Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Angles Way - Earsham to Beccles

Waveney Valley from Mettingham

A 12 mile walk along the Angles Way between Earsham and Beccles

The walk starts by heading up the hills that overlook Outney Common. This is a really rewarding start to an easy ramble that continues across the Waveney Valley to Mettingham before continuing down the Waveney Valley. Although Geldeston is on the opposite side of the river to The Angles Way the excursion across the Shipmeadow marshes is well worth the effort to visit the unique Geldeston Locks Inn.

Earsham to Beccles Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
EarshamView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
BecclesView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
12 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy
Terrain
Tracks, footpaths and some road walking.
Obstacles
There is a little road walking through to Wainford along a lane without any pavement which can be fairly busy.

Transport:

Anglian Buses - Bus Service
Service Number
80, 81, 81A - Anglian Bus Company services 80, 81, 81A linking Great Yarmouth, Beccles, Bungay, Harleston and Diss
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2013-05-18
Walk Time
09:30 to 15:30
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Sunny warm spring day

Walk Notes

Hills, Hills and more Hills

I have to admit it, sometimes trails appear to take a long way round to get to somewhere just up the road. And I have on a few rare occasions, when time is pressing or when legs have said enough is enough after a long days hike, given in and taken the obvious route with the promise of walking the proper path some time in the future. The start of this section of The Angles Way is just one of those cases where, looking on an OS map, the official route circumnavigates a near full 360 degrees as the River Waveny circles around Outney Common. Why should one bother to wander this three miles when it is so much easier to amble into the historic market town of Bungay and rejoin the path at Ditchingham? After all Bungay has plenty to see and explore and a visit does seem very tempting, especially as the Angles Way does not encroach upon the town. But in so doing, I will guarantee you will be missing out on so much. The landscape the official route passes through is quite uncharacteristic of the stereotypical image of Norfolk. The path heads up hills where, in springtime, Bluebells litter the steep slopes down to the river and wild garlic grows alongside the track giving off their distinctive odour. The few buildings that dot the landscape have names that seem alien to a county like Norfolk; Hill Farm, Valley House and the intriguing Bath Hills House and Farm which takes its name from this area which is locally known as The Bath Hills. The reference is thought to come from the early eighteenth century when a cold bath was established by an entrepreneurial apothecary and which also featured ‘Gardens, fruits and shady walks'.

The views from the path, despite being partially hidden by the woodland, are quite spectacular with sights across the river, the common and over into neighbouring Suffolk. This is one time when taking the short cut would most definitely be a big mistake. Leave Bungay for another day, another walk, another exploration. Take the Angles Way and see Norfolk and Suffolk as you have never seen them before.

Although not as prolific, this hilly landscape continues along the valley. From the Bath Hills the route descends down to the river, over the renowned Chicken Roundabout and across the Waveny Valley to head up the hills on the Suffolk side of the Valley. It then returns down the hills and follows the valley to Beccles where there is a cliff which has to be scaled in order to reach the church and the town. And you thought Norfolk and Suffolk was flat. Think again!

Beware of the foliage because I am sure its going to get you, yeah

Once the route has climbed the hill up from the valley at Mettingham it then ambles across open fields before descending down to the village of Shipmeadow. The tracks and paths are easy walking and well defined, firstly heading across open arable land before turning and following the zig-zag hedgrows back down to the road. The path at this point becomes a border to the fields which on this occasion were full of young cereal crops. Being springtime, with warm weather by day and distinctly cold nights, the undergrowth was loaded with moisture. Droplets of dew that fixed themselves like little lenses to the leaves, stems and flowers of each and every plant that rose skyward in search of ever greater prominence. This was not much of a problem until we reached the border path where the grasses and fauna had not been cut back and the path outline was somewhat obliterated by this growth which reached above ones knees. It did not take many paces of wading through this sea of vegetation before trousers were feeling sodden. And boots. And socks. It is amazing how droplets of water manage to find their way down into ones boots from above. But they do. As if they were homing droplets with an affinity for socks. We tried walking to the side of the undergrowth but the rutted and furrowed ground produced a circus of acrobatics in our perambulation forward as we stumbled across this uneven ground. Expected footings disappeared into a void, throwing ones balance out of kilter. So from the choice of acrobatics or wetness, despite several instances of both, the wetness won. Acrobatics is more humorous but prone to accidents, falling over, ankle spraining and general stupidity. Wetness involves the simple task of getting wet after which there is a sustained period of drying off which takes very little effort, especially when walking.

