Swamps, river walks and long-horned cattle: Seven hidden gems for you to visit during lockdown
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Give the people what they want. I was going to write this latest column on one of the serious issues of the day. But, by far and away the most read and reacted to piece I’ve written this year, was during the first lockdown and detailed seven hidden gems for families to enjoy. Places that are off the beaten track and possibly not as well known as the obvious locations. So, to mark lockdown:version 2.0, I’ve been out and about and found seven more for you to explore. Just don’t forget your wellies.
THE PINGO TRAIL
Norfolk, you never cease to amaze me. After more than four decades it is still possible to find places on your doorstep that take your breath away. The Pingo Trail is one of them. I’d heard talk of the trail being a great place in which to spend a few hours, so headed there one late October morning for a run and a bit of an explore. I did not regret it. It’s an extraordinary seven-mile loop that takes in Pingo ponds, fantastic nature, including rather alarming but perfectly friendly long-horned cattle, heathland, forests and the picturesque Thompson Water. If you don’t mind a bit of mud and water, this is definitely a must visit location.
Where to start: Head along the A1075 Watton Road and at Stow Bedon there is a large layby on the left as you head towards Watton. The car park is just behind that.
GO BEYOND THE BROAD
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I joked with a friend this week that if I don’t visit Whitlingham Broad for a few weeks, I start to get withdrawal symptoms. It’s always been one of my very favourite places in the county and we’re lucky to have it. What I failed to appreciate, until recently, was just how much there is to explore away from the broad itself, with numerous footpaths and trails taking you through woodland, pretty meadows and even providing some decent views from the top of Trowse Woods.
Where to start: Head along Whitlingham Lane, past the broad, and you’ll find another pay-and-display car park on the right. A nice hill walk begins there.
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Marston Marshes is one of those examples of places few seem to know they have on their very doorstep. Travel along the top of Ipswich Road into Norwich and you’d have no idea that you are just a few hundred yards away from an oasis of calm. This is a perfect place to visit if you have young children and want to give them a taste of nature and the fresh air, but not have to walk too far. It isn’t the biggest of trails, but on the right day the dykes, ponds and grazing cattle can be great for the soul.
Where to start: Head along Marston Lane. Parking is limited so the streets of nearby Eaton will sometimes have to do.
For obvious reasons, it’s normally the North Norfolk coast that gets much of the attention from those who love a stroll with sea views. However, presented with a rare day to ourselves, my wife and I decided to head west for winter and take a look around the shores of Snettisham and its RSPB site. With the tide out, the place had an eerie end-of-the-world feel about it but was an ideal destination to spend a couple of hours away from the stresses and strains of daily life.
Where to start: Head for RSPB Snettisham where the car park is an ideal starting point.
DUNWICH - BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
The Suffolk village of Dunwich has been one of my family’s favourite places to visit for decades. What we hadn’t appreciated, however, was how much fantastic nature there is to explore beyond the beach. Dunwich Forest is a great place to visit, especially on a crisp, sunny day when the sun creeps in through the conifers creating an eerie atmosphere.
Where to start: About half a mile before the village you’ll find the Forestry England car park.
I’ve lost count of how many trips there have been to High Lodge since I had children. Even in lockdown it remains popular and a fantastic place to explore. However, not everyone will be comfortable at the moment in that busy environment so I’d heartily recommend doing some homework and finding other parts of the forest to explore. A couple of my favourites are Harling Woods, Santon Downham and the woods around Croxton.
Where to start: All of these places have car parks at various points along the routes. Get on Google and seek them out.
I’ve spent plenty of time over the years on the tracks and trails of Eaton and Earlham Park - but never been further along the trail towards Bowthorpe - until recently that is. This walk takes you along the Yare Valley and provides great contrasting views of both city and country skylines and heaps of wildlife. A great place to get lost in your own thoughts in for 90 minutes or so.
Where to start: Some parking in front of the church on Watton Road, at Colney, or stroll across from Earlham Park.