An 17 mile walk along the Angles Way from Diss to Harleston and onto Wortwell
There is plenty of history along this section of the Angles Way as it follows the course of the River Waveney. Numerous archaeological finds have been found along the route dating from prehistoric times through roman pottery and remnants of the middle ages. There are lost villages, halls and churches to provide ample opportunity for exploration as the path meanders across the Norfolk Suffolk border.
Diss to Wortwell Walk - Essential Information
Anglian Buses - Bus Service
- Service Number
- 80, 81, 81A - Anglian Bus Company services 80, 81, 81A linking Great Yarmouth, Beccles, Bungay, Harleston and Diss
- Anglian Bus Timetable for 80, 81, 81A Services
- Date of Walk
- Walk Time
- 09:00 to 18:30
- Griffmonster, Kat
- Weather Conditions
- Overcast with the threat of rain throughout the afternoon
Buses, weather forecasts and The Angles Way
The western half of the Angles Way is blessed with good transport links to enable the route to be walked as a series of sectional walks to suite walkers of all abilities. The Anglian Bus company provide an hourly bus service that links Beccles with Diss calling at Bungay, Wortwell and Harleston plus many of the small villages along the route of the A143. The distinctive yellow and blue buses offer a very friendly service and will pick up and drop off to the passengers wishes, and in my opinion, offer a much more personal service than the large national companies.
Over the last few years we have found the preferred method of undertaking long distance paths is to use a central base and public transport to get to and from the days walk. This has the advantage of not having to haul baggage for overnight stays along the route which allows a more enjoyable and relaxing walk. For the sections of The Angles Way between Knettishall Heath and Bungay we set up a central base-camp at the Little Lakeland Camping and Caravan site in the small village of Wortwell. The bus runs past the campsite entrance and the site owner told us that despite there being no official stop, the bus would pick up passengers if hailed down. Even so, on the first occasion we didn't want to take the chance and took a ten minute walk up to the Wortwell Bell pub where the official bus stop is located. It was good to report that on the return journey into the village the following day the driver stopped right by the campsite entrance for us, just like the owner had confided.
This particular days walk-plan was to get the early bus to Diss then walk back to the campsite at Wortwell. However, the previous evening the weather forecast had provided a gloomy outlook for the afternoon with persistent heavy rain expected to spread across the eastern counties. It was comforting to know that if the weather turned against us we could curtail the walk and navigate up to the road and wait for a bus. With this in mind we set the target of getting to Harleston before the heavy rains set in. Any further would be a bonus. Less distance would leave us not completing the expected mileage over the three days walking but nonetheless another opportunity would arise in the future to complete this.
On the day, the weather held up, and despite a few spits of rain as we walked into Harleston, the total distance through to Wortwell was achieved in the dry, though the skies did look very threatening on the last couple of miles. This proved to be the case. As we reached the Wortwell Bell, the heavens opened and we had to prolong our stay in the pub for a number of hours before we ventured back to the campsite.
A walk full of history
There are so many interesting features to explore along this section of The Angles Way, many of which I have included in the Features section of this article. Even beyond these landmarks there is more to explore, as this section is soaked in history with the river valley being the location for many archaeological finds over the years.
Past Billingford, the path heads down to the riverside where it follows the River Waveney from a point that is curiously named The Crotch. On the opposite bank, in the county of Suffolk, lies the village of Hoxne. Although not directly visible from the Norfolk side, this village is reputed to be the location of the martyrdom of St Edmund whose missing decapitated head was said to call out to his followers as they searched for it. There are many stories and legends about St Edmund but these will have to be left for another time when we venture down the Mid Suffolk Footpath which joins the Angles Way at this point and provides a long distance path southwards through Hoxne and on to Bury St Edmunds.
