Beccles Townlands Charity - News & Events

During the course of a year we are pleased to support Beccles organisations and events that are of benefit to the town.  The following are some of the most recent initiatives we have been involved in.

Beccles Townlands Charity and Gillingham Marshes

Possibly the best view in Beccles is from the top of the detached tower of St Michael’s Church on a clear day. To the north, south and east the main view is of the town stretching away into the distance. However to the west the view is different. One is struck by the vast expanse of green marshes criss-crossed by dykes and bounded by the river Waveney as it passes the town and winds west towards Geldeston. Running diagonally across the marshes a wooded embankment can be seen, which is the former trackbed of the Beccles to Bungay railway line. The embankment can be reached via a gated track from Gillingham Dam or via the riverbank footpath.

Beccles Townlands Charity previously owned 32 acres of the marshes beside the track. In 2021 the opportunity arose to buy a further 63 acres on the other side of the track. In addition to marshes the land included the river bank up to Gillingham and roughly 500 metres of the former railway line. The railway opened in 1863 and ran to Bungay, Harleston and Tivetshall where it joined the main Norwich line. The line operated for 100 years and crossed the river enabling trains to start and finish journeys at Beccles Station.

After closure, sadly, the track bed was sold off. The section crossing Gillingham marshes passed through various hands and for a while the public could access the line for walking purposes. However, in more recent years access was closed by barbed wire, locked gates and undergrowth. Bearing in mind that this is a beautiful area on Beccles’s doorstep, it seemed appropriate to open up the line for public usage by means of a permissive footpath. A circular walk can be made by means of the river bank footpath and the newly created public footpath into Gillingham at the end of the line.

The marshes are let for hay and grazing by cattle in the summer months and mid-tier countryside stewardship grants have been obtained to clear and dredge neglected dykes and encourage wildlife. The Water, Mills and Marshes Project of the Broads Authority has supported the charity and it is hoped that benches and display boards concerning the railway heritage will soon be added.

Various wildlife organisations have given advice on the ecology, wildlife and fauna and the Broads Authority Peat Project has visited and taken samples. An ornithologist on a recent visit recorded 22 different species of birds in a 2 hour period. Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels, Lapwings, a Hen Harrier and a flight of Cranes have been seen. The tree-lined embankment provides cover and food for birds and the gaps between the trees give an elevated view over the flat surrounding marshes.

In the hands of Beccles Townlands Charity it is hoped that the area will be an enhancement and a benefit to the town of Beccles for many years to come.


In February 2023 we were pleased to respond to a request from Ravensmere Infant School to help fund the purchase of a shed, to be known as the Swap Shop. This would be used to house second-hand school uniforms, books, toys and dry foodstuffs etc to help parents who would benefit from such a facility. The idea was for individuals to take what they needed from the Swap Shop while bringing in something they no longer had use for but could be of benefit to someone else. It would also serve to teach the children the important value of recycling rather than just discarding.

The official opening took place during their Summer Fete on Wednesday 12th July when the Collector, Ken Leggett, was invited to cut the ribbon and proclaim The Swap Shop open.


It is always gratifying to see how our support can change the lives of individuals.- The following two reports illustrate how adversity can be overcome with courage and determination, resulting in a better quality of life and a sense of personal achievement.


In 2022 our Charity was pleased to award funding to Sarah Wilby, a blind resident of Beccles, to enable her to purchase a tandem. Sarah is very keen on sport and this enabled her to enjoy cycling with a guide and to participate in local sporting events.
Since then she has participated in the May 2023 Beccles Rotary Club ‘Cycle for Life’ event which she completed with the help of a guide and in June she became the first ever para-athlete to participate in the Beccles Triathlon. With the help of her guides Sue and Lucie she completed the 4.2 mile run, the 12.6 mile cycle and 14 lengths of the Lido swimming pool. It was a huge challenge for Sarah and she described it as one the best experiences of her life. ‘I loved every minute!’ she exclaimed.
She is now looking forward to the next challenge.

