A 12 mile walk along Norfolk's Tas Valley Way
Probably one of the least known long distance paths in Norfolk, the Tas Valley Way links Norwich and Attleborough following the River Tas. This first section navigates through to Mulbarton, then onto Flordon before going off route to Tasburgh where there is a pub and public transport back to Norwich.
Norwich to Tasburgh Walk - Essential Information
First Group - Bus Service
- Service Number
- 36/37 - First Group Norwich buses Purple Line route linking Norwich with Mulbarton, Tasburgh and Long Stratton
- First Group (Norfolk and Suffolk) Website
- Date of Walk
- Walk Time
- 10:30 to 15:30
- Griffmonster, Paul H
- Weather Conditions
- Starting grey but with increasing brightness
The Tas Valley Way is not a route that jumps to mind when thinking of Norfolk paths. It doesn't actually start in Norwich as such, but Cringleford, a village that has become engulfed in the city's urbanisation. Even though this village is somewhat in-distinctive from the Norwich landscape, the place has a long history with evidence of settlement from Saxon and Roman times. The name has Scandinavian origins with a literal meaning of 'The ford by the round hill' and a short description of its history can be found at the Cringleford Village Website.
Cringleford is served well by public transport with regular services to and from Norwich city centre. However, it is worth strolling the 40 minute distance from the bus station to Cringleford which is simply a case of following the broad thoroughfare known as Newmarket Road, then taking the road that branches off to the left as the main road heads off onto the main A11 dual carriageway. The trail begins as the road crosses the historic stone bridge across the River Yare. This bridge replaced a wooden bridge which was swept away during a flood in 1519.
As the name of the trail suggests, it is only logical to assume that it traces the course of the River Tas. It is true that this section of the trail follows a river that flows into the River Yare just below Cringleford but it does not take much research to deduce that this is not the River Tas. The course of the Tas, which rises near Carleton Rode, is further south, winding its path past Caister St Edmind, Stoke Holy Cross and Newton Flotman before flowing into the River Yare at Trowse. This section of the Tas Valley Way does not meet the River Tas until one comes off route at Flordon and heads towards Tasburgh. In fact, The Boudicca Way between Trowse and Tasburgh plots a much closer course to what one would deduce to be a Tas Valley Trail.
The river that this trail follows is unnamed on OS maps and there is little information available about it. One scant reference is found on a village map of Mulbarton which depicts a stream that heads towards East Carleton and references this as the River Mul. Following this on the OS map reveals it meets with another watercourse that rises in East Carleton and then a further water course that flows from the lakes at Ketteringham Hall. For the sake of this article we shall refer to the main watercourse as the River Mul.
Beyond Mulbarton and through to Flordon, the route roughly follows the course of another river, namely the Tiffey which rises in Hethel, close to Bracon Ash, and which then flows into the Tas at Lower Tasburgh.
Plenty to see
From Cringleford the route passes through the hamlet of Intwood where one is greeted by little gatehouse on the drive to Intwood Hall. Just around the corner is Intwood church which is worth a perusal and the land either side of the road once formed part of the parkland associated with the Hall. The route then crosses meadows towards Carleton and it is here that one encounters a river. Well, the description of a river is probably a little radical for this stream that crosses the dip in the meadows in a near straight course. Two wooden planks serve as a bridge but, in truth, anyone of reasonable fitness could jump this river such is the limits of its breadth. This is not the Tas. This is not the Mul. This is the stream that comes down from the Ketteringham Hall lakes whose identity is unknown. Maybe we should just call it Little Stream. When offered the watery course such a name, it just meandered and trickled onwards with not so much as a babble.
At East Carleton the trail cuts a corner through the back of the hamlet. To the right of the path is scrubland with two chimneys mounted in the middle of the scrub. Square, brick, one with a chimney pot, the other untopped. Facing each other with nothing but long grass between them. They look like chimneys that would have stood against either side of a building that has long gone. But why would any demolition crew knock down a building and leave its chimneys? Had these been listed as historic chimneys yet the building was considered as being of no significance? On the 1946 OS map a nursery is depicted at this location. Maybe they were historic nursery chimneys? Whatever the reasons and whys and wherefores, it is a landmark that certainly prompts discussion, wonderment and intrigue.
The footpath now follows the River Mul down through to Carleton Carrs, a rough area of woodland and scrub. The name Carr is defined as fen woodland or scrub that is typically dominated by alder or willow. Such a definition is true of this area with plenty of boggy and marshy ground. The footpath keeps to the fenced edge which is a little higher and clear of the marshy grassland below. However, at one point the route becomes undefined and it appears that the path leads into a marsh area. It is not until the going gets very boggy that it is obvious the route is not part of the trail. The clue is to keep to the fence on the eastern side of the woodland throughout the distance until it leads past two large ponds. This entire area was part of a post medieval landscape park associated with Carleton Manor House.
