Tag Archives: Walking

Norfolk Broads : How Hill and St Benets Abbey

Somewhere out in the middle of the Norfolk countryside.

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Tim : Where is everybody?   Me : Still in bed?   Tim: What?   Me : (shouting) Christmas shopping?  Tim : Mad   Me : Yep

Sometimes our conversations are gripping……..

Sunday 10th December 2016

This December morning we are up and out (sleep?) walking by 9:15.

Camera batteries don’t charge themselves (oops I forgot) but I desperately wanted to record our walk for this blog so Tim said I could borrow his SLR.  This heavy lump of a camera has been slightly neglected in favour of my new compact but today it was out for another airing albeit in my backpack which, according to Tim, would be good weight training for future treks/walks….hmmm.

In the heart of the Norfolk Broads are two places that are photographed by professional and hobby photographs alike throughout the year. How Hill and St Benets Abbey.  From the village of Ludham, which is about 10 miles east of Norwich, our route of about 8 1/2 miles would allow us to get to both.

We headed north out of the village, on pavements at first, then crossed fields on footpaths and a quiet lane to reach How Hill.  How Hill comprises a large thatched house with garden and grounds that look down onto the Ant valley – the River Ant and surrounding reserve.  School children stay here on educational trips learning about the Norfolk Broads, it’s history, wildlife and conservation.  It’s a wonderful place – it makes you breathe.

Walk just past the house and this is the view.

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A track leads down to the river.  Here is a small thatched house, now a small museum.  Inside gives an impression of how marsh men would have lived in Victorian times.  I try to photograph this every visit and I’m never quite happy that I’ve captured the feel of the place.  Still, here it is. Toad Hole Cottage.  The name makes me think of Wind in the Willows ….though of course that would be Toad Hall which this certainly isn’t.

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There are a couple of wooden framed mills on the river bank to the right of a boathouse and I wanted to photograph them so off we set.  As you can see the sun was out (can’t complain) but it was in totally the wrong place!  Hey, never mind, I quite liked the silhouette and Tim (who is my photography guru) said it was the best shot of the day so I had to show it off.

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We retraced our steps then continued along the footpath by the river passing the mill that must be photographed hundreds of times every year by boaters or walkers.  The photo I took is copied in black and white at the top – I wonder which is best, I can’t decide….

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For two miles we continued along this twisting grassy path, towards Ludham Bridge, the low sun in the sky in our faces.

The road bridge crosses the river here, we turn left then up the road a bit taking the first right turn at the Dog Inn.  About five minutes along this very quiet road we turned right onto a lane that soon turns into a farm track.  It’s wide enough for two cars to pass and goes ever so slightly downhill. We were heading back out onto the marsh.

This was new walking territory and sometimes a mile seems like a long way.  At the very end the track was really rough, just before a small car park. Here, at last, right next to the river Bure, are the first glimpses of St Benets.

Thankfully the one and only bench here was free so we could enjoy a bit of comfort for lunch – but not before I ran about taking a few photos while the sun shone.

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The main ruin that you see here is the old gatehouse which later had a mill built inside it (18th century).  There is also a small section of the wall that used to circle the whole site – on the far left. This is the gatehouse for what was the grounds surrounding St Benets Abbey and is the only structure left on the whole site.

There’s a small section of ruin – part of the actual abbey – protected by a wooden stake fence.  I didn’t like the look of the fence so didn’t bother photographing it.  I’m such an ancient monument snob!

A tiny bit of history

On the site was one of the wealthiest Benedictine buildings in the country.  There were several properties and a church as well as an abbey here.  Apparently King Henry VIII  didn’t include the monastery in the dissolution – instead the Bishop of Norwich took on all the properties.  However, this didn’t stop it being plundered and the buildings all disappeared (about 1545).  Phew – google helped me out here – sorry for any historical errors!

I was completely shocked by the amount of graffiti.  Shocked but interested.

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Couldn’t resist another artistic shot – below.

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We retraced our steps back up the farm track then took a footpath to the edge of the village.

By 3pm the sun was sinking and clouds starting to roll in.  We reached the car and stood for a moment against the wall surrounding the church.  Cars with their passengers were travelling along heading home from their shopping trips…..

