From forest strolls to beach runs: Seven Norfolk hidden gems where you can enjoy a socially-distant escape

Through the arch of the bridge over the river Tiffey at Wymondham

Through the arch of the bridge over the river Tiffey at Wymondham - Credit:

One of the few pleasures of lockdown has been that it’s given people the impetus to get out and about and explore the area where they live and maybe even Norfolk as a whole. Editor David Powles and his family set themselves just that challenge and here he shares seven places for people to enjoy - while also being able to stay away from the crowds.

Spring Daffodils along the river Tiffey with Wymondham Abbey in the background.

Spring Daffodils along the river Tiffey with Wymondham Abbey in the background. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

Wonderful woodland

In the heart of south Norfolk, stands Lower Wood, in Ashwellthorpe, an ancient piece of woodland which is the perfect size to explore if you have young children. Bluebells, large oak trees, wild garlic and excellent birdlife can all be enjoyed here, while the narrow, tree-lined paths are perfect for a game of hide and seek.

Where to start: Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe lies 4.8km (3 miles) to the south east of Wymondham and 14.5km (9 miles) west of Norwich. Entrance to the site and Norfolk Wildlife Trust maintained car park is in the centre of the village off The Street.

Morston Quay at its stunning best.

Morston Quay at its stunning best. - Credit: Martin Sizeland

Trails but no tribulations

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Just a few miles away from Ashwellthorpe, Wreningham’s Long Wood is larger and a perfect place to get lost in amongst the trees for a few hours. Long’s Wood was established in 1994 by Dennis Long, whose family farmed the land for over a century. He has invested in the future for local people by planting 70 acres of native woodland and providing a wonderful open area for people to enjoy. It even has a disused train line running through it. What a fantastic gift to Norfolk.

Where to start: Long’s Wood car park, Wymondham Road, Wreningham.

Thetford Forest on the A1075. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Thetford Forest on the A1075. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

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Get lost in Thetford Forest and its outskirts

For a large proportion of my life I lived on the Norfolk and Suffolk border, but when friends in Suffolk suggested a halfway meeting point for a socially distant catch-up we were still able to spend a fantastic two hours exploring a part of heathland I lived less than five miles away from - but never knew existed. There are so many brilliant trails across the great expanse of this forest that it’s easy to stay away from the crowds as well as a great place to get lost in your thoughts.

Where to start: West Harling Heath, West Harling Road, off the A1066, NR16 2SE.

Morston Harbour in Norfolk Picture: Chris Bishop

Morston Harbour in Norfolk Picture: Chris Bishop - Credit: Archant

Take the Tiffey Trail

Six months ago I would never have imagined my two boys, four and seven, would be prepared to walk as far or as often as we have been. But, arming ourselves with scavenger hunt lists and the promise of regular treats for ticking off certain items has been a great way of keeping them going. This was particularly true during one lovely trek along the Tiffey Trail from Wymondham towards Kimberley. In fact we had so much fun that I lost track of time and distance, before realising we’d walked for more than two miles - and therefore had to go the two miles back to the car park with rapidly tiring children. It’s a lovely trek though with the Mid Norfolk Railway Line on one side and the River Tiffey on the other.

Where to start: Tiffey car park, Becketswell Road, Wymondham, NR18 9PH.

Bluebells in Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe. Picture: Ann Roberts

Bluebells in Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe. Picture: Ann Roberts - Credit: Archant

Ladybelt Country Park

For the past five years the entrance to this country park, situated just off the A11 near to the Ketteringham Recycling Centre, has been on one of my regular running routes. Being the good journalist that I am, I’d never clocked that it was a public park - and a lovely one at that. On the site of an old quarry, part of which is still in use, it provides a great variety of walks through woods, around ponds and in the open air, as well as cracking views of Ketteringham Hall.

Where to start: Hethersett Road, East Carleton, Norwich, NR14 8HX

Morston to Weybourne at dawn

On a beautiful Monday morning during a week of holiday I set the alarm for a mouth-watering 5am and headed up to the North Norfolk coast for a 10-mile run in almost complete solitude. It was worth every second. Starting at Morston, the North Norfolk Coastal Path takes you to Blakeney, through Cley and onto Weybourne beach. It’s five-miles out and five-miles back and the route shows off some of the best views this wonderful county provides. Get up, get out and do it.

Where to start: Morston Quay, Quay Lane, Holt. NR25 7BH

Village walks

So many times during lockdown I’ve heard people saying that they have enjoyed getting to know where they live a bit more. Most of us are probably guilty of neglecting what’s on our doorstep and that’s certainly been the case with us. Walks in and around Hethersett have enabled us to visit historic pits, see the village from previously unexplored viewpoints and enjoy the numerous rainbows people had been placing in their front windows to show solidarity during this tough time.

Where to start: Open the door and just walk

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