If you like herring, and fishing for herring, this could well be the best stretch of coast in Britain, it’s certainly one of my favourite paddles.
Either side of the Norfolk and Suffolk border lie two towns built upon the herring fisheries of days past; Great Yarmouth to the north, built around the mouth of the River Yare and Lowestoft to the South where Mutford Lock gives access to the River Waveney. With the decline of the herring fisheries since the 1960s both of these towns now rely more heavily on tourism and provide plenty of accommodation to capitalise on the sandy beaches for which the area is renowned. Beach access options for kayakers are many with plentiful free or paid parking available at either end or in between and a short walk to the water’s edge.
Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach – the start
At the junction between Main Cross Road and South Beach Parade there is access to the beach via a concrete ramp. Parking is free to the south of the ramp and a good fish and chip shop is located opposite. The water’s edge is approximately 200 m from the ramp and consists of fine sand and small dunes although a strong easterly wind will expose shingle for the last 50 metres or so.
The initial slope and shore dump flattens out almost immediately. Heading south a concrete outfall from the power station is reached halfway to the new outer harbour that opened for shipping in 2010. The easy, sheltered paddling gives way around the bouldered harbour wall to a strong rip current that pulls kayaks out towards the mouth of both old and new harbours.
Passing the southern (Gorleston) end of the old harbour gives an unhindered route down to Lowestoft if straight touring is preferred although those who enjoy playing in rougher water may wish to head inshore along the line of the concrete pier towards the breakwater for the confused, shallow water area known locally as the cauldron. Here waves rebound from both parts of the structure and dependant on wind and swell direction waves can be coming from three directions at once often forming quite decent clapotis. More free parking can be found 300 m walk up the sandy beach from here along with a selection of cafes. Heading south from the cauldron reasonable surfing is to be had along the next kilometre or two although attention needs to be paid to swimmers, kite surfers and wooden groynes. A further 3km of inshore paddling brings kayakers to a red buoy just offshore that marks the wreck of the White Swan. An old Swan Line ltd collier completed in April 1903 by the Blyth SB Company ltd (Yard No.113) and owned by J. A. Dixon and T. N. Sample of Newcastle, the single screw White Swan was en-route from West Hartlepool to Liverpool when she went down on 17th November 1916. Measuring 287.3 ft long with a 43.2 ft beam and weighing 2,173 gross tons, she dragged her anchor and ran aground. It took thirteen hours to get the twenty-strong crew off by Breeches Buoy. Their only steamer, the loss of the White Swan put Swan Line out of business.
This wreck, which lies oriented from northeast to southwest, is partially exposed around low water and has much of the structure still intact and visible on big spring tides. Sitting upright in reasonably shallow water the area around it can kick up at times and bass can often be found lurking around the superstructure during the warmer months, cod in winter.
Lying two hundred metres from the shore access to a clifftop car park can be had via a concrete dogleg ramp from the beach inshore from the wreck although there is also free parking on the roadside here. Continuing south in the shadow of the cliffs the sand and shingle beaches allow exits all the way down to Hopton-on-Sea where the last roadside access for a few kilometres is to be had. Passing the holiday camp and before the start of the sea defences there is a concrete ramp below a Millennium Beacon on the clifftop which gives access to Beach Road. A popular fishing spot for shore, dinghy and kayak anglers targeting codling throughout the autumn, winter and spring parking can be congested at the top of the ramp although further parking can be found at the top of the track on the roadside. Be aware that at low water on spring tides, especially following strong easterly gales the water will reach the promenade and cover the sand here although the newly installed rock sea defences may alleviate this somewhat.
From Hopton, heading south, there now follows a few kilometres of confused water in most conditions. Incoming swell hits the sea defences at the bottom of the cliffs and rebounds strongly with the effects felt as much as half a mile offshore. There is no exit point from here until reaching Tramps Alley at Corton where sand and shingle beaches once again become the norm. Exiting here a concrete track leads up to the roadside where both roadside and paid parking can be found in walking distance. Formerly a beach for naturists and latterly an area for doggers furtive glances are the order of the day especially when clad in neoprene!
Continuing south from here the beach is much of the same, sand and shingle bordered by cliffs, until reaching Gunton, Here a large car park marks the beginning of an area of broken concrete sea defences (take care if coming in here as many broken lumps of concrete are submerged none-too-deeply and there is rarely water clear enough to see them). This is the last exit point before transiting Lowestoft Harbour. A kilometre or two south of this landing sees the kayaker passing Ness Point, the most easterly point of mainland England, marked by Gulliver, currently the UK’s tallest commercial wind turbine.