Beyond the Carrs, the trail crosses fields to emerge onto Mulbarton Common, a triangular expanse of grassland dating from at least the middle ages and complete with the obligatory duck pond. During WWII the Home Guard used the common for exercises at weekends and old wagons were routinely parked across the common to prevent German glider landings. Prior to the war, on the north side of the common, stood an old mill and it is said that this was demolished to remove it as a landmark for the glider pilots.
It is thought that the common was the location of the village gallows during the middle ages. The north side of the common was the location of the village and this area still incorporates the 17th century World End pub, St Mary Magdalens Church and a moated Hall. During modern times, the village has expanded to the south of the common and a vast housing estate occupies the once fields that the trail now leads through. Obviously this is an overspill of the population of Norwich which has reduced the settlement to a dormitory village to the city. An estate of modern brick boxes with a large coop superstore and the terminal bus stop for the 37 bus from Norwich.
The trail then continues to the interestingly named village of Bracon Ash which is derived from the Old English for bracken and ash trees. The small hamlet boasts a village sign which certainly promotes wonder, perusal and discussion. Three curved shiny metallic arcs, which, at first sight, appear to be bishops mitres. These surround a tangle of metal spikes, bent and twisted, below which is the base denoting 'Bracon Ash 1994'. One obviously starts to insinuate that it must be modern art commemorating a village link to three Bishops of Norwich, and ignore the centre tangle! Luckily, a passing local corrected such thoughts. It had nothing to do with bishops of Norwich, or even bishops in general. It was a commemoration of Lotus Cars which had once occupied the nearby Hethel airfield in the 1960s and used the runway as a test track. Quite how the sculpture denotes this is beyond the common mortal and probably can only be appreciated by purveyors of fine sculpture and locals 'in the know'. No doubt there are plenty of passers by who had not met the local and who still remark of the connection of Bracon ash and the three bishops of Norwich, knowledge garnered from the Bracon Ash village sign.
Next landmark on route is the historic Flordon Hall, a 16th century timber framed house, complete with a dovecote and a post medieval barn. It was originally built as a dower house, used to house the widow of a deceased landowner. Today it is used as a piggery which is a complete contrast to its original intention unless all the pigs are widows.
Beyond Flordon Hall the trail crosses the fields to Flordon village but on this occasion the trail waymarker was missing. It was eventually discovered in the ditch that crosses the fields and acts as the field border which to follow. Probably a result of mindless vandalism and something which can confuse the would be rambler as it is not clear that a footpath exists as there is no clear trampled path although once walking along the route it does become self evident.
Although there is the pub on the north side of the green at Mulbarton, on this occasion it was too early to visit this establishment and refreshments were postponed until the end of the route. Flordon used to have two pubs, the Railway Tavern and The Black Horse. The Railway Tavern was naturally by the railway and used to serve the station. Sadly the pub closed in 1958 after which the station closed in the 1960's as part of the Beeching cuts. The Black Horse, an 18th century inn, lasted a little longer but nonetheless closed down in the mid 1960's.
From Flordon this walk diverges from the Tas Valley Way and crosses over to the main A140 where there are public transport links back to Norwich. There are several options of routes to take. Either side of the River Tas there are lanes that lead to Newton flotman and Saxlingham respectively with the latter being the location of The Mill Inn. Alternatively there is a lane that leads directly to Tasburgh where The Countryman pub is opposite the bus stop and provides both food and ale and which was the option followed on this occasion.
The route through to Tasburgh gives the first glimpse of the River Tas, with the road leading to Lower Tasburgh crossing the river and then following alongside it before departing into Tasburgh village. On the eastern side is the grounds to Rainthorpe Hall, an Elizabethan country mansion notable for its medieval stone work, wood carvings and rare 17th century leather wall coverings. The grounds contain a pond, a kitchen garden and an ha ha. And that is not an expression of delirious laughing at some in-joke about country mansion gardens. An ha ha is a sunken fence, wall, or ditch which separates the formal gardens around a house from a landscape park, without interrupting the view from the house.
On the western side of the road the River Tiffey joins the Tas. A small distance up-stream there once stood a post medieval watermill known as Flordon mill. This survived until 1916 when it ceased operation and was then demolished a few years later. It is though the site was probably the location of a mill mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086.
