Our last day was only a short stroll to finish the route. Hopton Fen was circled on paths and from then on we kept to small lanes. One was lined with lilac trees creating a unique aromatic feature. The Horse Chestnut candles were also blooming.
We were blessed with a beautiful warm clear morning to enjoy our leisurely stroll, cuckoos were calling, calves were sunning themselves and all felt right with the world.
Passing small estate houses on a driveway we emerged in front of a grand Georgian country house, turns out to be Riddlesworth Hall boarding school built in 1792. Achieved fame from Princess Dianne attending as a pupil, it still looks a very privileged institution. Our path was ‘quite rightly’ diverted around the grounds – we were a bit scruffy after all. On the lane leading to the Heath we recrossed the Little Ouse for the last time, a man from the Environmental Agency was donning waders to do some sampling of invertebrates, nice work on a day like today. he had some lovely Water Boatmen. A path through the heath took us to the start of the Peddars Way and the end of the Angles Way. Mission accomplished – we had completed the circuit of paths. A lift took us into Thetford and lunch before our rail journeys home. Whilst eating we enquired at the next table as to the whereabouts of the station – it was not close and all a bit complicated. No problem, later we were presented with an accurate hand-drawn map on a serviette. With this delicate navigational aid, we located the rail station and proceeded on our separate ways. Can the OS match this…
So what of the ANGLES WAY.
Well, it served its purpose of our annual reunion walk, graded easier each year. Good to meet up with Mel and share the pleasures of the walk.
The walking was of an easy standard [as planned] and the days readily accomplished with good accommodation each night. All our overnight villages were of interest and we were able to eat well and drink good ales.
Each day the fen scenery was expansive under those massive skies. The flowers and trees were superb and the variety of birds we casually saw impressive. A walk made for naturalists. We must have missed so much more. The weather was on the whole kind to us.
The walk through Diss was interesting with lots of old premises and in the centre, a large mere with its quota of ducks, what a great asset to a town.A delightful lane led out of town through Royden Fen with some fantastic cottages which would be a delight to live in. Meadows full of sheep, gorse covered heaths and thatched cottages made for great walking. Yet another church demanded attention. St. Mary at Wortham. St. Mary has the largest round tower in England dating from Saxon times, 10 metres across. Round towers seem to be an East Anglian speciality. Inside the pews are worth a look, their bench ends are carved into various figures illustrating apparently the 104th psalm, dating from the 1890s.
Open fields and ditches seemed an ideal habitat for cowslipsSheep and lambs were everywhere though none of the typical Suffolk breed. This one, no 3, had a multicoloured dream coat…A wonderful stretch through Redgrave Fen reserve took us to the watershed between the Waveney and the Ouse. You can hardly believe that these sluggish streams become great rivers. We then passed large pig farms and even larger industrial poultry farms [factories]. A well-preserved windmill at Thelnetham also demanded some close attention but unfortunately not operating today.
The dark clouds blowing in produced a heavy shower before we reached our excellent B&B at Hopton. The local pub, The Vine, served some great ales and cooked us a fantastic meal. Thanks. These little rural inns need all the support and mention they can get.
The weather forecast for today didn’t look good – gales and heavy rain. Set off with hope and by the end of the day we were wind-battered but dry, most of the rain blew through. That is often the case when you decide to go in the face of a poor forecast.
The morning was on good paths with glimpses of the river. Midway we climbed up to the pretty village of Brackish and yet another interesting church. This has been a feature of this walk – the number of historic churches.
The afternoon in the valley was rather disappointing as we never got close enough to the river, although two swans were spotted on the nest and hobbies were flying low over the fields.
On the way into Diss several restored manor houses were passed – they look in the million-pound class.
Another old inn, The Saracens Head, gave us a fine nights lodging with the obligatory sloping and creaking floors.
Late setting off after our award-winning breakfast.
Whilst walking on heathland between the marshes we came across a sluggish slow worm, a beautifully marked legless lizard.
Next stop was Ashby Church, a 13th century thatched construction with a semi-detached hexagonal tower. Whilst there chatted to a bloke who had recently walked part of the Lycian Way, a long route I completed a few years ago.
Quiet lanes took us through the extensive lands of Somerleyton Hall with all its attractive estate buildings, these estates must have employed thousands in their heyday. The hall itself was viewed from a distance. That school looks a great place for learning…
In the village there was a sculpture to commemorate the invention of the Hovercraft by Sir Christopher Cockerell in 1959, he used the local river for testing purposes. Round the corner was The Dukes Head pub, a quick pint was enjoyed in the sunshine. That evening they were expecting 90 rugby players for supper – best not to dwell on that.
In the nearby marina on the River Waveney people were sprucing up their boats for the season.
Another change of scenery and we were walking in trees alongside Blundeston Marshes. A dog Fox watched us from a 100yds, that was the closest we got. My pictures were of too poor quality. Further on there was a heronry above us. On the next lane, we were pleased to see where we were walking –
The route skirted affluent Oulton adjacent to the waterways which were thronged with boats on this beautiful sunny day. The sole accommodation next to Oulton Broad had only expensive doubles, so we caught the train into nearby Lowestoft for a seafront B&B [The Beach House] amongst all the stag and hen parties.