From Hoxne, the path wanders away from the river through a tunnel of shrubs and vegetation to the village of Brockdish. Where the path turns to follow a field border up to the village, one can look back and scan the vista of the Waveney valley where the river disappears into a small wood. The trees obscure a small church on the Suffolk side of the river in the parish of Syleham, known as the church of St Margaret. It is said that it was in this very building that Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, surrendered his allegiance to King Henry II in 1174, relinquishing his castles at Bungay and Framlingham in the process.
Beyond Brockdish, the route crosses the river onto the Suffolk side and passes through some delightful wooded pastureland. The path eventually emerges at Weybread House, a large tidy house with well kept garden that sits alongside the site of an old watermill that was known as Weybread Mill. Built in the 1700's the large mill worked up until 1920 when it sadly burned down. According to the Norfolk Mills website, The Eastern Daily Press reported this as
A disastrous fire occurred at Weybread on Friday evening, when the water and steam mills carried on by Mr. J. Button, of Diss, with the valuable contents in machinery, plant, and stocks of wheat and flour were destroyed. The country for miles around was illuminated by the huge tongues of flame, and hundreds of people from far and near gathered to watch the fire. Mr. Button, his father, and grandfather before him, have carried on an extensive business at the mills for many years. The origin of the fire is unknown.All that is left today is the millpond but it is obvious that a mill once stood here.
Obstacles and Challenges
This particular walk diverts away from the Angles Way to Wortwell where there is a campsite and a pub. The official trail passes through the quaint village of Mendham then follows the contours of the hills that wind up the river valley. At Downs Farm, a footpath leads across Limbourne Common where there is a river crossing by the renovated Limbourne Mill, the site on which a mill has existed since the 11th century when it was recorded in the Domesday Book, whilst the Angles Way continues along the contour to Homersfield.
The juncture between these two routes is clearly defined with waymarkers for both paths, however the footpath across the common, on this particular occasion, was blocked up by a farm gate that had been securely tied across the entrance to the common. It was obvious that this was purposely set in this position and the only way to enter the common was to clamber the precarious and unsteady structure in order to get across. For any nimble footed walker this does not present much of an obstacle but for dog walkers or those not of such nimble foot this may present a problem.
Zen and the Art of Motor Vehicle Avoidance
Despite long distance footpaths being largely off road, with every attempt to keep the route to footpaths and tracks, there are inevitably sections that have to be routed along roads. This can be down to a lack of alternatives or diversions due to works and maintenance or temporary re-routes caused by landslips or floods. On this section of the Angles Way there are numerous sections of road walking but the majority of these are little country lanes that are a pleasure to wander with hardly a motor vehicle to contend with. However, there is one particular short section between Weybread Mill and the footpath that leads into Harleston that negotiates a road on which particular caution should be taken. The road in question is a link between the B1116 with the Harleston bypass and, although not busy, it is used as a short cut for vehicles heading toward Diss. To all intents and purposes the road, on first impressions, appears to be nothing more than a little back-road with verges and hedgerows encroaching upon the tarmac, no pavement and little evidence of it being anything other than a quiet lane. But, do not be deceived. This road can be hazardous as cars can and do hurtle around the junction from the B1116 without any regard to potential walkers that may be following the route of the Angles Way.
As is the case with all road walking one should follow the advice of the Highway Code which clearly states
keep to the right-hand side of the road so that you can see oncoming traffic. You should take extra care and be prepared to walk in single file, especially on narrow roads or in poor light keep close to the side of the road. It may be safer to cross the road well before a sharp right-hand bend so that oncoming traffic has a better chance of seeing you. Cross back after the bend.This is sound advice and keeps one aware of any immediate danger posed by traffic heading in ones direction.
This advice was followed as we headed to the junction with the B1116 which was a slow bend curving around to the right with a tall hedgerow somewhat masking the corner which presented a hazard. Even so, at this point the road was wide as it broadened to meet the junction and as such did not appear to warrant the need to cross the road to negotiate the corner. This assumption was probably incorrect as was demonstrated when we were confronted with a van speeding around the corner, which then sharply swerved as the driver unexpectedly caught sight of us two walkers, single file and against the verge. True, as a pedestrian observer, the speed of the van appeared to be far in excess of what one would expect a vehicle to take such a junction. The driver took umption. You could see the grimace on his face and the obvious expletives that were fired at the two inconsiderate walkers he had encountered. He obviously felt that he was most certainly in the right and it was a divine right that he should be able to proceed along this section of road at a rate up to and including the national speed limit.
