Narrowboating in Norfolk: The Brecks and Grime’s Graves

A long if solitary weekend on the boat – arrived after work on Friday and left early on Monday – so this scores as four days on board. Short trip to Littleport on Friday, then an early start on Saturday in order to get to Brandon at about 1130 (first breakfast at Brandon Creek, second breakfast at Lakenheath). After lunch I walked up the non-navigable river towards Thetford, then cut north into the Brecks (more information here and here) to visit Grime’s Graves, managed by English Heritage. This is the only neolithic flint mine open to the public. I then walked back to Brandon through Thetford Forest and the village of Santon Downham.

On Sunday, a more gentle start. Replaced a cracked glass on the stove – liberal application of copper grease to make this easier next time (I hope). Paused to investigate the syphon at Hockwold, lunch at Lakenheath, tea at Brandon Creek, and supper near the mouth of the Lark. Listened to the Proms (Faure Requiem, a choir from some place called Kings). Evening cruise back to the marina, mooring 2215. Navigation lights deployed. Saw only two other boats moving on the Little Ouse – why is it so quiet?

Captions are above the photos to which they relate.

Leaving Ely


Littleport: these swans clearly wanted feedingDSCF8150

I arrived late so had to moor only half on the moorings, and blocking the water point …DSCF8153

… but I made amends by starting at 0500 on SaturdayDSCF8157 DSCF8161

Brandon Ouse, more swansDSCF8167

This house gets progressively more derelict every time I passDSCF8169

I decided to explore Lakenheath Lode – didn’t go all the way as I didn’t much fancy reversing out single-handedDSCF8171

The view back to the entrance – partially blocked by weedDSCF8172

Looking up the LodeDSCF8174

Breakfast at the very fine GOBA mooring on Hockwith Fen – on the Norfolk bank of the river.


Above the syphon – this now looks much more like an ordinary riverDSCF8182

Ely to Brandon and Norwich railway – I’ve been over here many times in the 1980s. If you look carefully you can see the TfL logo on the wagons – I guess they were off to collect ballast for the Underground?


Arriving at Brandon – we are too long to get through the lock (on the left). A surprising amount of water coming over the staunch, generating quite a currentDSCF8185

The un-navigable stretch above Brandon. Lots of stinging nettles, walking on the Norfolk bank.


The Brecks – definitely Norfolk now.


Grime’s Graves – not many people arrive by foot, I think.DSCF8191

You can just see the filled in mine shafts – dozens of these indentations (700 shafts, according to one source!). This photo from English Heritage gives a better flavour of the landscapeDSCF8193

Inside the flint mine – headroom about three feet, so hard hats mandatory. I left my sunhat behind somewhere underground…DSCF8197

The ladder back to the surfaceDSCF8199

The view from Santon Downham bridge – some EA weedcutters. They must have got there by land, as the river is blocked by two very large trees right across at water level. Downsteam view first, then upstream.DSCF8200 DSCF8201

Santon Downham church – a village wedding had just finishedDSCF8203

Walking back to Brandon through the forestDSCF8204

The boat was still there. I had minimized the number of bollards I was using, with the back of the boat hanging in mid-stream. I need not have bothered – I had the river to myself.DSCF8207

Heading downstreamDSCF8212 DSCF8215 DSCF8217

The syphon at Lakenheath / Hockwith. The sluices on the right let water down into the cut-off channel, which wends its way to the Denver sluice complex. The two sluices ahead are lowered in time of flood to stop water going down the main river channel. I moored on the right, just though the sluice. All of this was in Norfolk as the boundary follows the old course of the river, just to the south.


One of the cut-off sluices was raised by six inches – see the gauge. Surprisingly, none of them had been converted to electric operation.DSCF8223

The cut-off channel was built as recently as the 1960s, after the major floods in 1947 and 1953,DSCF8224

The syphon which takes the cut-off channel under the main river. Viewed from above … DSCF8227

… and from below. I didn’t get my tape measure out, but the difference in level must be no more than two feet. The concrete walls mean that the level in the cutoff channel could easily be above that in the main river.DSCF8228

The flow of water though the sluice, into the cutoff channel.DSCF8229

Another boat on the move – the only one I saw on the Brandon Ouse.DSCF8232

The washesDSCF8235

Back on the Great Ouse,. approaching LittleportDSCF8240

Between Littleport and Queen Adelaide – big skiesDSCF8243

Diamond 44 moorings – always very quietDSCF8247

Returning to Ely at Dusk, with the Captain’s Table restaurant boat following behindDSCF8248


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