Located just to the north of Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile is the seven-acre park known as The Waterways. This park is home to the Venetian Waterways, the Ornamental Gardens, and the Boating Lake.
The ‘canals’ of the Venetian Waterways wind their way through the park and are crossed and re-crossed by bridges, which results in the creation of interconnected islands throughout the park. Alongside these islands are a variety of ornamental features and structures. The Boating Lake is the only other attraction of its kind left in the region and is entirely man-made.
The park is a tranquil place for visitors to stop and relax for a while, to enjoy taking a ride on the water, or to take pleasure in exploring the plant life. It is also a popular haven for ducks and herons.
It is the ideal location for lunch or afternoon tea thanks to the on-site café as well as the other cafés in the surrounding area.
The park is located adjacent to North Beach, which, along with the dunes that are located there, is a component of a larger designation that is recognised internationally for its significance to the preservation of nature.
A local relief committee was established in 1919 by the Borough Council to alleviate the distress caused by World War I-related unemployment. As a result of this committee’s efforts, the Venetian Waterways and Boating Lake came to be. By 1924, the local Borough Surveyor, Mr. S. P. Thompson, had presented the committee with nine different plans that could be carried out as relief work during the upcoming winter. The ‘Construction of Ornamental Gardens’ plan was ultimately chosen as the winner and included in the meeting minutes.
The minutes of the Council also record that “the gardens will be entirely different from any public gardens which have yet to be constructed in the Borough as it is proposed that they shall mainly consist of rockeries plentifully planted with rocks and flowers.” This information is included because “the gardens will be entirely different from any public gardens which have yet to be constructed in the Borough.” The amusement park ride was conceived.
Some of the proposals that were turned down may have included River Caves; for images, please see our blog.
The unemployed individuals who were married and had at least one child were given priority for the relief work that was being done on the site. By the time it was finished in 1928, approximately 427 men had been employed to create a one-of-a-kind attraction that benefited the local community and contributed to the growth of domestic tourism.
It is believed that the channels of the Waterways were dug out by hand, using shovels and wheelbarrows, and that soil was brought in from Caister to replace the sand that was originally there.
When it first opened, the vibrant and floriferous planting was given high praise at the time. In 1928, it was entered into the International Exhibition of the Royal Horticultural Society, where it was described as being particularly ‘bold.’
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. The park enjoyed enormous success from the time it opened until the 1960s, when it began to experience a decline in visitors. As a result, fewer resources were allocated to the park’s upkeep and maintenance, which resulted in the eventual closing of the Boating Lake and the removal of historically significant features and vegetation from the Venetian Waterways.
In August of 2016, the Borough Council, in conjunction with the Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust (GYPT), sent in an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The proposal called for the complete renovation and refurbishment of the park, as well as the establishment of a comprehensive training programme in horticulture and traditional building skills for long-term unemployed individuals, young people, and local residents, in addition to the establishment of a legacy of community-based endeavours.
The restoration work started in June 2018 and lasted for an entire year. It was supported very successfully by volunteers throughout the entire process. The project was made possible thanks to a grant of 1.77 million pounds from the National Lottery, which was distributed by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund. Additionally, the Borough Council, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, and the Department of Communities and Local Government provided additional support (now MHCLG).