Return to Berney Arms (almost!)

IMG_4325England’s remotest station is back in business, almost a year and a half after its longer-than-planned temporary closure, as part of the Wherry Lines re-signalling programme.

Train services resumed to Berney Arms on Monday, 24 February 2020 after the line between Reedham and Great Yarmouth was re-opened to passenger traffic, along with the route from Brundall to Lowestoft.

For those unfamiliar with East Anglian geography, Berney Arms has no road access and can only be reached on foot, via a 4¾ mile walk from Reedham station, 5 miles from Great Yarmouth, or by boat on the River Yare as far as the now-closed Berney Arms pub, not far from the station.

IMG_2733On the day that Lowestoft line services resumed, 755407 passes one of the new signals at Reedham with the 12.05 Norwich-Lowestoft

This would be a delightful place to walk to on a fine day, but needs careful planning, given its winter weekday service of just two down trains, calling on request only at 08.01 (07.36 Norwich-Great Yarmouth) and 12.03 (11.36 Norwich-Great Yarmouth) with the only up call being at 15.24 (15.17 Great Yarmouth-Norwich).

Services pick up a bit during the summer when there is a second up service at 17.54 (17.47 Great Yarmouth-Norwich), while Berney Arms is positively bustling on a Sunday, even in the winter, when there are no less than five trains in each direction that will stop on request.

IMG_4335Given the well-documented reliability issues that have affected the new Class 755 “Basil” units now operating all Wherry Line services, I had some trepidation in setting out from Reedham for Berney Arms on re-opening day (when the 07.36 from Norwich had already been diverted via Acle due to a signalling issue), with the intention of then returning on the only up service of the day at 15.24.

Being constrained by the availability of cheap advance purchase tickets from some considerable distance away (Haslemere), I was not able to get to Norwich in time for the 11.36 train that would have taken me directly to Berney Arms and given me the more secure option of a return walk to Reedham.

IMG_2753Setting out from the charming Ship Inn alongside Reedham Swing Bridge at about 13.15, my solitary and very blustery walk to Berney Arms took me over the Lowestoft line close to the swing bridge (bottom photo), then onto the Wherryman’s Way footpath along a muddy embankment (pictured above) on the north side of the River Yare.

On a wet and windy day this is a pretty bleak and desolate part of the world, with the vast expanse of Reedham Marshes alongside you and just the odd windmill visible in the distance. Midway along stretch to Berney Arms is one fine example alongside Seven Mile House (below), and from there you can then see Berney Arms Mill two miles further on.

IMG_2759Getting to Berney Arms Mill (pictured below) on foot was fine, but the real problem was that Berney Arms station lies some 600 yards inland alongside another long distance footpath, the Weaver’s Way. From where I was standing at the mill this path looked to have become submerged under a large lake of floodwater.

IMG_2765Having once had a bad experience falling into a deep ditch at nearby Acle, I had no wish to suffer the same fate, so reluctantly aborted my plan to be the first passenger to join a train at Berney Arms since October 2018.

IMG_4332With the strong wind blowing from behind me, I had no ambition to retrace my steps back to Reedham, so decided on the slightly longer alternative of continuing on to Great Yarmouth.

Tramping my solitary path towards the distant lights of Great Yarmouth there was a reminder of why I was here when a three-car Class 755 passed me in the gloom with the (delayed) 15.17 from Great Yarmouth – becoming the first up service via Berney Arms since October 2018

IMG_4337The Wherryman’s Way remains on an exposed embankment all the way to Great Yarmouth, sometimes running close to the railway line (as seen in the map above) and alongside Breydon Water all the way to Breydon Junction, the point where the Berney Arms and Acle railway routes converge.

From here you walk alongside the abandoned carriage sidings before turning left off the Wherryman’s Way and heading under a bridge carrying the busy A12 adjacent to a larger arch for the railway, passing the now-closed Yarmouth Vauxhall signal box and a giant Asda store before reaching the railway station, almost exactly three hours after leaving Reedham.

On a fine and windless day this would no doubt be a very pleasant and relatively easy walk, but this is not one I could really recommend on a dismal wet February afternoon!

From the bridge on Hollow Farm Road leading to the Wherryman’s Way, this view of Reedham Swing Bridge shows 755407 with the 12.57 Lowestoft-Norwich (below)

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