Sarah, left, with Mayor Barry Darch and her guide.
Sarah, left, with Mayor Barry Darch and her guide. Photo: John Swanbury, Beccles Rotary Club


In April this year we received an appeal from Gabby Wright, a 16 year old student at the Sir John Leman High School, for help in financing her attendance at the World Championships of the British Drug Free Powerlifting Association.

Her story is one of determination, perseverance and courage in overcoming personal difficulties in her life. Her reward would be world championship status after barely a year of powerlifting. Such was her determination that she began training four days a week and in February competed in her first powerlifting competition, winning her category to become the Eastern counties champion and qualifying for the nationals. She went on to compete in a single lift competition in Lincolnshire where she set a new British record and qualified for the 2023 World Championship in Sardinia.

Gabby competed in the age category 16-17 (weight 63 kilos). In the Squat event she lifted 100 kg, a new world record and thus becoming the World Champion. In the Bench event her lift of 50kg, a new personal best, also won her the World Championship title.

She says her dream is to become an inspiration for young people. By any measure she has already achieved this and is determined to carry on.

Sarah, left, with Mayor Barry Darch and her guide.
Sarah, left, with Mayor Barry Darch and her guide. Photo: John Swanbury, Beccles Rotary Club
Gabby Wright


Several events were held in Beccles in celebration of King Charles III’s Coronation, one of which was the Beccles Coronation Big Lunch at the Quay on Sunday 7th May. This was organised by Beccles Town Council and Beccles Townlands Charity, among others, was pleased to contribute.

After days of rain, including Coronation Day, Sunday dawned dry and sunny to the relief of organisers. A good crowd turned up to enjoy their picnics and there were stalls providing both food and crafts as well as a variety of entertainment.

One such was a children’s competition for the ‘best home-made crown’. About a dozen children took part and prizes were presented by the Major and a representative of the Feoffees to the top three winners.

Some of the children wearing their crowns

New State of the Art Lighting System for Sir John Leman High School

The lighting system at Sir John Leman High School was significantly out of date – 50 years old! This had many consequences, the main ones being that every time we wanted to change a light colour, shape or direction, we had to get up a ladder and physically make the manipulations, which also restricted what we could do with performances; secondly it meant that the bulbs blew and had to very carefully be replaced, thirdly they got very hot as that aged lights do, fourthly it meant that only staff could change these things and finally, most topically, they were very expensive to run, and very carbon-heavy given the power they drew from the tungsten bulbs. Whilst Sir John Leman had had some help from the Rotarians and Sizewell C to replace these, the lights replaced with were weak in the light they gave out and they were too noisy to run during musical events.

In the summer of 2022 Beccles Townlands Charity gave a very generous donation to Sir John Leman High School to replace and update the lighting system, which was completed in Half Term of October by two members of staff and students. There is a Lighting Club which now runs every two weeks at Sir John Leman, at which students are taught about lighting processes and they also learn (by themselves) how to use the control software for these lights. In December 2022 Sir John Leman will be hosting another Raising And Giving Week (RAG Week) which raises money for a local, national and international charity. This is the first time that the amazing, powerful, efficient LED lights will be properly used and students are super excited. To add to this, the lights that were on the bar beforehand, which were LED thus efficient, but without good features for lights, are now able to be used for the students to light external charity and community events, such as St Michael’s Church, Oulton’s Outdoor Carol on 10th December.

The Feoffee’s donation has made a massive difference in many ways: Students can now learn about much more advanced technology which will afford them quintessential skills for their futures in the digital world (the application of lighting technology into the real world has been said by both Sizewell managers and offshore energy managers to have real-world transferable digital skills for such workplaces), they can do so with a significantly smaller carbon footprint, they can programme their laptops at home without needing the actual lights in front of them, they can control the lights by bringing their programmes into school, they can continue to learn the complex ways that theatre and event lighting is run, and they get the pure excitement of working with outstanding new lighting fixtures and other accessories such as a DMX controllable snow machine, and a new lighting laser which has its own bespoke laptop software. The Feoffee’s have enabled us to revolutionise the lighting in this an already outstanding school, and give students the chance to learn outside of the classroom yet continue to enjoy themselves.

