Paddling the River Waveney from Source to Sea by packraft, has been a trip on my mind for ages but i’ve never gotten around to doing it. With international travel pretty much of the cards due to Covid19 this was the ideal opportunity to get on the water and paddle the river Waveney from start to finish.
Now, the route i’ve taken is a bit of a cheat as the river Waveney actually flows to the sea via Breydon Water where it joins up with the Bure and a little further down the Yare and all three flow to the sea at Great Yarmouth.
The route I have chosen to take follows the river Waveney but I take Oulton Dyke which is a manmade dyke connecting Oulton Broad to the river Waveney and then through Mutford Lock it connects to Lake Lothing and then flow to the sea through Lowestoft.
The River Waveney is the border between Norfolk and Suffolk and bubbles out of the ground into a ditch on the east side of the B1113 road between the villages of Redgrave, Suffolk and South Lopham, Norfolk.
The ditch on the other side of the road is the source of the River Little Ouse which continues the county boundary and, via the Great Ouse, reaches the sea at King’s Lynn.
The first 10 miles of the river is un-paddlable as its a combination of marsh until it eventually turns into a stream just before Diss.
I need to state here that the river is only navigable from Scole, before permission will be needed.
I don’t know this first section of the river very well so I chose to get some ‘Yocal’ help and unlisted Simon, A bloke in the woods. (A YouTuber from these parts to paddle with).
Packrafting is perfect for adventures like this as you can easily hike with your raft and gear until you find a easy put in.
Simon had never paddled a packraft prior to this trip and was looking forward to trying it. I was interested to see what he thought of them as he normal paddles a canoe.
The only issue I found with this bag was that as it was quite heavy (15 – 17kg) not having a waist belt it put all the weight on my shoulders and after 10 miles of walking my shoulders where killing me.
- Alpha Packraft by Aqua-Xtreme
- Tent – Zepharos 1 by Wild Country
- Sleep Mat – Expeditor Downmat 5
- Down Quilt (Bespoke made)
- Lightweight cook gear.
- Meals by Real Turmat (provided by Basecamp food)
- Waterproofs by Fjern Outdoors
- 4 piece aluminium paddle
- Inflatable PFD
Plus other small items. All of this weighed around 17kg
The Put in!
The put in at Scole was very easy but it wasn’t long until we came across our first downed tree.
It was here that I had noticed that my packraft was a bit squidgey!! As we had been pulling over trees eat I thought I had a puncture but it was later on that I realised that the patch that glues the valve to the packraft had failed.
This time of the year the river can be really low and full of weed and at points we where dragging through thick duckweed and reeds.
First nights camp went really well and we had some of the Real Turmat meals and after couple of rums it was time to hit the hay.
Next morning was beautiful and with a hearty breakfast we headed down river, portaging at the weirs when needed, lifting over trees and dragging our sorry arses through thick reed infested sections.
Bye Bye Simon.
Once we reach Menham it was here that I left Simon and made my way further down river to my 2nd night which was at the campsite of the Homersfield Black Swan.
£5.00 for the night, good beer on tap and the menu looked pretty good, but for me it was chicken masala from Real Turmat and a slug of Rum.
Waking the next morning to drizzle, I ate a Real Field Meal which is basically larger portions of the real turmat meals.
These are designed really for military or excursions that need a bit more fuel. I couldn’t eat the full pouch as they are massive portions.
Packing up in the rain, I put my tent inner in a separate bag, this is the great thing about the Zepharos 1 as it is an outer pitch meaning the inner won’t get wet setting up in the rain or packing away in the rain.
Change of plan!
Due to the first day taking longer than planned I had to rethink my trip as I was time limited and could only spare 4 days. It was here that I realised I would get to Lowestoft in 4 days.
Paddling from Homersfiled to Bungay was ‘interesting’ it was really thick in parts but coming along the river just before Flixton I discovered some great areas for fishing that I will be back to.
I didn’t bring a rod due to weight and space but it was here that I wish I had.
Paddling the Bungay Loop (is it is known) is where the river widens and there’s no more paddling through the Louisiana Swamps.
There is another campsite here that can be used if your planning something like this. Outney Meadow has river access and isn’t to far from a great little pub The Green Dragon and other amenities of Bungay Town.
Using the portage at Bungay Staithe the weather changed and it eventually stopped raining.
Passing the portage at Wainford and then the final portage at Ellingham, which isn’t easy as there’s no designated portage on the other side. It is possible but its a steep bank where a local fishing club fish, so if someone is fishing there its a no go.
Ellingham to Geldeston was an easy section, with a stop at the Geldeston Locks for a couple of pints and a bag of pork scratchings I made my way to Three Rivers Pitch and Paddle for my next nights stay.
Another Packraft Fail!
I want to say an huge thank you to Three Rivers for allowing me to stay. After swapping the Alpha packraft do to the leaky valve with Simon, I was in the X1 and it was here that I noticed the valve was leaking on this raft exactly as the other was.
The glue had separated from the valve and the packraft and air was leaking out.
As I had realised I would make it to Lowestoft the following day, I only had to paddle back to my home town of Beccles the next day so wasn’t worried to much, just annoyed that 2 packrafts had failed the same #falseeconomy
So the plan was to head home the next day and finish the final section of another time.
Following morning, I packed up and headed of down the river.
Final Section, paddling the river Waveney from source to sea.
After fixing the valve issue on the Alpha with some seam seal I set off from Beccles towards Oulton Broad to continue paddling the river waveney from source to sea. The great thing about doing this in a section was that I had a chance to swap out some gear.
I brought my hammock for this night and some fishing gear.
Paddling on a springtide, against the tide and against the wind was interesting and it took me until 16:00 until I got to my evenings camp on a permission I have neat Burgh St Peter.
If your planning on making this trip your option is camping at the Waveney River Centre which is a little way up the river.
Setting up hammock and tarp it wasn’t long before I decided on a ‘nanny nap’ which unplanned lasted 12 hours (busy few days at work recently).
The Last Day.
Following morning, as I woke late was a case of packing down and heading down river while I had the tide with me.
Meeting Oulton Dyke, I paddled through Oulton Broad and packed up the packraft and walked to Lake Lothing.
There is no official put in on Lake Lothing so I asked the permission of a boatyard and got in, salt side, there.
There was a fair amount of large boats in Lake nothing as this is a port, although not used as much as it used to be, nowadays its mainly pleasure craft.
Due to the start of the third crossing in Lowestoft some traffic was big and it was a case of keeping out of the way until they had passed.
Paddling under the bridge at Lowestoft I entire the outer basin and due to a heavy Northerly wind there was no chance I was heading out to open sea.
So, 46miles, 5 days I was paddling the River Waveney from Source to Sea.