Motorists and walkers often appear to be at contention with one another. Though, we must remember a little set theory here and the group that encompasses all motorists has an intersection with the group that encompasses all walkers, and I suspect this intersection is a rather large one, i.e. there are a lot of walkers who are also motorists. I also suspect that we can enlarge upon this and say that there is a subset of the group of motorists which I shall call 'angry motorists' as not all motorists are as inconsiderate as the one encountered on this section of road. This subset is all those motorists who get irate at anything that hampers their progress along the highway, and that hindrance includes walkers. It would be interesting to know whether this subgroup intersects with the walker group. I have a sneaky feeling that it does. Such an intersection would conclude that certain walkers, who, when allowed to be unleashed in charge of a mechanised beast, become somewhat disassociated with the walker group that they are also a member of. This makes it quite complex, as a member of the walker group can also be a member of the motorist group but are exclusive to one particular group at any one point in time. So that is not an intersection in the classic meaning of the term but a sort of weird pseudo-intersection between groups. They are either a walker or a motorist and at no time can they be associated with being a member of both groups. I think this is a good theme for a late night discussion around the campside fire with a warming glass of whiskey.
To go back to the advice of the Highway Code, I would like to offer some other advice that I have adopted after several experiences of close encounters with angry motorists whilst walking roadsides. If the curvature of the bend is shallow then I usually adopt the policy of holding out a light coloured object into the road to give a little more warning to approaching traffic. An OS map is a perfect object. This does not have to be held at arms length, but a few inches away from the body which gives a little more visibility to traffic approaching around the bend. In more extreme cases when the road sharply bends right and is coupled with hedgerows obscuring the view then once again follow the highway code advice and cross the road, cautiously negotiate the bend, walking with the traffic keeping a constant eye on the road behind.
Having said all this I would like to point out that in all the walking I have undertaken the occasions of real danger or close encounters are extremely rare and confrontations with angry motorists even rarer. The crossing of the main A143 Harleston bypass was probably more dangerous than this section of road.
The Angles Way navigates out of Diss alongside the parish church. The route is then well marked through to Harleston and Mendham where there is a path across to Wortwell.
Diss to Mendham
Follow the road that leads dwon the side of Diss church. Keep to this until it emerges from Diss and meets a junction by the railway bridge. From here the Angles Way waymarkers are regularly posted throughout the entire walk.
Mendham to Wortwell
Keep to the Angles way out of Mendham along Dennys Hill which curves around to the right. The path leads off to the left, crossing a meadow then following the contours of Target Hill to come out at Downs Farm. Turn left on the track and the Angles Way then continues around to the right. At this point continue straight ahead across the meadow that forms Limbourne Common. This does involve climbing over a farm gate which is permanently tied up. Head across the meadow to the left hand side of the drainage ditch aiming for the bridge by the mill. Cross the bridge and follow the track which turns a sharp left by Wortwell Hall. Look out for a footpath on the right, and take this which emerges opposite the Bell Inn pub.
Kings Head, Brockdish View in OS Map | View in Google Map
- The Street, Brockdish
The Old Kings Head pub was built in the 1500's and still retains many original features. The pub has two bars and a beer garden and has guest ales on tap. The pub specialises in offering curry dishes. The cottage next door to the pub is named Brewery Cottage and it is speculated that this may well have been a brewery that once served the pub.
We arrived late lunchtime and were the only custom at the time of day. The landlord, a cheery chap, made up cheese sandwiches to accompany the ale (one guest was on). He readily engaged in talk about the music that was hosted at the pub including his own band which was evident by the large collection of musical instruments and pa that was set up. It was interesting to see that the menu offered only curries. Maybe another time we will come back and sample one of them.