This walk can be and almost always in shortened by us – missing St Benets.  It’s a peaceful walk and, if you dress warmly, is really enjoyable in the winter.

 

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Right around Cornwall on foot (almost)

Two weeks ago we sat at Padstow Harbour in the warm late September sun enjoying Bubblegum flavoured ice cream and patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.  Our mission accomplished. 100 miles in 10 days.

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We’ve had 7 weeks walking the South West Coastal Path over the last two years and, from our calculations, have covered 244 miles.  We’re delighted – firstly with our achievement (does that big headed?) and secondly to have seen so much of the incredible coast down on the South West tip of our country.  We’ve been lucky with the weather.  This means our walks have been slowed due to the photography and filming and stopping for a coffee (with a view) along the way.  That’s our excuse anyway!

“What bits were best”?  – a question we just can’t answer.  All of it, most of it.

Apart from the spectacular scenery there’s the wildlife, animals and birds along the way : the grazing cattle, ponies and sheep, the hovering kestrels and lots of unknown sea birds, seals, porpoise, and a pod of dolphins.  The slow worm, barrel jelly fish, song birds, swallows, sand martins, beetles.  Butterflies fluttering out of hedgerows like dust.  We’ve tried to photograph them all.

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The plants and trees.  Huge tropical specimens, pretty flowers, bluebells and brambles. Miles and miles of brambles all covered in sweet blackberries taking us back to our childhood and supplying us with extra healthy snacks along the way.

Then of course, there’s the small villages tucked away amongst the rocky headlands and larger towns spread out along river estuaries – some still with working harbours.  The fishing boats, ferries and sail craft.  The bunting stretched across the streets.

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Other things that come to mind.  The different coloured sand and the incredible rock, the smell of seaweed – sometimes strong sometimes surprisingly nice.  The many buses we used to allow us to complete linear walks including the free ride we had when the ticket machine didn’t work and we were the only ones on-board.  The boat trips, the helicopters, the naval boats and the wind.

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Almost always we had a view out across the ocean.

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My advice is take a trip down to Cornwall and explore the coastal path.  We only have a small section of the path in Cornwall to complete so we need to decide and plan our next trip.  Somerset, Devon or Dorset?  Decisions, decisions.

For the time being I may come back to Cornwall, from time to time, to detail some of our walks.

 

 

 

On the edge of something big

We have spent many years exploring the Lakeland Fells.  Green valleys, lakes of all sizes and the mountains, what’s not to love.

People have said to me “doesn’t it always rain?”.  Well maybe we’ve been lucky or maybe we’ve just got on with it and ended up enjoying ourselves whatever the weather.  I tend to remember lots and lots of sunny days with only the odd wet or windy one.  As this blog grows I hope to prove that the weather up north is, believe it or not, often very nice indeed.

This post is all about a ridge. The sorts of thing that struck fear into our hearts when we first ventured out onto the footpaths of the Lakeland fells. The sort of place that we would never have dreamed we would explore.

Now the thing is that I’ve always been a bit short of those vital triggers that tell any normal brain that certain activities might be a bit dangerous, ever since I could stand or possibly before that!  Tim, on the other hand, has always made sure that he (and now we) ‘live to see another day’ – he has a sensible survival instinct. For that I thank him.

Our first proper ridge walk – September 1999

September 1999 – Tims 40th year.  As long as the weather was good we would do Striding Edge and so we did.

From Glenridding village the path takes a gentle but continuous path upwards to a place called ‘Hole in the wall’ – which is now a stile over the wall.  Once there (after about 1 1/2 hours walking) you get a glimpse of the ridge and the top of Helvellyn, the third highest mountain (fell) in the Lake District.

The photo below was taken close to the hole in March 2010.  I’m sat on ‘the wall’ and the wall leads right onto the ridge and up onto Helvellyn which is the plateau beyond that.

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Its decision time at this point.  People stand and stare at the scene trying to take it all in if it’s clear, trying to imagine it if it isn’t !  As you can see the weather in March 2010 was perfect but we didn’t have crampons with us and Tims survival instinct told us that it would be far too dangerous to attempt – the rock being thick with ice, so we took a snowy route up onto another nearby fell that day.

