Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A Circular walk to Geldeston Locks from Beccles

An 7 mile circular walk along the Angles Way from Beccles to Geldeston Locks

A recommended short walk along the Angles Way to the outstanding Geldeston Locks pub, returning via the riverside path to Beccles. This walk passes the location of the historic Barsham Hall, source of the ghostly legend of Old Blunderhazard who is said to ride in his coach drawn by four fire breathing headless horses to Norwich and back each Christmas Eve.

Beccles to Geldeston Locks Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
BecclesView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Geldeston LocksView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
7 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2012-04-08
Walk Time
12:00 to 16:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Overcast, cool

Walk Notes

We had originally planned to walk the complete distance between Beccles and Bungay and back, probably a distance of 17 miles. However, the week prior to the walk both me and Kat went down with a horrible cold which had left us drained so we decided to only do the section from Beccles to Geldeston. This was a really enjoyable walk and is certainly well worth an afternoons outing.

I was really looking forward to the visit to The Geldeston Locks pub. The last time I journeyed to this isolated hostelry was in the early 1980's when I found it in the Good Beer Guide and the description of its remoteness was the enticement. In those days you had to leave the car in a field, walk down a track, then down a little path to the river and finally the pub was there by the locks. There was no electric so candles were the only lighting, the beer had to be delivered by boat but it was a lively old fashioned pub with all the charm that anyone could ever dream of. The experience has left fond memories ever since. I was hoping that my anticipation to visit it once again would not be disappointed, and I can honestly say it was not. It is still as charming as ever and well worth the effort in getting to it. A few things have changed since the 80's - there is now a drivable track all the way to the pub and I must assume they have electricity judging by all the electric devices and PA system used by the band. I am under the assumption that this is supplied by a generator although reading from internet forums the bar is still lit by candlelight. Judging by the stone slabbed floors throughout I assume the pub still floods during high tides! The intention was to have a beer and continue on with the walk, but the atmosphere was so good that we stayed for a couple and took time to enjoy the folk music. I do hope its not as long before I pay this pub another visit. Having only walked half the distance from Beccles to Bungay, I guess we will have to walk from Bungay to Geldeston and back. Another visit. Its a tough job but someone has got to do it :)

The path across the meadows from The Angles Way to the Geldeston Locks can become quite waterlogged during the winter months. We were lucky in the fact that there was only one short section of marshy mud that was not much of an obstacle. I was told that a couple of weeks previous this was a little more flooded, but still passable even though it was a challenge to get across one watery section. But that is all the fun of country walks!

The footpath back to Beccles from Geldeston village follows the river and is a most delightful little walk with a lot to keep ones eyes interested. As the river bends around to Beccles Quay look out for the old railway bridge supports that still retain the 'LNER 1938' inscription.

Beccles
Beccles

Directions

The Angles Way follows paths and tracks to the south of the River Waveny. Just beyond Barsham Hall there is a footpath across the meadows to the Geldeston Locks pub and return follows the public footpath alongside the river.

Beccles to Geldeston Locks

From Beccles Quay walk up Northgate and then right into Pudding Moor. Continue through to the main road. Turn right and follow the road, past Roos Hall and then right down a track. Keep to this track until just past the wood beyond Barsham Hall where it turns to a footpath. As the path enters a grassed field, turn right and over a stile and follow the field boundary with the wood, going onto the wood side as the boundary curves round to the left. The footpath descends down alongside the meadows. There is a marker post for the Geledeston Locks on the right, take this, walking alongside the dyke and across the wooden bridge and onto the metal footbridge which leads into the ground of the Geldeston Locks pub.

Geldeston Locks to Beccles

Take the track from the pub up to the road, Turn right and follow the road round, taking the right junction into Geldeston. Turn right opposite the Wherry Inn pub and then follow the path down the side of Geldeston Dyke, continuing along the riverside all the way through to Beccles. Cross over Beccles Old Bridge and turn left back down to the Quay.

Marshy meadows to the Geldeston LocksThe river Waveney at Geldeston Locks
On the left Marshy meadows to the Geldeston Locks; On the right The river Waveney at Geldeston Locks

Pubs

Geldeston Locks, Geldeston View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Geldeston Locks, Geldeston
Website

The Geldeston Locks started life in the 1560's as a mill-keepers cottage, later becoming the residence of the lock-keeper. This section of the River Waveney was part of a private navigation, owned throughout the 16th, 17th nd 18th centuries by a series of merchants trading in coal, grain and malt. Even beyond this time Wherries, the broads standard cargo vessels, hauled goods between Bungay and the ports of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

The building became a public house in the 17th century with trade coming from the river traffic and from locals using the marsh footpaths. In more modern times trade has come from the Broads leisure industry which lasted until the end of the 20th century when dwindling custom resulted in many years of closure. This was rectified when the Green Jack brewery took on the pub and improved the access and concentrated on promoting this unspoilt original pub with its riverside garden and award winning ales, regular live music and entertainment, real pub food, roaring fire and a warm welcome.

