** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
Rambling round Norfolk…
This year, The Cambridge Rambling Club had the bold idea of a YHA weekend in Norfolk at the end of January. Jill Tuffnell organised a very pleasant break, staying at Wells-next-the-Sea, in a new hostel, splendidly converted from a former school, and open in Winter only for pre-booked parties…Good walking was enjoyed by all, both on the coast, and inland on the mostly sandy paths, providing a pleasant escape from the sticky boulder clay of Winter Cambridgeshire. But we were lucky – one weekend later, and we would have been caught in snowstorms!
Roger & I so enjoyed this trip that we visited the North Norfolk coast again in March, this time staying in a guest house in Weybourne, for as little as £15 per night. Again, the walking was excellent, with better signposting and waywarking than I remembered from a few years previously.
I would give two tips to other ramblers. Many villages have display boards showing “Community paths, and other Rights of Way”. I am not sure of the subtle differences in Norfolk’s classifications, but it is worth annotating your maps, because there appear to be both diversions and additions, some not shown on the recent Explorer sheets, and certainly not on the older Pathfinder series.
The other relates to FOOD. Norfolk’s tourist industry does not come alive mid-week until Easter, so take food and drink with you for mid-day. The pub you seek may have closed, and the cafe may say, irritatingly, “Open at the weekend”, and this in the presence of coveys of birdwatchers!
These breaks have inspired a Norfolk issue of Cantab, and I am very grateful to John Capes, long active in the Cambridgeshire rambling scene, for recalling for us his childhood in Norfolk, and conjuring up its atmosphere, in his delightful article on Paston.
North Norfolk Notes
Ask a rambler where they have walked in Norfolk, and the odds are the response will be, “The Peddars Way, and Norfolk Coast Path”. The National Trail has recently been decorated with sculptures. One is invited to “look at the sculptures carefully, to find hidden images that link with the book, A Norfolk Songline”. Book & CD by Hugh Lupton & Liz McGowan, from Hickathrift Books, 8 Church Terrace, Aylesham, NR11 6EU. Tel 01263 515900.
Fen Rivers Way
No reader of Cantab can be unaware of the Fen Rivers Way LDP following the Cam & Great Ouse from Cambridge to Kings Lynn. The guidebook, now in a third edition, is available from Cambridge RA Group, tel. 01223 560033
Nar Valley Way
Norfolk CC produce an A2 folded sheet for the Nar Valley Way LDP, which we walked in mid-Winter 2000. We followed the waymarked route some 30 miles from Kings Lynn to its source near Gressinghall, visiting ancient sites at Wormgay, Pentney Abbey, Narborough, West Acre & Castle Acre, and the old round-towered churches of E. & W. Lexham, overnighting in warm guesthouses.
This interesting 56 mile LDP runs from Cromer to Great Yarmouth, taking in an attractive disused railway line along its middle section. Norfolk CC (Planning Office) at Martineau Lane, Norwich, made an attractive A2 folded route sheet available since 1999. The route is now also illustrated on OS Explorer sheets.
Inspiration for Day Circuits
For those who want circular walks for a long day out, we have found inspiration in “Norfolk Heritage Walks” publ. 2000 by Norfolk RA, £2.10. We extended their Walk 7, Sheringham Two Priories, Beeston, and Weybourne, to enjoy an excellent day, following precise notes.
Mel Birch’s “Historic Walks in Norfolk” (publ. Images, 1988) may no longer be in print, but has the right blend of instructions and historical notes. We particularly enjoyed a walk visiting Baconsthorpe Castle, near Holt. A display board at the site also describes an 8 mile circuit.
Finally, we would endorse John Capes’ choice of the OS Pathfinder Guide for Norfolk & Suffolk.
Letters to the Editor…
Highest Point in Cambridgeshire
Last year there was some controversy in the Cambridge Evening News after it was claimed that Castle Camps was the highest village in Cambridgeshire, with several people writing to the editor to point out that this was not true. I had known for several years that the highest point in the county was in Great Chishill, but did not know precisely where.
So I contacted the Ordnance Survey to find out the exact height and location. At first their Information Section said 142 metres, but after I pointed out that there were 145 metre contours on the maps they consulted their Survey Section and eventually sent me a letter and map pin-pointing the height as 146.3 metres at Grid Reference TL 42738 38546.
This places it in the centre of the B1039 opposite a row of houses about 150 metres south-east of the entrance to the recreation ground. Note that the Grid Ref of 427 380 given in the March Cantab Rambler appears to be below the 145 metre contour shown on Explorer 194 (Hertford and Bishop’s Stortford).
