News from the Noughties, Part II

by Bertie Wheen

This is the second part of the second post in a series (in which I’ve been sharing a few of the things I’ve been finding while I’ve been going through our magazine archives). The first post was Once Upon a Time… (which covered the 1990s), and the first part of this post was News from the Noughties, Part I (which included roughly the first half of the 2000s). I’d recommend reading those before this (which, unsurprisingly, will feature the rest of the 2000s), but much more than reading any of these, I’d like to recommend going directly to the source, and having a leaf through some of the old editions (available on our magazine page).

This is what the RDA Newsletter cover looked like between 2004-2010. The font choice is a bit questionable, but I’m a fan of the drawing – though I’m not honestly sure which stretch of the Deben it is… looking upriver from the Rocks, or perhaps the Tips? Anyway, I do know that it was drawn by Ron Wragg, thanks to Nick Wright’s inaugural editorial in Spring 2004 (#28, the last issue mentioned in the previous part of this post):

“I would like to make a special mention of Ron Wragg who has donated the art-work which decorates the cover and punctuates this Newsletter. I hope that contributors will forgive me for occasionally replacing their excellent photographs (which do not reproduce well) with his sketches, some of which are based upon them. This represents a lot of work for Ron. I appreciate it very much.”
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News from the Noughties, Part I

by Bertie Wheen

If you haven’t read the first post in this series, may I direct you to Once Upon a Time…? What follows will make much more sense with its context, but the TL;DR is that I’ve been improving the accessibility of our Magazine page (which hosts digital versions of our biannual magazine, née newsletter) by indexing the old editions – or, more accurately, contentsing, but that somehow doesn’t have the same ring to it. Last time I had indexed the 1990s, and I’ve now done the same for the 2000s. I’d like to recommend that, better than reading these accompanying posts, you read the magazines/newsletters themselves. (I promise it’s a more interesting thing to do than you might imagine!)

To the uninitiated, The Deben might appear to be an unassuming little publication, but it has been consistently produced since 1990 (which was, though I’m sure you won’t want to hear it, over 30 years ago), and from the start it has been filled with articles that were not only interesting to contemporary readers, but – as I have been discovering by going through the back catalogue – still are today! Many are presciently relevant, and others are historically significant; there are contributions from then that read like they were written now, and there are others that could only have been written then, including reminiscences from those who had known the Deben the longest, and who shared some of their memories of it from deep time – from times that now few, if any, are old enough to remember. I’m incredibly glad that the latter are preserved in our archives, and I think the former speaks to the environmental consciousness that we have as a community, which we have had since long before the recent general awareness of such issues. I should add that there are still more articles that don’t necessarily fit into either of these categories, but that are worth a modern reader’s time. One of the joys of The Deben, or the RDA Newsletter as it was then, is the strange, quirky pieces that appear in it. Perhaps they might not be everyone’s style, but they don’t need to be. They are the variety and flavour that turned what could otherwise have been a dry document containing nothing but committee meeting minutes and end-of-year accounts (both of which were included in the Newsletter days) into something rather charming. There are some wonderful weirdos on this river, and it would be worse without them.
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You Too Can Go To Sea: River Deben support for Suffolk and the Sea Day

by Julia Jones

I was sitting on a bench overlooking Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington and the River Orwell beyond. It was a lovely afternoon with a breeze just getting up and some classic sailing vessels on the river, contrasting with the more modern yachts moored near me and the towering cranes of Port of Felixstowe downriver. I was trying to explain to a friendly cameraman the ways in which I felt there had been such a profound shift in Britain’s attitude to her maritime heritage during my lifetime. His name’s Jon Swallow and he’s volunteered to come and record some of the sessions at the forthcoming Suffolk and the Sea Day (Felixstowe Book Festival ‘fringe’ sessions at Trimley St Mary, June 25th). We had met to discuss developing the 5th session, entitled You Too Can Go To Sea, into a film which the organisations supporting Suffolk and the Sea day could send out to schools, youth organisations, clubs, support groups. It would aim to explain that sailing and sea faring is not an exclusive activity but can be enjoyed at many levels. We want to kindle an interest and excitement in sea-going opportunities, remind people that we are not only land dwellers.

