Rural Norfolk railway station has stood the test of time

Boat sails past the Berney Arms in 1960

The Golden Galleon sails past the Berney Arms railway station near Great Yarmouth. Date: June 1960. - Credit: Archant Library

When you think of a railway station, you might imagine big, bustling places with people rushing to catch trains.

So much noise. So much going on. Then picture the Berney Arms in rural Norfolk.

Members of the Hewitt family outside the old signal box at the Berney Arms.

Members of the Hewitt family outside the old signal box at the Berney Arms. - Credit: Sheila Hutchinson and the people of Berney Arms

There is the platform set against the river, marshes, windmill and wide Norfolk skies.

While so many other small stations have closed, the beautiful Berney Arms still stands proud. And now a lot more people know about it.

Berney Arms Stores

Berney Arms stores. Date: August 26, 1966 - Credit: Archant Library

Earlier this month the news that this was the quietest railway station in the whole country hit the headlines and spread the word of the Berney Arms far and wide.

Just 42 passengers used the station on the single-line track between Reedham and Great Yarmouth between April 2019 and March 2020.

Postman Arthur Best arrives at the Berney Arms

Here comes postman Arthur Best arriving at the Berney Arms. - Credit: Archant Library


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Mind you, there was good reason for this which was not widely reported at the time. The station was closed.

Lucy Wright of Greater Anglia said: “Berney Arms was closed from October 2018 until February 2020 while Network Rail carried out re-signalling work along the lines between Norwich and Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft.

Putting milk churns on the train to Reedham.

Henry Hewitt (known as Yoiton) putting milk churns on the train to Reedham. - Credit: Sheila Hutchinson and the people of Berney Arms

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“The station tends to be used by nature lovers and walkers, many of whom leave the train at Berney Arms and walk to Great Yarmouth or vice versa. Berney Arms is only accessibly by train, foot or boat, there is no road access.

“While there is no electricity or amenities at the station or in the surrounding area, it is a haven for wildlife and is popular with bird-watchers.

"Berney Arms is in a beautiful location and would made a great place for people to visit during the warmer months. It is ideal for a green day out."

There is one person who knows more than anyone else about Berney Arms - Sheila Hutchinson.

Berney Arms railway platform

A busy day on the Berney Arms railway platform, with Sheila Hutchinson in the pram with her mum Ellen Williams pushing her. - Credit: Sheila Hutchinson and the people of Berney Arms

It was 20 years ago when I first wrote about her wonderful book Berney Arms Past & Present which introduced us to the place and its people. Such great characters who lived a tough but happy life.

As a baby she lived at Raven Hall Langley Marshes on The Island opposite Berney Arms for about a year around 1947.

Young Sheila Hutchinson peeping out of the guards van at Berney Arms.

Young Sheila Hutchinson peeping out of the guards van at Berney Arms. - Credit: Sheila Hutchinson and the people of Berney Arms

“I then lived at No 1 Cottage, Berney Arms with my parents Joseph and Ellen Williams, my younger sister Maureen and younger brother Derek.

In 1959 we moved to Nos 6 and 7 Cottages and lived there until we moved in 1963 into Cobholm, Great Yarmouth.

“We were one of the last families living in the cottages at Berney Arms before they were pulled down,” said Sheila, who went on to write many other wonderful books looking at Norfolk people and places.

Berney Arms Post Office at the station

Mr Williams in the Berney Arms Post Office at the station with Violet Mace in 1953. - Credit: Russell Westwood, supplied by Violet Mace.

She tells the story of this lost community so well and introduces some great Norfolk folk from days gone by. The houses are gone but there are plans to open the old Berney Arms pub as a bistro next year. 

Lighting the lamp at the Berney Arms station.

Violet Mace, post and station mistress lighting the lamp at the Berney Arms station. - Credit: Sheila Hutchinson and the people of Berney Arms

So, hop on the train and head for Berney Arms and enjoy the Norfolk countryside in all its glory.

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