We could count some blessings as a group of five other walkers were ahead of us and they were probably taking a lot more moisture from the undergrowth than us. So, logic states that their path through the undergrowth would knock the hanging moisture from the plants leaving a somewhat dryer foliage for us to navigate through. But this logic did not appear to have any relevance in reality as it was not long before we had become soaked. So alternative logic was called for. Maybe. Just maybe. Maybe the plants were just ganging up against country ramblers. Maybe it was their plan to rise up against the trampling hoards and strike out for the rights of vegetation. Equal rights for herbage. And the first action in their protestations was to wet as many walkers as possible. Storing up moisture in some secret reservoir that would replenish their dew as soon as one unsuspecting walker had passed through and got soaked so they were ready for their next unfortunate victim. Maybe. Maybe not.

Refreshments

The Geldeston Locks is not on the Angles Way but there are several good reasons for visiting this popular and historic riverside inn. Firstly it is the only source of refreshment along this section of the Angles Way. Secondly it serves Green Jack ale from Lowestoft, a worthy refreshment for any walker. Thirdly, it is a truly unique pub, only accessible by either foot or boat until recent times. Even today it is not accessible by foot when the river floods and the marshes become more like a lake and the bar goes underwater. The public footpath across to the inn is marked by a finger post that points across the meadows to the only building in sight, the pub which is just across the river and accessed by a footbridge. If there has been a lot of rain you will get wet feet otherwise it is a dry excursion from the Angles Way. For those who want to take the easy route from The Geldeston Locks into Beccles, then there is the Big Dog Ferry which runs a regular service between the pub and Beccles Lido. It was tempting to use this as we have walked the Beccles section previously and have never taken a boat journey along this river. However the captain and his dog had departed so we had our drink and walked the final three miles.

Barsham Hall

Although not covered in this walks features, the path passes Barsham Hall, the origin of the ghostly legend of Old Blunderhazard. This tale and the legends are covered in The Beccles to Geldeston Locks Circular Walk and the Norwich Riverside Walk.

Shipmeadow Marshes
Shipmeadow Marshes

Directions

The Angles Way is a long distance trail linking the broads with the brecks. As such it is well way marked throughout its entire distance

The path leads out of Earsham down the road beside the Queens Head pub. The OS map is incorrect at this point and the official route now crosses the main A143 then continues along Hall Road. Take the first right turn onto a country lane marked as Bath Hills Road. Keep to this lane which eventually turns to a track and then eventually turns to a footpath as it heads up the hills. Keep to the footpath which leads around the top of the hill through a wooded area, curving gently around to the right and eventually leading back down. A gate leads ouot onto the meadow. Diagonally cross the meadow and follow the footpath down towards the lakes. There is a junction of paths here and the Angles Way takes the left fork which is not marked. This path leads past the gatehouse and out onto the road at the chicken roundabout.

