Chris and I are currently having a little flurry of weekends away and last weekend was spent in Beccles in Suffolk as part of a wider group of 20!
Being one of 10 siblings, my step-dad has a huge extended family who originate from a small village near Beccles. We had the pleasure of participating with my mum and step-dad for the weekend so we could all spend time enjoying the company of this crazy bunch!
Following a slightly drunken Friday night, the 4 of us had a sedate and leisurely Saturday morning as we travelled along the River Waveney by boat and a (very) slightly more energetic Sunday morning visiting the RSPB nature reserve at Minsmere.
About 5 days before the weekend I had pre-booked a 4 person electric boat with Hippersons Boatyard who are based on the edge of Beccles. Online booking was quick and easy and the total cost was a reasonable £115 to have full use of the boat for the whole day. We had to pre-watch some short safety films and sign an online agreement in advance which meant we were all good to go when we arrived at the boatyard.
Once we had been shown to our boat and were given some basic instructions we were soon let loose in the Broads National Park! Chris and I took turns in driving the boat while my parents relaxed in the back like lord and lady of the manor 😉
As we left the boatyard we turned to the right and soon came to Beccles Iron Bridge which we thankfully fitted underneath OK. The River Waverney is tidal and at this time it was low tide.
Beccles is an attractive town and as the maximum speed of the boat is 5 mph we had plenty of time to take in the historical buildings as we went past.
We were fortunate to have lovely weather and a pleasant 22 degrees. The boat did have a cover should it be needed for shade or rain.
Navigation was fairly straightforward – there wasn’t much in the way of signs however I was able to track our journey on a handy Hippersons app that I had already downloaded. This also told us our speed.
Once we had left Beccles we were heading off into the wilderness of the Suffolk Broads and kept a look out for wildlife such as kingfishers and otters (although we didn’t see either). We were heading towards a pub in a village called Geldeston.
After about 20 minutes where the river was quiet and peaceful we started to come across a few paddleboarders and kayakers. Fortunately (for them) by now we were familiar with the handling and steering of the boat and managed to not crash into anyone!
We had decided to make our way to a pub called the Locks and on the advice of the man at the boatyard, we arrived just before midday when it was opening time. Arriving early meant the pub wasn’t busy and we could find a table and order some drinks. The pub also serves lunch if required. Moorings are free and it wasn’t too difficult to steer in and tie the boat up. Another bonus of arriving early meant there were moorings available.
These tables soon filled up and by the time we left, the lunchtime session was in full swing and all tables were full!
We all got back on the boat and headed back towards Beccles. There are more broads to explore and we could have spent longer with the boat but our little taster this morning was enough and we went back to the boatyard which takes about an hour on the boat.
The four of us really enjoyed this little adventure! The boat was easy to drive and, other than the occasional group of paddleboarders or kayakers the experience was quiet and relaxing. Hippersons were excellent and we would highly recommend hiring a boat with them. The online booking process was easy and the staff were super friendly and helpful.
Back on dry land and we drove back to the market square and had lunch in Twyfords Cafe. Lunch in Twyfords wasn’t exactly cheap but the service was good and the food was tasty. After lunch we had a wander around the historic sights of Beccles.
By coincidence, as well as my step-dad’s family coming from a village near Beccles, my mum’s family also have connections there. Between 1970 and 1995 my grandparents also lived nearby in a cottage in a tiny hamlet where I spent quite a bit of time as a child visiting them. At one point, for about 18 months (I think) my grandad ran a cafe in the above square, which is now a beauticians!
We learned from a sign that the name “Beccles” comes from a combination of two words; “Beck”, which means “stream”, and “Leas”, which means meadow. Therefore, Beccles can be roughly translated as the “meadow by the stream”.
Beccles clock tower stands adjacent to the church and construction began in around 1500. This 97 foot tower is something of a landmark and can be seen for miles around.
We had a look in Beccles church which is also surprisingly large for a small market town.
It wasn’t too far to walk down to the Waveney House Hotel where the four of us enjoyed a late afternoon drink in the garden overlooking the river.
Opposite the hotel, just across the market square we had a fantastic Saturday evening meal in the Graze at the White Horse. We would highly recommend this slightly quirky artistic place, not just for the wonderful food but also the music, the atmosphere and the hospitality – they catered for our party of 20 with ease.
Chris and I both had swordfish for our main meal and it was superb – our first taste of swordfish 🙂
On the Sunday we returned to the Waveney House Hotel where we met again with the wider family and 13 of us enjoyed a delicious Sunday lunch before we headed home.
10 rooms had been booked in the Kings Head Hotel (aka Wetherspoons) in Beccles to accommodate our party of 20. This was the first time I had stayed in a Wetherspoons and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the room with its comfy bed and excellent shower. The building is 17th century with twisting narrow corridors which adds to the charm of the place. The location is also excellent, being right in the heart of Beccles on the main market square meaning everyone could enjoy a few drinks throughout the weekend without worrying about driving if they didn’t want to.
A great time was had by all. During the day the family split into smaller groups and did their own thing before re-grouping for the main meals and evenings. Our small sub group of 4 were able to find a couple of activities that were suitable for two generations. Lowestoft and Southwold are both about 20 minutes by car from Beccles however having been to both on a number of occasions, this time it was good to find something new. And if we’re back in the area any time soon – I would make a beeline back to Graze 🙂