Sawston, 30 March 2003
Many thanks John, for exact information. The data in the article on Chishill in the March 2003 issue of Cantab was obtained from Paddy Dillon’s “The County Tops of the British Isles”, publ. by Gastons-West-Col, 1985. p.23, which gives 146m (480ft). Clearly, some more precise surveying has been made recently.
The West Anglian Way
Many thanks for the Cantab Rambler. I enjoyed reading it. You ask whether your readers would prefer an outline leaflet with basic instructions or a more elaborate booklet.
Personally, I would like both!! If the basic leaflet would be the descriptions of the walks which you already have on computer, maybe this would be pretty simple to produce.
I think a more elaborate booklet would be great. The Fen Rivers Way one seemed to be very popular. I would certainly buy one and I’m sure others would too. I really like the series of Cambridge walks booklets and dip into them all from time to time. I like walking books almost as much as maps!
I do keep walking guidebooks on a special shelf and revisit walks or parts of walks I have done and enjoyed and I just enjoy planning where I might go sometime. I also have quite a number of walking guidebooks of places I have never visited but would like to one day – such as Offas Dyke.
I am quite “addicted” to long distance paths and last week did another small section of the Icknield Way – from Hitchin to Baldock. Not the most inspiring of routes, but it took me that much further along the Icknield Way and I heard my first chiff-chaff this year, so that was very much worthwhile. Happy walking,
Cambridge, 25 March 2003
And on a postcard…
Thank you for organising the West Anglian Way walks. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every one of them. It was so interesting to meet, talk and walk with people from other groups. Also I managed to use the train on all except one of the walks.
Best Wishes, Barbara Beston
Sawbridgeworth, 11 March 2003
Glad you could come, Barbara, and your thanks go to the several people were involved in the arrangements.
Regarding the guide, progress so far is a draft route description for all parts of the full walks. We would like to compile some additional notes for those who would like shorter sections.
Paston and Norfolk
by John Capes
It is now 40 years since I left the village of Paston in north-east Norfolk where I was brought up, but I still remember all the houses, fields, tracks and hedgerows that make up that small rural community.
I was actually born in my grandparents’ bungalow in the next village of Knapton, and then lived for my first year in another neighbouring village of Edingthorpe, but it is Paston that I regard as my ‘home’ village. It is a very small village, in my youth there were about 300 inhabitants, it is probably much the same now – not much has changed there in the last seventy years, when I was last there two years ago only one new house had been built since I left! It lies about half a mile inland from the coast between Mundesley (to the north) and Bacton.
The village is arranged mainly around a rough rectangle of roads, a mixture of council houses and ex-farm-workers cottages. There was a shop and post-office at one corner, but that is now closed. From one corner of the rectangle is a loop road on which stood the vicarage, now a private house, and two other larger houses. There are several small groups of properties scattered around on the roads leading out of the village, one such group being about two miles away, nearly to North Walsham. There were three farms in the village, now reduced to two. There used to be a village pub, The Wherry, but it was over 2 miles from the village centre on the North Walsham and Dilham Canal, also long since defunct. There was a builder’s yard and a blacksmith’s forge. The builder has gone, but a couple of years ago the forge was in use again by someone doing wrought-iron work. The school that served the village stood just in the neighbouring village of Edingthorpe, just over a mile from the centre of both villages.
There are three buildings of note in the village. The rather nice thatched church is dedicated to St Margaret, which contains some tombs of the Paston family, but the main things of note are two mediaeval wall-paintings; one a ‘Doom’ painting – the three living and the three dead, the other of St Christopher. But the church is rather over-shadowed by the magnificent 16th century thatched barn just across a farmyard. This was built by Sir William Paston in 1581 and has some really splendid roof timbers, with alternate crossbeams and hammer beams. It is one of the three great barns of East Norfolk; the others being at Waxham and Hales, the latter is the largest and I think the earliest as it dates to the 15th century. The Paston barn is often quoted as a tithe barn, but it never was. In the Eastern Daily Press of 15th September 1925 there was a report of a visit to the village in that year of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, which stated, “The old tithe barn was pulled down fifty years ago. The Elizabethan Barn was never called the tithe barn”.
Then there is the windmill, sitting proudly on Stow Hill on the road to Mundesley. It is often captioned in photographs as Mundesley windmill, but it is just within the Paston boundary. It was built in the early 1820s; it last milled in about 1930, and the mill-stones were then removed; and was restored in 1961.
Mention Paston and a lot of people think of the famous Paston Letters, but these were not really about the village. They were written by members of the family, over some three generations in the 15th century, and sent mainly from their other properties at Oxnead, Caister, Norwich and London. The letters are considered to be one of the best records of the private social life of the period.
