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Seasonal area

August 2015

Current Seasonal Area is here

In the east of England the country peters out into the Fens, which once upon a time consisted of large expanses of salt marsh interspersed with slight rises on which forts and towns were built. To increase local prosperity - and so people who had been donated land in the area could make use of it - efforts were put in hand to drain the salt marsh and turn it into viable farmland. "Viable" remains a debatable word - the soil quality is doubtful and the sea is kept out with a mix of dykes and pumps - but the results have been relatively worthwhile. The landscape now provides for mostly pastoral purposes, though on the slightly less fenlandy bits grain does quite well. There are a disconcerting number of 0 contour lines in the area, although these are measured against a sea level datum point at Newlyn (the west end of Penzance) so do not necessarily have much precise relevance to the sea level at Great Yarmouth.

People with a fascination for vanishing points can find much of interest in the area around Berney Arms. Berney Arms has a pub, a river wharf (on the Yare, immediately before its confluence with the Waveney and just upstream from Breydon Water), a windmill and a railway station. The railway station is behind the camera and the pub is off to the left, but the windmill is proudly visible in the centre of proceedings. In its latter years as an operational windmill it was used as a water pump. It was subsequently replaced with motor-pumps and preserved. A nice touch, with the growing enthusiasm for wind power - there are rather a lot of modern windmills on the skyline off to the west from Berney Arms towards Yarmouth - would be the decommissioning of the motor-pumps and their replacement by the windmill.

Things which Berney Arms does not have, and which therefore disqualify it from imminently being able to claim the status of a town, include churches, market places, roads and local residents. The roads remain firmly a trifle over three miles away, giving the railway station the status of being the only one in England (and one of only four in the UK) with no public road access. The exact point of the station (in particular) and the railway it is on (in general) has always been a matter of some curiosity; the railway links Norwich with Yarmouth, but there is another line fulfilling exactly the same function some miles to the North which is a trifle more direct and goes through more populous Acle. The station was built mostly because a local landowner said that if a railway was to be built he wanted a station too; he neglected to make any note about timetable quality, and story has it that when the railway company noticed this they omitted the station from their calling patterns. British Rail's attempts to close the line met sufficient local opposition (presumably the 925 residents of Reedham, next stop to the west and on the line to Lowestoft, who would lose their sporadic direct service to Yarmouth) to cause the abandonment of the plans.

Berney Arms, being hideously remote, isolated and not very interesting scenically does not seem like the sort of place likely to be visited by stars of popular literary culture - who prefer to hang around the West Country, isolated parts of Scotland, foggy parts of London, the Home Counties and the Caribbean. Nonetheless, references to the area have been made in famous literature - the final few chapters of Arthur Ransome's Coot Club are largely set in the area, with much high drama about Norfolk fogs, tourists using their flashy motor-boats as travelling discos and the over-friendly staff at the pub delaying our hero's attempt to sail after his mutinous crew. Coot Club was published in 1934.

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Last modified 10/08/2015

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