Continue straight on at the roundabout and down to the old Ditchingham Maltings, then straight ahead until there is a waymarker on the left pointing across the fields.The footpath cuts across the first field then follows the hedge by the football club. When the hedge turns, continue diagonally across the next field to the corner of the boundary opposite. Follow this boundary to the right until a waymarker on the left will lead along a footpath to the road. Turn right on the road and keept o this through to the junction at Wainford. Care should be taken on this road which can be busy and has no pavement. At the junction, cross the road and turn left following the road. When the pavement ends there is a path on the field side of the hedge which will lead to the point where the Angles Way heads up the hill away from the road. Continue up the road and straight on when it crosses an S-bend on a country lane, keeping to the track beyond the bends. The track junctions with a road, continue straight on along a footpath through to the road. Turn left and follow the road until it turns a sharp right. Continue straight ahead along a track. The track zig zags by Highfields Farm and then continnues across the next field. A waymarker at the end points off to the left where a footpath follows the hedgerow which zigzags along the field boundary down to the road. Turn right and follow the road through the village. Beyond the church there is a track on the left which leads down to the meadows. When it meets a meadow on the slope of the hill the path becomes a little undefined but head diagonally to the right where the is a style and a footpath which follows the contour of the bottom of the hill.

This path will meet a track where there is a simple left turn which then continues along the marsh edge. Just beyond this point is a footpath marker pointing across the marshes. This will lead across to the Geldeston Locks Inn which is visible across the marshes. Although this is not part of the Angles Way it is nonetheless a worthy diversion to a hostelry serves a good range of ales and home cooked food and is the only refreshment point on this section of the Angles Way.

The Angles Way continues along the footpath by the side of the marshes until it crosses a style and leads past some woodland, following this round and up to a track. Follow the track all the way through to the road near Roos Hall. There is a pavement and then broad verge into Beccles. Take the first left, Pudding Moor, and follow this through to the church. There are steps up to the church which is in the centre of town. The Kings Head pub is off to the right when emerging from the church into town. Taking a left at the road will lead down to the old MArket Place which is the central location for all buses and continuing onwards down Northgate will eventually lead to Beccles Quay where there is a free car park and the Angles Way continues along the riverside.

Geldeston Locks
Geldeston Locks

Pubs

Geldeston Locks, Geldeston View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Geldeston Locks, Geldeston
Website

The Geldeston Locks started life in the 1560's as a mill-keepers cottage, later becoming the residence of the lock-keeper. This section of the River Waveney was part of a private navigation, owned throughout the 16th, 17th nd 18th centuries by a series of merchants trading in coal, grain and malt. Even beyond this time Wherries, the broads standard cargo vessels, hauled goods between Bungay and the ports of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

The building became a public house in the 17th century with trade coming from the river traffic and from locals using the marsh footpaths. In more modern times trade has come from the Broads leisure industry which lasted until the end of the 20th century when dwindling custom resulted in many years of closure. This was rectified when the Green Jack brewery took on the pub and improved the access and concentrated on promoting this unspoilt original pub with its riverside garden and award winning ales, regular live music and entertainment, real pub food, roaring fire and a warm welcome.

During the middle part of the 20th century the eccentric Susan Ellis was the landlady, who kept winter trade going with her ghostly tales and stories. In those days the beer was bought up from a cellar in huge jugs and she used to get the customers to add up their drinks bill for her. She was very fussy about who her customers were and any undesirable was asked to leave in no uncertain terms. She also had a pet goose named Grumpy Ellis which used to follow her about. Some say that her ghostly presence can still be felt around the building. One particular tale was told by a visitor in 1989 who had set up camp in the garden and had got up in the night to spend a penny. As he searched for a suitable location to do his business he had watched an old lady appear on the lock footbridge holding a candle in a jam jar, closely followed by a goose. The duo disappeared next to the closed doors of the inn.

Review

The Green Jack Golden Ale was a satisfying refreshment for the walk, a crisp bitter golden ale with no pretence about it. There was a 6.5 ale from oakham brewery which the barman gave us a sample taste. A very delicious drop of beer but 6.5% is not really a walking ale, more of a wobbling ale! As always the Geldeston Locks never disappoints in its character, its beer or its service. A highly recommended pub.

Kings Head, Beccles View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub

Popular multi-roomed, town centre hotel dating from 15th century although no speciifc year is known for when it first opened its doors. This was a coaching inn and up until recent times the central archway which is now the main entrance led through to a cobbled yard at the rear of the hotel. There have been many alterations throughout the years with the current owners, J D Wetherspoon, making the most of the bare bones construction.