Back to September 1999.  It was also clear and with dry rock and no wind it was safe to proceed.  It’s no fun in mist, fog or rain and we had actually turned away from this very point earlier in the year to save it for another day.  Oh my goodness were we disappointed.

So up we went. Now this airy ridge has a bit of a reputation for being quite scary and when you come across a plaque ‘In memory of Robert Rooking of Patterdale who was killed on this spot on 28th day of November 1858 following the Patterdale Foxhounds’ it might not help your nerves if you’re feeling a bit jittery.

However, even though there are fairly long drops on both sides there is a rough track just below the crest if it all gets a bit much.

This is the view we had back in 1999.  A photo of a photo – no digital back then.

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We were up early to do this walk and I can’t see anyone in this photo but as we were making our steady way across we were joined by other intrepid explorers – all of us heading for ‘the top’.

Now right at the end there’s a down climb of about 10 feet on a bit of rock known as a Chimney.  It’s here that a small crowd can often be seen waiting in a bottleneck.  Thankfully not too busy when we were there – we crouched down and climbed, facing into the rock.  It’s a shame we didn’t take any photos at this point because it was quite a moment.

Finally we had a scramble up the head wall of Helvellyn to the top.  It was here, where there is another memorial, that my legs went to jelly.  Even so I think we practically skipped to the cairn and trig point on the summit and enjoyed the view. You can see the ridge over my shoulder on the right.

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The first of several thrilling ridges for us.  Here we are – fashions come and go but mountains generally stay the same!

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Sanctuary, solitude and steps

Majorca, an island in the Mediterranean, is heavily dependent on tourists and last week we joined that happy crowd taking a very convenient two hour (ish) flight from our local Norwich (International) Airport.

We stayed in a rather nice hotel in Puerto Pollenca which is near the north eastern tip of the island.  We’ve been to Majorca a few years ago – once staying at  Cala d’or (south east) and another time at Camp de Mar (south west).  These previous trips were before we got into really loving all things hilly and mountainous.

So, here we were now, just a stones thrown from the Serra de Tramuntana, with walking boots at the ready.

Tuesday 24th May 2016

Pollenca old town is a short bus ride but we took a taxi as we were being far too British at the bus stop. We love to queue, say no more!

Once out of the taxi we headed off following the ‘Calvari’ signs. The town is made up of narrow streets with small shops and cafes and two or three squares.

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In a corner of the central square, Placa Major, is the large 13th century Church Esglesia de Nostra Senyora dels Angels. The walls and ceilings inside are quite impressive.

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Beyond the church, the ancient Calvari Steps lead up and out of the town to a small chapel. Lined on both sides with mature Cyprus trees and some small properties the 365 steps might be a struggle, especially in the middle of the day or height of summer.  We thought  they were relatively easy! After taking a respectful peak into the small church at the top (it really is small) we treated ourselves to a cool drink from the cafe next door. Sitting in the shade with the occasional scent from a flowering Jasmine, it was bliss…

The view back down to the town was really very good from the top of the steps. However, our eyes were looking beyond the town to the hill opposite, to the Puig de Maria. A couple of quick photos and we were soon making our way back down and cross town to start our ascent.

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Alongside the main road there was a sign which told us that it would take an hour from this point. We came across these sorts of signs in Switzerland last year – they usefully tell you how long a walk should take rather than the distance.

The path starts off as a driveable road but that changes gradually to a rough track then eventually to a cobbled path. The only way to get to the very top is on foot, zigzagging in tight hairpins with occasional glimpses down through the trees. It was warm and we saw only a couple of other people.

Near the top there’s a sign which tells you that you only 10 minutes more to go. Yay. This hill is only 330 meters high (1082 feet) but fairly steep walking.

Finally the monastery comes into view. This is the Santurari de la Mare de Deu del Puig. Built in the 14th century there is a chapel and monastery which housed nuns from the local area. The nuns have left but walkers now can spend the night in basic accommodation here.

