop during British Summer Time.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train. Currently social distancing at home.