As with all Wetherspoon pubs there area variety of ales on offer including local offerings all at a very reasonable price. There is the usual extensive and well priced variety of pub food.

Review

This is Beccles new Wetherspoons establishment. As is the case with this chain, you can not fault the selection of ale or the price.

Wainford Mill
Wainford Mill

Features

Chicken RoundaboutView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The roundabout located on the A143 at Ditchingham is locally known as Chicken Roundabout and has, up until recently, been the home for a flock of feral chickens. There is no definitive story of why and where the birds came from but probably the best explanation is that they were merely escaped birds from surrounding smallholdings and gardens.

The roundabout was built in the early 1980's when the Bungay bypass was constructed following the old trackbed of the Waveney Valley Railway, which itself closed in 1965. The site of the roundabout was originally the railway crossing for the Norwich road and together with the gatehouse cottage there was the village allotments, a few cottages and a public house named The Anchor in close proximity. Chickens were kept in the gardens of the neighbouring properties which were all demolished when the bypass was constructed.

It is thought that at one time there were as many as 300 chickens on the roundabout. For twenty years their welfare was maintained by a Bungay resident who earned the name of The Chicken Man. No matter what the weather, each day he would wander down from Bungay with his wheelbarrow and keep the chickens fed and watered.

In 2011 the birds mysteriously disappeared overnight. Although no-one claimed to have taken them it is thought that that animal welfare group took them following a spate of poisoning and cruelty to the birds. Then two years later, as mysterious as the flock vanished a new brood appeared. A cockerel and five hens arrived on the roundabout in February 2013 but this brood did not last long before they too disappeared and Chicken roundabout has been chicken-less ever since.

References

The Churches of ShipmeadowView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The village of Shipmeadow is mentioned in the domesday book as Scitmetdua or Scipmedu and is then referenced on the John Speed's 1610 map as Shepemeadow. It is thought that this spelling gives weight to the idea that the name is derived from sheep meadow rather than ship meadow.

The All Hallows nunnery, founded in 1854, once existed in Shipmeadow and the farm at its former location still bears the name of Nunnery Farm. The sisterhood moved to another site north of Ditchingham in the early 20th century.

The main church that sits alongside the road through the village is dedicated to St Bartholomew. Although looking to all intents and purposes as being a typical East Anglian church, this is now a private house having been sold off in the 1970s as part of the Anglican Diocese's plan to rationalise its resources. The interior has been largely preserve whilst the fittings and memorials were transferred to the church at Barsham. The owners do permit access to the churchyard.

On the hill above the church stands another redundant place of worship, a chapel dedicated to St James that was originally part of the workhouse complex which was built in 1766.

Beccles Bell TowerView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The town and surround area of Beccles is dominated by the dumpy figure of the bell tower of St Micheals church which sits high on the cliff overlooking the River Waveney. Dating from the 16th century this tower is not only detached from the church but also at the wrong end of the building, the normal construction being to build the tower to the western end of a church opposite the altar. Due to the close proximity to the cliff and the enormous weight of the proposed tower, this necessitated in constructing the building to the eastern end away from the cliff edge.

It is thought that the tower was originally intended to have a steeple and spire but the Protestant Reformation intervened with the construction leaving the stump of the tower as its final form. The clocks on the north and south sides were added in the 18th century with the east side gaining a clock in the 19th century. All of these clocks are now electrically powered and synchronised by computer although their mechanisms date from the 1930s. A watchmaker from Beccles once told me that like all old machines they need regular maintenance and on occasion one will find the clock stopped for such as in the case of February 2015. There were originally eight bells in the tower but these were replaced in 1762 with 10 bells.

Outstanding views of Norfolk and Suffolk can be obtained from ascending to the bell tower room with a panormaa of the Waveney valley stretching all the way to the North Sea in the easst.

Bath Hills Farm, Earsham
Bath Hills Farm, Earsham

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

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: ... 2016-01-15

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