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We crept inside – it was time for lunch. Along a corridor we found a small dark room with counter and a menu – listed on a piece of paper which was pinned to the wall. A man appeared to take our order but was unable to speak English so we ended up pointing at the menu to make our selection. The baked tuna baguette that arrived with olives, tomatoes and chillies, sprinkled generously with olive oil, was delicious and very reasonably priced.

There are areas to sit outside but as it was hot we sat inside in a room with shutters at the small windows, dark furniture, tiled floor and lots of beams. We were all alone and we whispered to each other….it was cool (in both senses of the word), it was very atmospheric.

Back out into the sunshine we explored the outside, took lots of photos then sauntered back down. The views were fantastic of the surrounding countryside, the mountains and the bay of Pollenca.

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We felt like real pilgrims.

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Twixt Pine and Sea

Sheringham, on the North Norfolk coast, grew with the fishing industry.  The arrival of the railway meant the fish could easily be transported to the London markets. It’s now a traditional seaside town with only a handful of small fishing boats. Sheringham Park a couple of miles from the town was designed in 1812. It has a wonderful landscaped garden with park land and is famous for its rhododendrons and azaleas – you could spend all day there.

Pick a sunny day in early May to visit the garden and you won’t be disappointed. Do not go at the end of April ( as we have just done) if you’ve not been before. Not that it isn’t a beautiful place to go anyway – it’s just that if you haven’t seen the garden in full bloom then you’d miss out. My guess for this year is the third week in May!

Saturday 30th April 2016

There’s lots of parking at Sheringham Park itself but this time we parked the car just up the road in a smaller car park at Pretty Corner. Pretty Corner – sits next to a lovely wood with several trails and a tea shop (as yet unsampled by us).

We set off towards Upper Sheringham which is small village where all the properties seem to be styled with flint. Swallows were flying low over the fields. We’ve walked this way before and usually it’s so quiet you wonder whether anyone actually lives here at all. The silence was broken this time by a group guys on mountain bikes who passed us.

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Upper Sheringham

Into the park we went through some iron gates and turned left. The coffee at the cafe was calling us. The courtyard cafe is a great little spot to linger. There’s a small gift shop and visitors centre – it’s hard to resist a browse and it’s even harder to resist buying cake with your coffee! My writing about cafes and food seems to be growing trend in my posts.

 

Having made the most of the facilities we set off along the main path. In about two weeks time this place will be packed with people taking photos – for now it was fairly quiet. We did find one or two shrubs in flower so we weren’t too disappointed.

 

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There are a couple of small wooden towers (get a map at the centre to help find them) which give views over the top of the plants. It’s worth having a look for them. The main path leads out, away from the trees and shrubs, and you get a glimpse of the sea and Weybourne Mill in the distance.

We made for the sea, leaving the park by crossing the busy coast road and following the footpath that takes you over a railway bridge. This is where the North Norfolk steam trains run (the Poppy Line). It’s like being taken way, way back in time if you coincide your bridge crossing with a train. The golden age of steam….

Just a short stroll away are the sandy cliffs. Here the skylarks were singing high in the sky. Ahhh, the sound of summer. We turned right and headed towards the tiny coast watch building on the top of the highest cliff. It was a race to bag our favourite bench for our lunch stop. There were several people milling about at the top but we beat any challengers to ‘our spot’. Sea, the woods, steam trains, blue sky and even a bit of golf to watch – perfect.

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Time for lunch

The cliff top path takes you on to the seaside town of Sheringham. Suddenly there are lots of people eating lots fish & chips and ice cream. I prefer the artwork that has been added to the sea walls – showing the old fishing days. Does that sound bad?

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Sea Wall painting at Sheringham

Through and out of the town we marched alongside the main road – the A148. I am always amazed by the amount of people travelling along in cars in the middle of the day when it’s sunny. Maybe this time it had something to do with the Thomas the Tank Engine railway day at Sheringham station. I thought how my nephews and nieces would enjoy that.

Turning off the main road we passed Beeston Hall boarding school, heading inland. We reached Beeston Regis Heath and climbed up through the trees to the high point at Stone Hill. Not a great height but not bad for Norfolk.

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Stone Hill

From here it’s down, across a road and into the woods – Sheringham Woods. There are numerous paths – be prepared to get lost! My tip would be to follow dog walkers – almost guaranteed to take you safely out and back to the car park at Pretty Corner.