During the middle part of the 20th century the eccentric Susan Ellis was the landlady, who kept winter trade going with her ghostly tales and stories. In those days the beer was bought up from a cellar in huge jugs and she used to get the customers to add up their drinks bill for her. She was very fussy about who her customers were and any undesirable was asked to leave in no uncertain terms. She also had a pet goose named Grumpy Ellis which used to follow her about. Some say that her ghostly presence can still be felt around the building. One particular tale was told by a visitor in 1989 who had set up camp in the garden and had got up in the night to spend a penny. As he searched for a suitable location to do his business he had watched an old lady appear on the lock footbridge holding a candle in a jam jar, closely followed by a goose. The duo disappeared next to the closed doors of the inn.

Review

A truly outstanding pub both in its location and it ale, hospitality and rustic character. On this occasion there was the Easter Beer Festival with a fine selection of ales and music. The Crouch Vale Brewers Gold was to die for, hoppy and well balanced and pure nectar to the taste-buds - I could easily have spent the rest of the day supping this fine ale and listening to the music. When asking the bar staff to recommend an ale to compete with this, they suggested Dorset Coastguard and once again I was not disappointed, a well hopped golden ale that was pure pleasure to sup. Even when there is not a beer festival on, they have a good range of Green Jack ales which I highly recommend. Beer. Music. Rustic old pub. Cant think of a better way to spend my time!

Barsham Hall
Barsham Hall

Features

Barsham Hall and The Legend of Old BlunderhazzardView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Just off to the right of the track that leads away from Roos Hall and down to Shipmeadow are a few cottages and barns by the side of a wood. This constitutes what remains of Barsham Hall built on an ancient moated site and home to the Lord of the Manor of Barsham. It is this track that the legendary ghostly coach pulled by headless fire breathing horses and carrying Old Blunderhazard, as mentioned in The Legend of Old Blunderhazard on the Norwich Riverside Walk, is said to traverse each Christmas Eve on his journey to Hasset's tower in Norwich and back.

The Hall is thought to have been built in the 15th century by the Echingham family and passed to John Blennerhasset (b.c1515) when he married his second wife, Mary Echingham, the youngest of the two daughters of Sir Edward Echingham. The building enclosed a quadrangle with exterior walls that were 142 feet each way. Over the door on one of the remaining buildings are the Blennerhasset arms dated 1563. It was the Blennerhasset family who erected a tower with a conical roof close to the Hall which came to be known as Blennerhasset's Tower (not to be confused with Hassets tower in Norwich and now known as the Cow Tower). This thatched two storey circular construction was 20 feet in diameter and built of flint with a spiral staircase. It was said to have been a dovecote though others have attributed it to be a granary and a gunpowder store. Little remains of the building, it being reduced in height and re-roofed in 1890 and then finally completely demolished in 1948 together with a pair of ancient cottages that were the last inhabited remains of Barsham Hall.

Thomas Blennerhasset, eldest son of Johns, sold the property in 1598 to a London Alderman named Robert Lee but remained in residence until he died the following year. Thomas had only lived there for 20 years and the reason for why he sold it is not known. It is thought that he is the source of the ghostly Old Blunderhazard legend, but why he should be cast to eternally ride to Norwich and back each Christmas Eve is not known. Something obviously happened for this legend to have sprung up and survive down the ages and we can only surmise as to the cause. Maybe he was a tyrant. Maybe he was ostracised for selling the family home. Though we shall probably never know, the story still persists and has become part of Norfolk folklore.

Sir John Suckling purchased Barsham in 1613, the estate remaining in the Suckling family for more than 350 years, until the 1990s. During the English Civil War Cromwell stationed cavalry at the Hall. Later Barsham New Hall was built and the Old Hall fell into decay, being used as a barn and cattle shed for the following 250 years. Barsham New Hall was itself demolished in the 1940s.

Barsham Old Hall was restored in 1993 with parts made as holiday lets as well as being open to the public for a few days each year under the East Anglia "Invitation to View" program. During restoration work a large chamber, previously hidden, was discovered within the house.

References

Roos HallView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Roos Hall (also known as Rose Hall) is a Grade I red brick Tudor manor house dating from 1583 set in medieval parkland with river frontage. It is said to be among the most haunted houses in England. One legend states that on each Christmas Eve, at midnight, a ghostly carriage pulled by four horses and a headless driver draws up to the Hall. A beautiful woman is then said to step down from the coach but if any person dares to look into her eyes then they will be driven to madness or instant death. This was said to have been the fate of two poachers in the late 19th century.

A guest-room is also said to be haunted and the Devils hoofmark can be seen burnt into a wall inside the Hall. There is also a tale concerning a certain window which can never be kept closed. A blacksmith had once ironed the window permanently shut yet the next morning it was found in its usual open state.

In the grounds stands an old oak tree which is said to be the site of a gibbet where many criminals had been hanged in chains as a warning to others. It is said their ghosts now haunt this area. Legend says that if you are brave enough to walk around the oak tree six times counterclockwise then the Devil himself will appear and ask your business.

Roos Hall
Roos Hall

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2016-01-14

2012-09-22 : adjust incorrect direction information
2012-10-10 : added in more photos
2013-04-10 : update broken links

  2 comments:

  1. past Roos Hall and then left down a track..............Do you mean RIGHT down a track?

    Cross over Geldeston Old Bridge and turn left back down to the Quay............GILLINGHAM Old Bridge?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for pointing these inaccuracies out. According to the OS Map it is Beccles Old Bridge. I really should have known this as I travel over it most days of the week! I have adjusted the post accordingly. Once again, many thanks for your observations.

    ReplyDelete

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