The Waterways is a seven-acre park comprising of the Venetian Waterways, the Ornamental Gardens and Boating Lake, located just north of Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile.
The Venetian Waterways ‘canals’ serpentine their way through the park crossed and re-crossed by bridges, creating interlinked islands throughout, alongside which numerous ornamental features and structures can be found. The Boating Lake, a man-made attraction, is the last of its kind in the region.
A popular haven for ducks and heron the park is a tranquil place for visitors to stop and relax for a while, to take a ride on the water or to enjoy exploring the plant life.
The onsite café and surrounding cafés make it the perfect destination for lunch or afternoon tea.
The park runs alongside North Beach, which itself and dunes form a part of a larger designation of international importance to nature conservation.
The Venetian Waterways and Boating Lake was a result of a local relief committee, set up in 1919 by the Borough Council to relieve the distress caused by unemployment due to World War I. By 1924 the committee had been presented with nine schemes by local Borough Surveyor, Mr S P Thompson, which could be carried out as relief work during the coming winter. Scheme number four was selected and minuted as the ‘Construction of Ornamental Gardens’.
The Council minutes also record that ‘the gardens will be entirely different from any public gardens which have yet been constructed in the Borough as it is proposed that they shall mainly consist of rockeries plentifully planted with rocks and flowers.’ The attraction was designed.
Rejected proposals may have included River Caves, please visit our blog for images.
Priority for relief work on the site was given to the unemployed, who were married and had a least one child. By its completion in 1928 some 427 men had been employed and had produced a unique attraction benefiting local people and enhancing domestic tourism.
It is believed that the channels of the Waterways were dug out by hand, using shovels and wheelbarrows, with soil being brought in from Caister to replace the sand.
Upon it’s opening the vibrant and floriferous planting was highly commended at the time, being entered into the Royal Horticultural Society’s International Exhibition in 1928 where it was described as being particularly ‘bold’.
The park enjoyed enormous success from it’s opening until the 1960s when a decline in tourism at British seaside resorts contributed to a lack of visitors in the latter half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century. Investment in, and maintenance of, the park, therefore declined leading to the eventual closure of the Boating Lake and the loss of historic features and planting in the Venetian Waterways.
The Borough Council, in partnership with the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust (GYPT), submitted an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund in August 2016. The bid involved the repair and restoration of the entire park, a comprehensive restoration training programme in horticulture and traditional building skills for long-term unemployed, youth and local residents, as well as a legacy of community activity.
Restoration work began in June 2018 and took place over a period of a year and was supported very successfully by volunteers. The project was funded through a £1.77m National Lottery grant awarded through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund, plus further support from the Borough Council, New Anglia LEP and the Department for Communities and Local Government (now MHCLG).