Roman Forts, Churches and Ice Cream: An Early Summer Walk in Norfolk

Welcome to Exploring Norfolk for Dummies, episode 1982364. Despite having lived in the county for years, I’ve only recently started to explore its more remote parts. Paired with my renewed love for long distance walking and nature gazing this tendency is slowly evolving into a full-blown new hobby.

Last week I decided to tackle part of the Angles Way, one of the many long distance trails that cross this part of the UK. I love trails: they tend to be well-maintained and signposted, safe, and pass through beautiful landscapes. The Angles Way, which stretches from Great Yarmouth to Thetford, is no exception. I started modestly, walking the path in the wrong direction from Belton to the Great Yarmouth seafront.

After the bus had dropped me off on an unassuming residential street in Belton, it took less than a minute to locate the path. Soon I was walking past the water, surrounded by reeds and waterfowl. I’m always struck by how immediate the transition between urban and rural can be in Norfolk. One moment you’re driving past an ugly industrial estate and the next all you can see is empty wetland.

I soon reached the first point of interest: the ruins of Burgh Castle. This Roman fort, later taken over by the Saxons, is still in a surprisingly good shape. Three of its four walls are still standing at almost four metres tall and it takes little imagination to see centurions patrolling its edges. Perhaps most surprising, it’s completely free to access. There’s no fence. No admission fees. Of course this also means that there are no toilets or café, but that’s a sacrifice I’m more than willing to endure.

The village of the same name is right next to the fort and, while tiny, home to a beautiful church. I’m neither religious nor a massive fan of churches, but the door was open so I went inside to have a look. It’s one of the many round steeple churches that still survive in Norfolk and its interior is beautifully simple and subdued. Information signs told me that locals are raising money to give the building the TLC it clearly needs and they have my support. Although I’m as heathen as they come I love the sense of history and peace these spaces offer and would be sad to see them disappear.

On I went, across an easy to navigate stretch of the path that led me along the edge of Breydon water. A few weeks ago I followed the Weaver’s Way along the other side to Berney Arms and the view from across was just as beautiful. With the sun coming out and rare birds circling above my head I would struggle to imagine a more perfect setting.

The last part of the trail leads through Great Yarmouth and could be improved upon. I don’t mind the town being a bit rough around the edges, it’s part of its charm, but it seems a rather underwhelming way to end a long walk. All was forgotten when I reached the seafront and enjoyed the view of Scroby Sands from a bench, ice cream in hand.

I’m often asked why I walk, and why I do so alone, by people who would take a taxi to get their mail from the letter box if they could. The answer: peace and quiet. Nothing beats moving through a beautiful landscape with only wildlife for company. While safety is important and I always go prepared, nothing beats the sense of accomplishment I feel when I’ve successfully navigated a complicated trail.

There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness and meditation and digital detoxing, and I think there’s a lot of truth in advice to get away from stress-provoking aspects of modern life every once in a while. But for me, meditation alone is not enough. I need to physically remove myself from the city and its stimulation. Walking beats any other technique I’ve tried. After all, you don’t really need anything other than a pair of solid hiking boots and a map. And, as my grandfather would have said, a good mood.

Image my own – View from Burgh Castle

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