Beccles Bombers Basketball Club

Beccles Bombers Basketball Club has been established for over 20 years with a team in the Norfolk Basketball League throughout. During this time they have produced several national league players and two junior national team coaches, one of whom is now a professional coach.

The club’s aim is to provide competitive and community basketball to local people in all age groups. It has had an active senior team for several years and is a well-known cornerstone of the local basketball community. Like many clubs it was adversely affected by Coronavirus but has since launched a Development Team and now offers community sessions to 6–12 year-olds and 13-16 year-olds. Increased numbers and sessions enabled the club to enter the Norfolk Youth Basketball League providing an opportunity for competitive basketball for the first time in a decade, with the under 15s winning their league.

The 2022/23 season has further expanded the junior programme and has also entered an U12 team into a local league as a steppingstone towards National League Competition. Furthermore, the recent fund raising has enabled the club to appoint qualified coaches and purchase new kits and new match/training balls thus ensuring a long term basketball offering for all in the town.

Courtesy of Beccles Bombers

Beccles Library

A well-resourced and welcoming library is an asset to any town and we were pleased to support Beccles Library with their recent major project, namely the refurbishment of the children’s and family area.  Our support, together with funds from other organisations and businesses, meant they were able to be up and running before the school summer holiday, and in time for the annual Summer Reading Challenge.

The result has been a transformation of the original space to the delight and appreciation of all users – children and adults alike. Under the direction of manager Sharon Chapman their aim is to ensure that the library is a place of safety and fun and, most importantly, free to all users.

The next stage in the project is to advance an inter-generational garden/art project, working with a number of agencies such as schools, artists, the Community Gardeners, The Forest School and Clinks Care Farm to design an eco-friendly, sustainable garden which will be accessible to all in the community.

Beccles Library offers a wide range of activities and facilities, from free Wi-Fi and scrabble to table tennis and Pilates.

Beccles Rowing Club

One of the joys of Beccles is its river, the Waveney.    Over the years it has provided much pleasure to Beccles inhabitants and is at its best in the summer months with the many activities it supports.

Beccles has had a sailing club since the early 1900s and for many years the river provided the town with its first swimming pool, a small area boarded off from the river which very adequately served its purpose until the new pool was built in 1959.  However, for some time many of the leading lights of the town felt strongly that not enough use was made of the river when it came to organised sports and the idea of setting up a rowing club was formed.  One such individual was Fred Taylor, a prominent tradesman in the town and keen sportsman who encouraged and taught many youngsters to swim, and it was he who helped form the Beccles Rowing Club in 1989.  Later, Robin de Vere Green and Jon Bartram, among others, were driving forces in developing the club.

In the early days the club operated from an old shack between the river and the swimming pool which meant that the boats had to have the riggers removed after every outing to allow them to fit back in! To begin with all the boats and equipment were rather old and were either donated or sold to the club at a very reasonable cost by other clubs.  Another major drawback was that the shack used to flood at high tide making it totally inadequate and so the search was on for a better site.

Finally in 2008 a plot of land with moorings was bought by Beccles Townlands Trust and offered to the Rowing Club as their new base.   After extensive fundraising , thanks mainly to Robin de Vere Green, the club was able to move in.   By then the club had grown from a hard core of 6 to 10 active members, to about 30 members.  A significant bonus of moving to better premises and obtaining higher quality equipment enabled the club to participate in local regattas.

Today the club is well stocked with 20 boats, one of which used to belong to a Chinese Olympic team and which is very fast in the water.  The boats include single, double and quadruple sculls, and also a variety of sweep rowing boats offering a variety to members.

A small but active volunteer committee cover the day to day running of the club and aim to ensure its future viability.  They also oversee the maintenance of the premises and a recent grant from the Townlands Trust has enabled the boathouse and surrounding area to be kept in good condition.  They are always keen to encourage new members and full training will be given to those new to rowing.  Anyone interested should contact Hannah Smith at

Courtesy of Beccles Rowing Club