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

Tales from the courts

Murder on the Deben by Peter Wain

The Deben is such a peaceful river but its tranquility masks deeds of theft and even murder on its banks.

On Thursday the 20th December 1352, in Bawdsey, Robert Fille, aged 32, and William Crey had an argument[1]. It seems that this argument took place at one o’clock in the morning and it may be that both men had been drinking.  It seems they were arguing over two ‘botewond’.   

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