The shoreline here consists of broken concrete sea defences and the inshore area features swirls, eddies, rips and strong currents with the occasional overfall. Many vessels have met their match in this area and more than a few lie on the bottom. Strong currents and eddies along with rebounding waves also abound around the narrow entrance to Lowestoft Harbour and the southern tip shallows out making a fairly wide berth advisable for less experienced paddlers dependant on conditions. Turning inland from the end of the pier Lowestoft’s Blue Flag beaches give a welcoming landing point. A relatively shallow, sandy bottom protected by offshore sandbanks gives easy paddling with the possibility of rideable surf at times between here and the wooden structure of the Claremont Pier, the other side of which often sees kitesurfers out in force. Access to the roadside can be had from various ramps and steps here and parking along the seafront road is currently free as is parking on many of the backstreets around here. Pubs, cafes, takeaways, hotels and guesthouses abound here.
Additional excursion: Lowestoft Harbour to Mutford Lock through Lake Lothing.
When entering Lowestoft harbour from the sea attention should be paid to rebounding waves and structure. The Port Authority requires that all vessels observe the port traffic signals located on both the end of the South Pier and in the Yacht Basin itself. Three vertical red lights: vessels should not proceed. Green, white, green vertical lights: a vessel may proceed only when it has received specific orders to do so. This interesting two mile paddle begins in the harbour mouth itself before heading through the channel past the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club Marina on the left which also houses the RNLI station and lifeboat. The channel widens after passing beneath the Bascule Bridge.
The route passes built up quaysides alongside which various vessels are berthed including many now redundant or being worked upon.
Various historical vessels can be seen from the water along here at times including LT472 Excelsior, a restored fishing smack built in 1921 and the last surviving sailing trawler … you may even be fortunate enough to have her sail past you at sea …
Another housed here is LT412 Mincarlo, launched in 1961 and the last complete Lowestoft Sidewinder Trawler which has the further distinction of being the last surviving fishing vessel to have been built in Lowestoft. YH89 Lydia Eva summers at South Quay in Great Yarmouth but returns to Lowestoft for winter maintenance. Built in Kings Lynn in 1930 she is the last surviving steam-powered herring drifter. Another notable vessel is MTB 102. Launched in 1937 she was the first Motor Torpedo Boat of the modern era and crossed the English Channel eight times to rescue stranded servicemen from the beaches around Dunkirk and later carried Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower on their review of the D-Day fleet prior to the Allied return to Occupied Europe.
The journey along this industrialised estuary with its slipways, dry dock and quayside buildings comes to an end a kilometre or so past Lowestoft Haven Marina and further jetties housing inshore fishing boats. Some derelict boats lie on the mud in shallow water near the end of Lake Lothing towards the left, the most intact of these being the MFV Yellowtail (LT326).
From here you continue for the last few hundred metres, passing beneath the Railway Swing Bridge and Lifting Road Bridge before reaching Mutford Lock which gives access to the freshwater of Oulton Broad and thence the River Waveney.
Local facilities include pubs, takeaways, cafes and hotels and launch/retrieval of kayaks can be made via a slipway at the bottom of Harbour Road, half a mile back from Mutford Lock just before a small area of mud and shingle beach.
Flood tide runs north to south, ebb tide runs south to north. Maximum rate two knots on neap tide, three knots on spring tide. Slack water lasts around 30-60 minutes at either end of the tide.Lowestoft tide times: approximately 1.5 hours before high water Dover. Great Yarmouth Tide Times: approximately 2 hours before high water Dover. Rarely more than 1.5 m tidal range in this area.
Westerly (offshore) winds flatten the sea inshore in the area from Gorleston to Corton but can produce reasonable surf in Lowestoft and Gorleston with northerly / southerly swells. Easterly (onshore) winds produce chop along this stretch. Northerly winds see good swells running through and combined with a westerly wind can produce the best surf at Gorleston and Lowestoft.
There are numerous sandbanks within half a mile of the shore and some of these can provide good fun, especially those found off the Lowestoft town beach. Shipping runs down the Corton Roads and Stanford Channel a couple of miles off the coast and numerous ships lie at anchor further out towards the horizon.
There are RNLI lifeboat stations at both Gorleston and Lowestoft. The Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club is headquartered inside Lowestoft Harbour, Telephone 01502 566276. Lowestoft Harbour Control can be reached on VHF Channel 14 or Telephone 01502 572286, Great Yarmouth Port Authority on VHF Channel 12 or Telephone 01493 335500.
Ordnance Survey Landranger Sheet 134 Norwich and the Broads (1:50,000). Admiralty Chart 1535 Lowestoft and Approaches (1:25,000). Includes Lowestoft Harbour and Lake Lothing at 1:6,250. Start at O/S Grid Ref: 533055, WGS84 coordinates: 52º35’27 N, 1º44’14 E. Finish at O/S Grid Ref: at 547925, WGS84 coordinates 52º28’04 N, 1º44’51 E.
Maritime Safety Information Broadcast at 01:50, 04:50, 07:50, 10:50, 13:50, 16:50, 19:50, 22:50.
Content retrieved from: palmequipmenteurope.com/blog/en/herring-town-run-–-great-yarmouth-lowestoft.