The route follows the Tas Vally Way markers from Cringleford to Flordon, then navigates along country lanes to Tasburgh.
From Norwich bus station, leave via th steps onto Queens road, turn right and take the underpass across the road. Take the left at the roundabout onto the A11. Where the roads branch take the right onto Newmarket Road and keep to this, over the outer ring road and through to the exit into Cringleford.
Follow Eaton Street across the river and after the first housing of Cringleford take the left onto Intwood Road and follow this through the village, across the railway and over the Southern By-Pass. This niow becomes a village lane through Intwood which consists little more than the gatehouse, church, a cottage and a distant hall. Keep to the lane until it meets a road on the right. Take the footpath opposite, across the meadow, a stream and another meadow then onto a track which leads onto Swardeston Lane. Turn left and afteer 200 yards take the footpath on the right, past the two redundant chimneys and out onto Low common lane. Continue straight ahead until there is a footpath on the right. Keep to the path by the field boundary fence and ignore other paths. Eventually this passes by a lake and then continues on until it meets a road. Cross the road and follow the footpath which will zig zag following the field boundaries. Where the end field boundary turns to the left continue on the footpath straight across the field and then around the west and south perimater of a paddock and onto a lane down to the road that bounds Mulbarton Common. From the paddock it is a little confusing as there is no clear indication of the right of way. The footpath is supposed to follow the field boundary beyond the paddock which leads onto the road. However this was pretty much overgrown on this occasion and it appeared to all intents that the private track was being used as the way out.
Diagonally cross Mulbarton Common to meet with Birchfield Road and continue along this modern road through the housing estate. At the far end turn right and follow the road out of Mulbarton and down to a roundabout. Turn left and follow the road through to Bracon Ash. At the junction where stands the village sign, take the left onto Hawkes Lane. When the road turns a sharp left continue on along a footpath until it meets Mergate Lane. Turn left then bear round to the right at the junction and continue straight ahead through the farm buildings. Follow the footpath beyond across the fields until it emerges y Flordon Hall cottages. Turn left onto the lane and less than 100 yards after the bend in the road take the footpath on the left. The waymarker had been removed at this point so it is not immediately evident as to the exact location of the footpath which is on the west side of the ditch across the fields.
Keep in a straight line all the way through to Whitehouse Farm at Flordon. Once again it is not clear as to the route - the path goes between the farm buildings and then across the follwing field to emerge where the farm track meets the road. Turn left and follow the road through Flordon. Ignore the Tas Valley Way fingerpost on the left as it is here the walk diverges from the trail. Continue along the road, over the railway and then bear right at the junction beyond. Continue along this road and then left when it junctions Low Road. Bear right onto Grove Lane and follow through to Tasburgh and the junction with the main A140. Turn left. The bus stop is a few yards up the road. Beyond this on the right is the Countryman pub.
The Countryman, Tasburgh View in OS Map | View in Google Map
- Ipswich Road, Tasburgh
This 16th century inn was formerly known as The Bird in Hand up until 1971 when it closed for business. When it reopened it adopted its present moniker.
The pub has a large restaruant area and serves traditional home made pub food from snacks to full 3 course dinners. Ales from Adnams and Woodfordes are on offer.
After a long mornings walking we just managed to catch the last minutes before food ended for the lunchtime session. Although a burger sounds like the apitimy of fast food, the burgers served here were more than a snack and provided a full and enjoyable meal. With just the basic bitters from Adnams and Woodfordes available the Southwold Bitter was opted for and really did not disappoint as a good refreshing ale to accompany the food.
Intwood ChurchView in OS Map | View in Google Map
The round towered church of All Saints at Intwood dates from the 12th century although the chancel was rebuilt some time around 1400. There are suggestions that by the 16th century the church had fallen into disuse and was nothing more than a shelter for sheep.
The early 17th century saw it being restored with more restoration conducted in 1852 to incorporate some exceptionally fine ensemble of woodwork.
Intwood Hall and ParklandView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Intwood Hall stands within extensive parkland to the north west of Intwood church. The drive is bordered by a thatched lodge constructed in flint and brick around 1844.
The hall has been rebuilt a number of occasions during its history. Originally rebuilt some time before 1545 by the then owner Sir Richard Gresham it then included an extensive garden with ornamental arcades, terraces and summerhouses. It was then rebuilt by his son, also Richard Gresham, around 1560. By the 18th century an orchard was included on the avenue running to the south of the hall. The parkland was laid out during the 19th century and the house was extended and refurbished in the late-19th century by the Unthank family.
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: ... 2016-01-16