Discover Norfolk's walking and cycling routes this October
PUBLISHED: 16:52 27 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:52 27 September 2018
Dust off your walking boots and pump up your tyres, the Norfolk Walking & Cycling Festival starts on Monday. Andrew Jamieson shares his vision for an accessible county.
If the summer was too hot for walking and cycling, then autumn promises a much cooler climate in which to explore our fine county. And for the organisers of Norfolk’s fourth Walking & Cycling Festival, that’s exactly what they’re hoping to encourage people to do, with more than 50 organised events to get you out and about throughout October.
Starting on Monday, some of the events are being delivered directly by Norfolk County Council - many through its Marriott’s Way Heritage Trail Project, which is hosting this year’s festival - and others by partner organisations such as National Trust, RSPB and Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
“We live in a wonderful county,” says Andrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council’s member champion for cycling and walking. “I want to make a difference in getting more people walking and cycling in it, and the festival is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
“It’s such a nice time of year – especially if we get a Little Summer of St Luke. It’s a chance to get out and enjoy the last bit of autumn sunshine.”
It’s the second year that the festival has run for a whole month, and last year 2,789 people took part in events. Nature and history walks are a particular feature, as well as lots of new circular walks and rides, both on or near Marriott’s Way, and right across the county.
The special focus on Marriott’s Way will highlight this traffic-free, 26-mile route between Norwich and Aylsham. With around 300 miles of disused railways which could potentially be brought back into use as cycling and walking routes across the county, Andrew is keen to replicate the success of this much-loved trail.
“What is so brilliant about Marriott’s Way is that it was the first old railway line to be converted into a walking and cycling route,” says Andrew, adding that former council leader Cliff Jordan was very keen for more railway trails to be created.
“It was sadly something he didn’t have time to pursue, and I’d like to push it forward. If you look at maps, which I very much like to do, there are old railway lines all over; it’s an obvious starting point to open up the county. Some landowners are amazingly open to allow public access, but this is an area we need to work on.”
The benefits of opening up these old railways are manifold. The health and wellbeing aspects of being active and enjoying the great outdoors are obvious, but there are also social, community and economic benefits - promoting Norfolk as a cycling destination being the big one.
“I had a great conversation with a 75-year-old lady at a parish council meeting the other day,” says Andrew. “I’d seen this lady before and she told me that she’d discovered the ‘Couch to 5K’ programme. It had perked up and she’d met lots of new people as a result, which is quite inspiring.”
The Norfolk Walking & Cycling Festival programme has been designed for a range of interests, from birding walks at Titchwell and Fungi Forays at Felbrigg, to archaeology around Lenwade and a lantern walk at dusk on the Marriott’s Way.
Lots of the events are free and there are also a number of hand-picked self-guided walks which can be download.
For more information and to book a place, visit www.norfolkwalkingfestival.co.uk
Where to walk?
Andrew Jamieson shares some of his favourite spots…
Norfolk Coast Path
I live in Thornham, and I’m hugely biased towards coastal walks. We’re very lucky to have the Norfolk Coast Path, and although it’s not a circular route, the Coastliner run by Lynx offers a very reliable service to get you back to your staring point.
I like to set off from Hunstanton and head east to the lighthouse and those amazing red and white stripey cliffs, through Old Hunstanton and its lovely sandy beaches, coming to Holme with beautiful views across the North Sea and inland to the NWT Holme Dunes nature reserve.
There’s a section which doesn’t follow the coast after this, but it soon will as part of the England Coast Path, which Natural England expects to be complete by 2020. You come back to the coast at Brancaster, greeted by panoramic views of the saltmarsh across to Brancaster Harbour and Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve.
From here you can carry on all the way to Sea Palling if you like, it’s entirely up to you how far your walk will take you.
Holkham is on The Norfolk Coast Path, but I feel it deserves its own mention.
My late father lost his legs, but before that he was a very active and outgoing man, and he still liked to get out in his wheelchair.
It made me realise how little places there were to go for a walk with a wheelchair. Holkham is one of the few that is really good from that point of view, especially with the boardwalks. It’s also great for pushchairs.
Courtyard Farm, Ringstead
Peter Melchett was a friend of mine and as well as being an organic farmer and politician, he was also a campaigner and environmentalist, taking the role of chairman and then executive director of Greenpeace from 1986 to 2001.
He sadly died in August this year, but one of his legacies is miles of public access footpaths on his land. It really is the most beautiful spot – the cowslips in May are simply stunning.
When I envisage a relationship between land owners and public access, I think about Peter and there is the template.
Nar Valley Way
This route takes in West Acre, Castle Acre and the River Nar. It’s a beautiful part of high Norfolk, blessed by wide open skies and the wonderfully deserted inland countryside.
You can walk there and hardly see another soul. And it’s the same on many of our inland paths, including the Peddars Way, which until you get up to the coast is hugely under-populated.
I’d like to see more people enjoying these paths, and hopefully the Norfolk Walking & Cycling Festival will encourage just that.