Lenwade, Little Witchingham, Swannington (6 miles)
This walk from Malcolm Palmer and Susie Bloomfield heads north from Lenwade and the verdant valley of the River Wensum and uses an even mixture of quiet lanes and field paths to pass close to two interesting churches – All Saints', Little Witchingham, and St Margaret's, Swannington.
The former has some remarkable wall paintings dating from around the middle of the 14th century and the latter (at roughly the half-way point) a richly coloured and intricate east window. Although both churches are just off the route of the walk, diversions to them would be worthwhile if time is available.
The route then ascends through the lovely little undulating Alderford Common, an SSSI-status 41-acre area of diverse habitats including scrub, woodland, bracken heath, marshy grassland and ponds.
The walk then crosses a ridge, which affords fine views, and finally settles back into the Wensum Valley to use Marriott's Way, the line of the former railway track, to return to Lenwade.
Leaving the small car park where Marriott's Way crosses Porter's Lane, turn left along the lane which shortly crosses the River Wensum. Pause on the bridge to admire the placid scene, but beware as the road narrows at this point and vehicles pass frequently. Just beyond the bridge, at the road junction, go straight ahead and uphill along a concrete drive. Where this swings left into industrial premises, continue straight ahead into a narrow footpath along the right edge of a belt of trees.
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Where the trees end, go on across a field aiming for the left corner of the small copse opposite. From there, cross into a second field and continue the line of the walk to the far side to arrive at a lane. (The whole stretch from entering the concrete drive to reaching the lane is a straight line). Turn right along the lane and keep along it, ignoring two lanes off to the right, as it curves leftwards between fields towards Little Witchingham Church (which is indicated by a signpost).
Just before reaching the church there is a prominent public footpath sign pointing off the lane to the right along the side of a tall Leylandii hedge bordering Church Farm. Take this path and, from the end of the farm buildings, carry on in a straight line across two fields to meet Reepham Road by a pair of semi-detached houses. Cross over into Kett's Lane opposite and follow this narrow lane (which, according to custom, is where Robert Kett, the leader of the famous Norfolk rebellion against the enclosures of common land, was arrested in 1549). The lane affords views of pleasant rolling countryside as it descends into the valley of a narrow stream flowing from north to south behind Swannington Manor.
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Some 30m beyond a little bridge, turn right at a footpath sign into a wild damp area and continue ahead through lush undergrowth including drifts of tall horsetails. A little further on, the path skirts a very impressive, possibly unique, 300-year-old yew hedge at the back of Swannington Manor. At the further end of the hedge, by a pond ornamented with clumps of 'Giant Rhubarb' (Gunnera Manicata), fork right at a way-marked post to leave the bottomland by way of two plank bridges close together and regain the fields. At the first arable field go diagonally leftwards aiming for a small clump of trees and a telephone pole. Cross into a second field and follow its left edge beside a hedgerow. When this hedgerow ends, carry on over the third field bearing slightly rightwards and emerging back onto Reepham Road close to the driveway to some cottages. Turn left and follow the road round a left bend at a junction and continue on over a narrow bridge with brick parapets. Just a few metres beyond the bridge, and set low in the undergrowth on the right, a footpath fingerpost shows the line of the path into Alderford Common. Take this path, which gradually diverges from the road, meanders through woodland then drops down through a new timber gateway to an open meadow containing ponds at the site of ancient marl workings.
Continue diagonally rightwards across the meadow to a steep bank where a flight of steps carries the path up to the south corner of Alderford Common and eventually out to a road by an information board. (From the top of the steps to the road the path may be obscured by bracken, but the line can be determined by keeping as close as possible to the boundary line in view just a few metres on the right hand side).
Turn right along the road leading to Attlebridge as far as the 30mph traffic signs. Then turn right into the clearly signed track connecting with Marriott's Way and follow the old railway track for the final 1.5 miles of the walk westward back to Lenwade. There are lovely glimpses of the River Wensum at several points including at another bridge over this river and interesting sculptures have been placed at intervals along the trail. Although the last half mile runs beside a busy concrete works, these are well screened from view and there are woods and flooded gravel pits on the right to hold the interest. Finally, after passing the site of the old railway station on the left, cross Porter's Lane back to the car park
•This article was first published in December 2011.