Cardinals Hat, Harleston View in OS Map | View in Google Map
- Thoroughfare, Harleston
An old coaching Inn which dates from the 1600's that has been known as a variety of names including The Colonels Cap, The Cardinals Cap Inn and the Cardinals Cap hotel. The pub used to have an old skittle alley at the rear but this has more recently been converted into an Adnams Cellar and Kitchen Store. The interior is open plan and there is a limited range of Adnams Ale on offer.
A typical well used town pub showing signs of wear and tear. I hate to say shabby but it would be an apt word to describe this establishment which is strange when the rear holds the prestigious Adnams Cellar and Kitchen Store. It was late afternoon and there was few customers but I would guess this was the sort of pub that pulled in a lot of boisterous evening drinkers. Nothing wrong with the attitude of the staff who politely served me and the Adnams ale was very good.
Sir Alfred Munnings Hotel, Mendham View in OS Map | View in Google Map
- The Street , Mendham
The establishment is named after Sir Alfred James Munnings, who was born in the village and became one of England's finest painters of horses, as well as an outspoken critic of Modernism. Engaged by Lord Beaverbrook's Canadian War Memorials Fund, he earned several prestigious commissions after the Great War that made him wealthy.
This renovated hotel, bar and restaurant prides itself in high class service and food. A selection of guest ales are on offer.
A very well refined country pub and hotel. It obviously seemed food orientated with tables laid out for the evening diners. Even so there was no complaint to us two walkers wandering through the dining area to get to the bar. A couple of guest ales were on offer and the Green Jack Trawlerboys was irresistible and thoroughly upheld all expectations of this mighty fine pint. We had to sup up fairly quickly with limited hours of light left in the day and the threat of rain on the horizon.
The Bell, Wortwell View in OS Map | View in Google Map
- The Street , Wortwell
Dating from the 17th century pub this renowned pub offers good food, Norfolk and Suffolk ales as well as a charming atmosphere and friendly company.
This became our local over the three nights stay at Wortwell and was always an apt end to a days walking with friendly greeting staff and chatty locals. One of the guest ales was Wolfs Lupus Lupus and I have to say that it was the best example of this ale I have ever tasted. It was really something worth the waiting for and an enticement for an evening at the pub. Excellent food as well. A well recommended local.
Frenze HallView in OS Map | View in Google Map
The little village of Frenze, which is locally pronounced as fi-renze, sits on the banks of the river Waveney with a ford and a small footbridge giving access to Diss. Little remains of the village, the only surviving structures being Frenze Hall, the church of St Andrew, which is said to be the smallest in the whole of Norfolk, and a few farm buildings. Nonetheless it is worth the opportunity to explore and the best place to start is the church.
Although the surviving church building is distinctively small, it is thought that it was originally part of a much larger structure extending to both the north and west of the present building and even suggestions that it may once have had a second tower. The surviving part dates from the 13th and 14th centuries and despite its small size it contains some fascinating treasures including an octagonal font from the 14th century which showcases different types of tracery from that era, a pulpit which dates from the 17th century and the family pew has a medieval bench end carved with a monkey. The floor is covered with many tomb slabs and brasses, a lot of these interring members of the Blennerhasset family who became the lords of the manor. The church closed for services in 1976 when the congregation had dwindled to so few that it did not warrant continuing to keep the church operational.
Opposite the church is Frenze Hall which was the manor house for the area. From 1423 this came to the Blennerhasset family through the marriage of Ralph de Belnnerhasset to the 14 year old heiress of the manor, Joan de Lowdham. Even at this tender age she was already a widow after her first husband died the previous year. The Blennerhassets were a well known local family who also owned Barsham Hall between Beccles and Bungay and Hassets Tower (commonly known as The cow Tower) in Norwich, and whom the ghostly legend of Old Blunderhazzard came to be handed down the generations. The Manor House was rebuilt in the 17th century when the Blennerhassets sold it to the Nixon family. This has survived with 19th century modifications, to this day. During the 20th century it was used as an RAF Bomber Command Splasher Size Beacon Site whose transmissions was used to guide home aircraft returning from bombing missions during WWII. More recently the house has been restored to its original state.