So there is the village, but what of the local landscape, and for ramblers the rights of way? The parish has always been very agricultural, and as a youngster growing up there in the 1930s, I and most of the other village children, roamed the fields fairly freely, as long as we didn’t spoil the crops, but we knew where we could go at the different times of the year. The landscape is gently undulating, as is much of Norfolk. The flat parts are mainly at the eastern and western extremities; the Fens being near King’s Lynn and the Broads and marshes near Great Yarmouth.
Our explorations often involved going to see what the farm-workers were doing in the fields and thus we got to know just about every twist and turn of the various fields around the village. Although we could more or less go at will we often used the tracks and paths, but actually there were not many of these. We had a vague idea that some of these were for public use and others not, but it didn’t really matter as everybody in the village seemed to use all of them.
There were four tracks leading to the cliffs, the one nearest to Bacton was well used because it led to the only easy way down the cliffs to the beach, but it was not a public track. It made the start of a very pleasant cliff walk towards Mundesley, but this track is now under the Bacton Natural Gas Terminal. The very lovely hedge-lined lane from near the vicarage was public with a footpath to the cliffs from its end, but unfortunately it was destroyed in the late 1930s to make the fields larger and more suitable for modern machinery! However, it has remained a public path. Towards Mundesley was another (private) farm track, but I used it a lot. Then lastly from opposite the windmill was the Yarmouth Road. Even in the 1930s this stopped at the cliffs, but in times past it had been the main coast road to Great Yarmouth, so it was public (it shows as a ‘white road’ on OS maps). This latter track led to Mundesley Holiday Camp – in Paston of course! The holiday camp caused a bit of a furore in the 1960s when they put a gate across it, but my father, who was chairman of the Parish Council at the time, soon got to grips with that and the gate was removed.
There are no footpaths near the village centre – there was one but that was closed when a new stretch of road was built in 1936. Some distance from the centre are two cross-field paths one from the North Walsham road across to Knapton, the other to Edingthorpe Church. However, at the far end of the village, towards North Walsham, there are several paths and two RUPPs (the latter may by now be re-classified). There is now a marked route known as The Paston Way, which runs from North Walsham to Cromer and is shown on OS Explorer 252 (25).
What of the general walking scene in Norfolk? I suppose that a disadvantage for many people is that it is agricultural, and with no hills of note. For me this does not matter, having been brought up in an agricultural village I am always interested to see what the farmers are doing. Paths obstructed by crops can be problem, but in our walks in Norfolk during the past three years Tessa and I have found stiles are the main cause for concern: we found a particularly hazardous one near Oxborough recently.
Where to walk? The coast is always attractive, there is a good one from Cromer along the cliffs to Sheringham, with a tremendous view of the latter from Beeston Bump; the return is then along the high ground just inland near the highest point in the county at Beacon Hill (102metres).
A few years ago I was given the Norfolk and Suffolk Pathfinder Guide book of walks and Tessa and I have done 27½ of the 28 walks in it (the half left over is in Suffolk). This has a very good range of walks. One that stands out starts from Holkham and involves walking along the beach, and goes through Burnham Thorpe – the birthplace of Horatio Nelson – and The Hero at Burnham Overy Staithe does a very good crab salad! If you want something different walk across the Halvergate marshes to the Berney Arms pub by the River Yare – must be the most remote pub in the county, it’s only open in the summer to cater for the river trade, the only road access is by a dirt track; or you can walk to it along the bank of Breydon Water from Great Yarmouth. If you fancy another unusual pub, walk from Blickling Hall round to the Walpole Arms at Itteringham. Another walk we liked was from Castle Acre along part the Nar Valley Way.
What about things to see on walks? An outstanding feature of Norfolk is its churches, many of which are worth investigating. That of St Peter and St Paul at Knapton, where I was baptised, has a wonderful array of angels adorning the roof timbers, reckoned as one of the best in the whole country, but in Norfolk those at Cawston and Salle rival it. At Trunch, next door to Knapton, there is a most splendid carved font canopy. To see some superb flint work look at the porch of St Mary’s at Pulham St Mary near Diss. Then there is the famous painted screen at Ranworth. One special feature of Norfolk church architecture are the round towers, there about 150 in the county, easily more that the rest of the country put together – Suffolk has about 60, Essex just six, and of course Cambridgshire has only two – Bartlow and Snailwell. Why are they round? One story is that there no corners in which the Devil can hide; but the real reason is much more practical; Norfolk has no building stone and corners cannot be built from flint!
Norfolk is under-rated as an area for walkers, go there, and enjoy it.
The Paston Letters: a selection in modern spelling, edited by N.Davis, World’s Classics Edition, OUP, 1961.
The Paston Way: 14pp A5 booklet, first published by Norfolk C.C. in 1997.
Norfolk & Suffolk Walks – Pathfinder Guide First Published 1991 by Ordnance Survey & Jarrold Publishing.
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© Janet Moreton, 2003.