The River Chet rises near Poringland, south of Norwich and flows as little more than a stream until it meets Loddon, where it becomes tidal and navigable and joins the River Yare a short distance upstream of Reedham.
The total navigable section is some 4½ miles long.
In Roman and Saxon times sea levels were much higher and much of the area would have been under water at high tide.
At this time the river at Loddon was the first point upstream at which the river bed was firm enough to be crossed by a ford (and later a bridge)and this gave rise to the existence of Loddon as a community.
The name Loddon (Lodne) is associated with the river, being Old English for “people of the muddy river”, a reference to the condition of the river bed rather than the colour of the water!
For well over 100 years the river has been the focal point for much of the activity in the area and has been vital to the prosperity of both communities over that time.
|Much of the work centered around Loddon Mill with wherries bringing grain upriver to be milled, but timber, wood and coal was also brought in.
Woods, Sad, Moore & Co were the principal business in the 1880s and, together with Case & Steward, another seed merchant, paid for the river to be dredged (by hand!) to improve access to their warehouses.
We have to thank them for having a navigable river today.
There have been some disasters on the river.
Woods, Sad, Moore & Co’s warehouses were destroyed by fire in 1930, never to be replaced, and twice, major floods have caused serious damage to the bridge at the mill – in 1912 and 1968.
|As a result of the 1968 flood the decision was taken to redevelop the top of the river by clearing old redundant buildings, digging a new mooring basin and providing open spaces and car parking; broadly the staithe as you see in today.|
Today the Chet is one of the focal points for boating tourism within the southern Broads area and is the only such centre within South Norfolk District.
|There are still a good number of boatyards in operation on the Chet although the principal boat repair yard, Mistralcraft, closed down and was re-developed for luxury housing in 2002.|
|Just down river from the boatyards, on the south bank can be found Pyes Mill, the site of two of Loddon’s three windmills (none remain) and where the main ford used to cross the river.
It is now a local picnic site with free 24 hour moorings.
|Further down river still can be found Hardley Flood, an important SSSI and an excellent spot for bird watching!
(Regrettably this stretch of the river is no longer accessible to the public due to failure of two of the footbridges. Whether this part of the river will ever be re-opened is extremely uncertain.)
|After some 4½ miles the Chet joins the Yare at Hardley Cross the ancient boundary between the City of Norwich and the Borough of Great Yarmouth.|
It is possible to walk the full length of the Chet from the Staithe to Hardley Cross.
The walk is easy but not viable for wheelchair users. Click here for details.
Acknowledgment – Thanks to Loddon and District Local History Group for the historical pictures of the river.