December 13 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 11, 2013
The “missing link” at the heart of Norfolk’s footpath network has finally been filled with the opening of a new 12-mile trail in the Wensum valley.
The Wensum Way strides through a picturesque swathe of countryside between Gressenhall and Lenwade, with a link to the market town of Dereham.
Although the route is comparatively short, it holds a significant position at the fulcrum of the Norfolk Trails network, joining the Nar Valley Way and Marriott’s Way – and opening up a 96-mile cross-county route in the process.
It means, for the first time, it is now possible to walk across the width of Norfolk, from Great Yarmouth in the east, to King’s Lynn in the west, on pathways maintained to the same standard as the UK’s most prestigious National Trails.
On its own, the Wensum Way offers a manageable route for walkers keen to discover the quintessential charms of Mid Norfolk.
But as part of the completed network, it is hoped it will attract long-distance hikers, boosting tourism and creating opportunities for businesses operating along the route.
Norfolk County Council chairman Hilary Cox, a keen walker herself, formally opened the route yesterday, including a commemorative bench at the half-way point near Swanton Morley.
She said: “I am really pleased that the county council has created this brand new footpath. We don’t want a missing link in Norfolk. It is important that we are connected to what we have got here, and connected to other people – and there is that possibility of meeting people along the route from other parts of the county.
“I am confident the Wensum Way will encourage more people to reap the amazing health and wellbeing benefits that a day out in the countryside can bring and that the lure of the longer-distance challenge will attract more dedicated walkers keen to try Norfolk’s new coast to coast footpath.
“Either way, it will bring new visitors into our countryside and that will be welcome news for the thousands of local businesses that create jobs in our rural communities and depend on countryside walkers for their trade.”
Part of the Wensum Way will pass through Castle Farm and Park Farm in Swanton Morley, owned by John Carrick.
He said he maintains the public footpaths on his land through a Higher Level Stewardship deal, and he hopes the added footfall could bring more business to his campsite and bed and breakfast.
“Because we have a campsite and a hospitality business, it seemed a logical next move to have a recognised footpath that people could go on,” he said. “It brings people into the area and it brings spending power into the area. Once people leave their home they want something to eat or somewhere to stay or to buy souvenirs. It all helps the greater rural economy.”
The majority of the route passes through the North Elmham division of county councillor Bill Borrett, who also arrived to walk the trail on its first official day. He said: “I have loved this valley all my life and when I realised that this was the bit that was missing from the wider route network, I was very keen to champion the cause of the Wensum Way.
“The Norfolk Trails are really important for the rural economy in Norfolk and by completing the King’s Lynn to Great Yarmouth link I hope that people will travel from all over the UK to enjoy Norfolk’s countryside.”
The Wensum Way begins close to the 19th century workhouse at Gressenhall which now hosts Norfolk’s rural life museum.
Other highlights along the trail are the picturesque village of Elsing, the dramatic 14th-century church at Swanton Morley, Lyng’s 18th century mill-house and World War two anti-tank blocks.
It passes close to 26 county wildlife sites and four Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The River Wensum itself is a designated European Special Area of Conservation. Over 270 species have been recorded in the river valley, from plants, butterflies and moths to otters, water voles, bats, dragonflies and more than 200 species of birds including bitterns and marsh harriers.
For more information about the Norfolk Trails visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/trails.