Thorpe ParvaView in OS Map | View in Google Map
The village of Thorpe Parva, east of the A140 and north of the A143 was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1066, but by medieval times it had become deserted with the Hall and the Church of St Mary being the only surviving buildings. The church was eventually demolished some time around 1540 with the 12th century round tower surviving as a dovehouse. Today the ruins of the flint tower are still visible from the Angles Way, standing in the corner of a crop field and easily visible where the Angles Way turns left by Steeple Cottages. This was thought to have been the southern end of the village. Following the track by this field northwards leads to Thorpe Parva Hall, a medieval moated Hall to the village which still survives although the oldest structures are the barns which date from the 17th century.
St Leonard's Church, BillingfordView in OS Map | View in Google Map
The track that leads up from Billingford village to Biilingford Hall leads past the church of St Leonard. This small partially rendered flint walled and red tiled roof building has a tower that is no taller than the nave. IT is thought that the tower was never fully completed rather than shortened due to a collapse. Inside there is a 15th century font with a good example of a 17th century font cover. 15th century bench ends and screen and some medieval wall painting are all included in this quaint Norfolk church.
Billingford MillView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Billingford was originally known and recorded in the Domesday Book as Prelaston which has the meaning of 'Town of the Battle' which is thought to hark back to roman times although what Battle it denotes is lost to history. The present name can be traced back to the reign of Henry III and refers to the river crossing which linked Norfolk to Suffolk.
The landmark of the village, rising out of the valley and visible for miles around, is the Billingford Mill. This five storey construction was built in 1860, replacing a former postmill that can be traced back to 1797 and which was blown down in 1859. The mill earned the accolade of being the last Norfolk wind-mill to commercially grind corn, working up until 1956 when an engine took over the milling until 1959 when an outbreak of Fowl Pest killed off the remaining trade. The location in the valley had the advantage that even on calm days when mills on higher ground would be still, there would be convection currents to power the sails.
In 1962 a restoration project was launched to preserve the mill and in 1965 it was donated to the Norfolk Windmills Trust. The fantail being destroyed in a gale in 1976 and the sails were removed in 2009 when they were found to be rotten. Presently, The Norfolk Windmills Trust, together with the local landowner Sir Rupert Mann, are raising funds to bring the mill back into fully working order with the vision to reopen the mill for community groups and schools, and have the stones grinding once again, possibly by early 2014.
Billingford hallView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Billingford Hall is alongside a track that leads up from Billingford village. The present building dates from the 17th century and to the east of the hall is a distinctive 18th century thatched roof dovecote in the centre of the adjoining field. The hall has an companying garden that is viewable by appointment from May to July. This is described as a visually pretty traditional English garden with herbaceous and shrub borders together with a formal walled garden with shrub, climbing roses and clematis, box-edged borders and fruit trees.
Church of St peter and St Paul, BrockdishView in OS Map | View in Google Map
The oldest part of this church is the north wall of the nave and chancel which is said to date from the 11th century though some allude to it being from Saxon times. The rest of the building is a mixture of 13th and 14th century architecture and the tower was rebuilt in the 1866 after the original tower collapsed in 1713. IT is now said to be one of the finest examples of 19th century Gothic Revival architecture in Norfolk.
The interior includes a 13th century piscina, a 15th century Purbeck marble tomb chest and a rare 19th century wheeled coffin bier.
Probably the most distinctive feature in the graveyard is the Kay family tomb. The large carved structure features an angel under a spire.
Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information
Summary of Document Changes
Last Updated: ... 2017-02-05