These open and hilly areas in Norfolk around Beeston Regis Heath, the Roman Camp (highest point in Norfolk) and Sheringham Park and Wood are all owned by the National Trust and for that we should be thankful.

Sheringham town motto – Twixt pine and sea (between pine trees and the sea).

Camera, cloud and claggy paths

Out on a long walk with a new camera today.

It’s a shame that I didn’t have this camera on Thursday.  The temperature dropped way below freezing and both Ormesby and Rollesby Broad froze over.  It was quite a sight as I drove (as slowly as I could) on the road between the two – on the way to work. The bare trees and dry yellow reed all lit up in early morning sunshine how  I wished I could just turn the car around, drive home, collect Tims SLR, and return to capture the scene digitally.

So, out on location today, and with Tims assistance, I put it though its first test – under a grey sky. Our walk started at the small village of West Somerton which is in an area of The Broads that has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to it being a haven for wildlife.

Here is my first shot taken right next to our parked car.

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As we did last week our walk would take us to Potter Heigham – this time from the East.

We generally see Marsh Harrier gliding through the sky especially in this area and today they didn’t disappoint us.  Large birds of prey that are doing really well now.  The footpaths we followed were mostly muddy and in places the river had burst its banks and spread out onto the path.  We passed one couple squelching along – the young lady in white pumps.  They were enjoying themselves which was great – we chatted to them for a bit as we went along.

Another lovely welcome at the tea shop at Potter Heigham.  Visit them if you’re out this way – its our favourite at the moment.

Click here to check out Potter Heigham Tea Shop website

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Tim (on a diet) sat with his back to the delicious cakes!

We retraced our steps back towards Matham Ferry floating swing bridge then turned up Cess Lane then crossed left across ploughed (muddy) fields up to Thunder Hill Farm where we found a bench with a view.  We enjoyed our lunch – Lentil Dahl soup (new for us) and sandwiches (as normal !).

A quick walk along the north side of Matham village then dropped back down to the fields and eastwards back to West Somerton.  The sun was trying to break through as we headed home for a “jolly nice cup of tea”.

I’d love to add maps to these walks it haven’t worked out how that’s done.  Will do so as soon as I do.

For camera enthusiasts – I now have a Canon G9X.

 

These boots are made for…

Of all the clothing and gear we use today to enjoy our walking adventures my walking boots are, perhaps, the most important.  My newest boots are pink and I love them!

My home is Norfolk – a big flat county with big skies, beaches and lots of waterways.  We’ve done lots of walking here (as it’s nice & local!) but these pink boots were not made for marsh and sand, they were made for rocky ground.

For this we travel ‘up North'(and then West a bit) to the beautiful Cumbrian Mountains (called Fells) of the Lake District.  To an area that Tim and I have now been exploring extensively, on foot, since the early 1990s.  It’s a place that changed us.  A place where our choice of footwear became really quite important…..

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April 1995 – Wellington boots and trainers

We had no idea when we first went to the Lakes, on our very first exploration, which followed a path up onto higher ground.  We were following a route in Loweswater, which is a quiet spot in the western lakes, from a small guide book.  It was basically a circuit of the lake but included the romantically named ‘Darling Fell’.

It was Easter, the sun shone, lambs skipped in the valley, both lake and sky were beautifully blue in early spring sunshine.  The mountains to the south and east looked impressive but we only had a small climb to Darling fell summit.  The climb was worth it for the view.  However on the way down Tim split his new trainers and I really struggled in my wellies.  Walking got just a bit more difficult.

Darling Fell had fooled us.  Even a small hill can do that.

We eventually limped into The Loweswater Inn – our half way point.  The place was heaving with happy walkers all enjoying the local food & drink.  It was here that our eyes were opened to the world of well equipped (and booted) walker.  Smiling shiny faced people with maps and backpacks – we wanted to join that club!

Within a day or so we went to the shops to buy our first boots and we became smiling shiny faced people too.

Here is a photo of Loweswater with Darling Fell to the right of the lake.

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I have to add that there is nothing wrong with trainers or Wellington boots – just the terrain you use them in.