The journey down here was long and arduous, bus and three trains across country taking nearly 9 hours. Some of the scenery past Peterborough was as flat and dull as anywhere in the UK. I was so fatigued mentally that I succumbed to hailing a taxi for the 500yd stretch from Great Yarmouth station to Premier Inn where I was meeting my old mate Mel for our annual walking trip. This motel/restaurant has only been open a couple of months but already seems to have become a favourite with the locals. We enjoyed our pre-walk stay and slept well. The Angles Way runs for 77miles from Great Yarmouth to Knettishall Heath [recently extended to Thetford] and would complete our circuit of the area – Peddars Way, North Norfolk Coastal Path and the Weavers Way.
After a first-class breakfast we set off in the cool morning following the waymarks from the train station, through the crumbling outskirts …… how many letterboxes can you fit into a door.
We joined the dog walkers alongside Breydon Water. This stretch of water looked rather desolate with no present-day shipping. Across the water we could see Berney Windmill which we had passed on the Weavers Way a few years ago. The reed beds sounded full of warblers, how I would like to see a Reed Warbler and even more so a Bearded Tit.
Next, it was from a Roman Fort, Burgh Castle, surprisingly large preserved walls …… via a waterside pub …… to a Saxon Church at Fritton with some stunning wall paintings.
Our excellent b&b in Fritton was run by a chirpy Cockney and the friendly pub opposite, the Decoy Tavern, provided good basic grub.
Heavy overnight rain was easing off as we set off and soon we were in a gale-force wind on the plateau of the disused Flixton wartime airfield. The American Air Force used this as a bombing base and were in support of the Normandy landings. Bits of runway appeared below the now agricultural use – extensive fields of wheat and rape.
It was hard going in the strong wind and we were glad to reach the relative shelter of country lanes in the Waveney valley. Ahead of us were some working sand/gravel pits which are quite common in the area, the numerous fishing lakes bear witness to this. In an adjoining field, archaeologists were sifting through the sand, they find continuous signs of occupation from the Iron Age, through Roman times to the medieval. The painstaking work is being carried out before the quarry may expand, didn’t look very inviting in this morning’s weather. As we walked into Homersfield I was attracted to a wooden totem pole carved by Mark Goldsworthy, a local artist, depicting a man in a fishing boat and the words “I dreamed of a beautiful woman who carried me away”. This is a reference to Roman Times when the river Waveney was called Alveron which means ‘beautiful woman’. The striking sculpture stands on what was once the river bed.
Further into the village, we passed the ‘picturesque’ Barnfield cottages built-in 1925 for elderly estate workers.
On past the houses around the village green we happened upon the pub for a pint where we were the only customers. The place has been gentrified with an expensive restaurant possibly to the detriment of the locals drinking, one can see why rural premises are in decline.
More interesting walking on paths in riverside fields and woods followed, the wind didn’t abate. The wild garlic reminded me of a recipe I want to try when I get home. ‘poached egg on a bed of steamed garlic leaves with buttered new potatoes’
The River Waveney was crossed at Mendham where there was a more friendly pub. A final rise crested in the head-on gale to approach the new developments on the outskirts of Harleston. This turned out to be a pleasant old market town to spend the evening in, our 450 years old coaching inn, The Swan, creaked at every step.
Beccles to Bungay sounds like something from a 50’s comic.
Mr Wetherspoon cooked us a lovely breakfast for £2.99.
Wandering through the back streets of Beccles was interesting as several lanes heading down to the river were named ‘Score’. A lady resident suggested this was related to the scores made by dragging goods up from the boats.
Out of town, we passed the ghost-ridden Roos Hall and its haunted ancient Nelson Oak, where local miscreants were hung. After that we needed some relaxing walking and the fields full of birdsong leading to the scattered hamlet of Shipmeadow provided it.
The high plateaux (30ft!) of wheat fields were rather boring but soon we were on the outskirts of Bungay with its prominent church tower visible. The Angles Way, however, does a large loop here and it was several hours before we reached our destination. This included a break by an old watermill at Wainford a walk past a quiet May fair in Ditchingham with some fine old vehicles on show some stunningly situated rural houses by the river and a steep climb (unique in these parts) and a pint brewed on the premises of The Queens Head, Earsham.On arriving at our B&B we were worried about the apparent absence of any sign of life, sitting around for a while and when just about to phone out came the lady from no 9 who was expecting us – we were outside no 8, the wrong house. Embarrassing.
The weather throughout the day was bright and sunny, perfect.
Horrendous weather this morning, rain and wind, it is a Bank Holiday after all. We spent the morning in the dry, drinking coffee until the skies cleared. Chatting to our host we heard all about the horrors of being flooded out a couple of years ago, he has just reopened and is still struggling with his insurance claim. By lunchtime, the winds eased and the sun shone. From the station, we were straight into a drab holiday complex and further on the remnants of one from another era. Shortly afterwards we came across signs closing the Angles Way path alongside the River Waveney, not what we wanted to see. Not fancying the complex diversion we climbed over the barriers and risked getting out the other end. The works were mainly cosmetic, we caused no damage and enjoyed our lonely tramp. Highlights were a close encounter with a Marsh Harrier, a Hobby darting past and a sight of a Reed Warbler. Swans were nesting on the fen –
– and the Marsh Marigolds were in full bloom. The river glided past with a few pleasure boats just about overtaking us. For 6 miles we saw no one on the path, this seems to be the norm in these parts – very sparsely populated. When we did encounter people we realised Beccles was just around the corner, its church tower visible above the trees. Boats seemed to go right into the centre of the town, it had previously been a busy port. Georgian houses lined the streets leading up to the market square and church with its separate tower. Stayed in The Kings Head which turned out to be a Wetherspoon’s operation. The room was great but the bar/restaurant far too busy in the evening with noisy revellers so we slunk off to a nearby curry house.