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Buckenham lies on the River Yare - eight miles east of Norwich. (Not to be confused with New and Old Buckenham in South Norfolk.) The name derives from Bucca's homestead. Historically, Buckenham Ferry was an important crossing point on the river and the location was painted on a number of occasions in the 19th Century by Joseph Stannard - one of the Norwich School Painters.

Buckenham Marshes

Buckenham Marshes

Buckenham marshes was also the location which inspired the nature writer Mark Cocker to begin his book Crow Country. It was here that he first started to notice the amazing roosting behaviour of crows, rooks and jackdaws. Here is the opening paragraph of the book which captures the atmosphere of the flat marshlands perfectly:

'I am awaiting the arrival of night and all that means in this landscape. Ahead of me lies a great unbound field of stubble sloping gently down towards the hamlet of Buckenham in the Yare valley. At the settlement's southern margin is a tiny railway station, where I stepped down from the train more than thirty years ago on one of my earliest expeditions to this part of the Norfolk Broads. Beyond that steel line is the flat expanse of the Yare's flood plain proper, and from my position on this upper northern slope I gain a sense of the entire valley, the whole flow of its contours, the way that the land dips down then rises again on the far shore like a shallow saucer, like a natural amphitheatre, fit for the spectacle about to unfold.'

Mark Cocker at Rockland Broad (Photo © The Independent )

The birds were actually coming to roost at Buckenham Carrs which is an extensive area of woodland which lies north of the Norwich to Lowestoft railway line. He goes on to describe the amazing spectacle:

'They wind up into a single swirling vortex that breaks apart as small groups fling themselves to Earth. It is an extraordinary performance. I am so mesmerised by the flock's sudden and convulsive disintegration that I fail to absorb the trajectory followed by any one individual.'

Winter is the best time to see the roost and, if you park on Station Road close to St. Nicholas' Church, you can watch thousands of birds wheeling above the Carrs. (Flash photography should be avoided, however, as it disturbs the birds.)

Mark Cocker studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia and lived for many years in Norwich before moving out to Claxton. Claxton lies on the southern side of the River Yare and his move to the 'Hollies' is also documented in the book. Cocker is a respected nature writer and regularly contributes articles to the Guardian. He collaborated with fellow Norfolk-based naturalist Richard Mabey to produce Birds Britannica. Crow Country was shortlisted for the 2008 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.

St. Nicholas, Buckenham

St. Nicholas' Church, Buckenham

The 13th Century octagonal tower of St. Nicholas' Church is a familiar feature on the skyline at Buckenham. (It can also be seen to good advantage from the end of Rockland Short Dyke on the other side of the Yare.) Today the church is redundant but from 1863-1871 the rector William Haslam was noted for his evangelical preaching which drew large crowds. He eventually left Buckenham and moved to the Curzon Chapel in London but in his book Yet not I he related many of his experiences in Buckenham.


More photographs of Buckenham Marshes





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