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Suffolk and The Sea – Sailors, Artists And Anglo-Saxons

by Claudia Myatt

Every spring and early summer there is a conversation between River Deben sailors that goes something like this:

‘Have you been over the bar yet?’
‘No, but I’ve got the chartlet, hoping to go round to the Orwell next weekend’
‘What’s it like this year?’
‘Shifted a bit in that storm I hear – quite narrow now.  Wouldn’t risk it until after half tide with my draft’
‘Deepest water is usually close to the beach but the tide runs hard there….’

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One Man’s Life: Another Man’s Memory

By Julia Jones

Gunboats at dawn, painted by Peter Scott.

I’ve recently completed a study of some of the yachtsmen who volunteered to serve ‘in an emergency’ in the years before the second World War. From December 1936 the Admiralty issued an invitation to ‘Gentlemen interested in yachting or similar pursuits’ to put their names forward for ‘executive’ service. These men formed the RNVSR, the Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve. In the process of research, I have been fortunate to have met some of the descendants of these men. I’ve been glad of their help and have also found that they share my feelings of respect and heartfelt gratitude for the way in which their fathers, uncles, grandfathers chose to put their normal lives, pleasures, careers on hold, committing themselves to serve wherever they were sent. Sometimes the jobs they were assigned to do were tedious, more often they were terrifying. Continue reading

A Ramble around Wickham Market and Campsea Ashe

By Sue Ryder-Richardson

Rivers. The lifeblood of communities for generations, the Deben, from source to mouth, is one such. The river and its tributaries nurtured villages, gave grist to many mills, and fed and watered the all-important abbeys. Explorations around Wickham Market have revealed Paleolithic, Bronze Age, Roman, Anglo Saxon, and medieval relics. Both the tidal flood of this river and its inland arteries have supported this lineage of settlements.

A ramble around Wickham Market and Campsea Ashe [1] offers an insight into the generations that have lived, and worked alongside the Deben, from the C18th Rackham’s Mill, through the ancient, coppiced woodland ‘The Oaks’, alongside medieval fishponds, beside ‘Ashe Abbey’ which stands on the ground of the C12th Augustinian Priory of St Mary’s, but mostly walking over water-meadows that have brimmed and supported life for centuries.

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Deben Commercial Fishing

By Robert Simper

Tidal River Deben was never a major fishing centre. The saltings along the edge of the river were, and still are, breeding grounds for some fish, but the estuary really relied on fish coming from the North Sea. However, the narrow river entrance and fast tide often swept them past. In the past there was enough fish to warrant some commercial fishing in the Deben.


Harry Simper drift netting for herring in the Our Boys

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River Deben Festivities 2021 and before

By Julia Jones & Archie White

We publish this RDA Journal post on the eve of a new River Deben Festival – a new style of weeklong festival where many of the river businesses, clubs and organisations come together to do something special.  The Deben Summer Festival is the inspiration of Moray McPhail, Matt Lis, supported by the committee of the River Deben Association and many others.  Until the festival begins, the best place to visit is the website which continues to grow as organisations add their events. https://www.debenfestival.org/events

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Of Diaries and the Perennial Diarist of Waldringfield

By Gareth Thomas

[This article is about A Perennial Diary kept by the Reverend Thomas Henry Waller, Rector of Waldringfield for 43 years from 1862 to 1905.   Please note that where entries are quoted verbatim the text is italicised.]

Readers who belong to The Arts Society will have had the opportunity recently to hear Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum, pronouncing on the immense value of diaries and describing a collection of 11,000 such pieces which he oversees at the Bishopsgate Institute, opposite Liverpool Street Station. 

Finkel, a real enthusiast in the preservation of diaries, describes the simplest, most humble diaries as ‘magical’, because they are concerned with the life of real people who have written ‘the truth as they see it, without manipulation.’ He makes a particular point that none of the 11,000 diaries in question were kept by politicians. Continue reading