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

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Wherrymans Way - Rockland to Loddon

Hardley Drainage Mill

A 15 mile walk along Norfolks Wherrymans Way

The only way one can see the sights of the River Yare is to either sail the river or walk the Wherrymans Way. Even in a boat one cannot get as good a view as the path along the heightened defence banks. This is stereotypical Norfolk in all its glory and although it is a lengthy section of walking, it is well worth the effort.

Norwich to Thurton Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Norwich (View in OS Map | View in Google Map)
End Point
Thurton (View in OS Map | View in Google Map)
Total Walk distance
15 miles
Walk difficulty
Easy
Terrain
Riverside paths, country lanes, footpaths and tracks
Obstacles
Cattle can be encountered on the riverside meadows. There are some gates along the route. The riverside path can be very hard on the feet during periods of sustained drought

Transport:

First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
X2 - First Group X2 service Lowestoft to Norwich via Beccles and Loddon
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2014-05-17
Walk Time
09:00 to 16:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Bright sunny, warm day

Walk Notes

The section of the Wherrymans Way between Norwich and Loddon is such a distance that if one attempts to walk this in its entirety in a single day then there would be no time to admire the scenery and dissolve into the landscape. Unfortunately there is no direct public transport links to break this distance up and it therefore necessitates a walk off route to the main A146 Lowestoft/Norwich road. Using Rockland as a midpoint, this can break the walk up into two shorter sections, the Norwich to Rockland section, which is already detailed on this site, and this walk which is the Rockland to Loddon section, with a cross country walk between Rockland and the main road at Thurton where buses link the two extremities.

The route chosen from Thurton to Rockland for this walk leads along tracks and footpaths from Thurton through to the hamlet of Claxton from where another path leads to Rockland Staithe. Its a worthy walk in itself with some great views across the Yare valley with Cantley sugar factory distinctively lurking in the far distance. There's also Ashby St Mary church to admire and Claxton Castle is something to sneak a view at. One may not have heard of the 14th century Claxton Castle as it's not one of the top Norfolk tourist destinations and I have to admit that until seeing it on the OS map it wasn't a place I had heard of either. This is probably because there is little left of it, and the fact that it sits in the grounds of a private agricultural enterprise, namely Claxton Manor Estates, who now own the impressive Claxton Manor House, the building of which caused the demolition of the castle in the 17th century. Despite there being no public access, one can sneak a good view of the remaining wall of the castle, which stands proud of the Manor house, across a well manicured lawn from the curved gravel driveway. On this occasion all was quiet, not a soul in sight and the ruins stirred enticing feelings of sneaking around the drive and past the house to places where us humble classes were presumably not allowed. But we didn't. The feelings were kept harnessed and we stood in the shadows of the trees at the side of the drive and sneakily snapped pictures. Maybe if some official looking person had wandered past us I might have shyly begged for a closer view. But no-one came. Then the distant sound of a dog barking caught our attention. It was time to go, just in case some stout looking yeoman sauntered out of the building with blunderbuss in hand and volleyed a deafening voice to demand the capture of the rapscallions who were taking pictures of the hallowed walls of Claxton. We hankered off at top speed as if we had been scrumping apples. No-one came. No stout yeoman. No farmhand. No caretaker. Not even a local resident out for a dog walk.

The footpath from Claxton leads down a lane, then through a thicket and across the fields to Rockland Staithe. An information board provides a little history of the Staithe - it was employed as a quay for the tile making industry in the medieval ages from where these black glazed roofing materials were transported from the Staithe, across Rockland Broad and up the river to Norwich. These days it acts as moorings for pleasure boats and the broad has become a wildlife habitat. For the walker, the broad is at first hidden, the Wherrymans Way leading around the wooded area to the southern side of the broad. Occasional glimpses of the waters can be seen through the vegetation which makes one think that one is missing out on something good and results in all manner of techniques to gain a better view of the tantalizing scene. Jumping. Squinting. Pulling back branches and peering. In all cases the view is severely restricted. Then, as one starts to accept that walkers are denied all visual access to this view of natural beauty, the path bends around and a boardwalk presents itself, leading out to a timber hide with a full view all across the broad. And what a view. A vast expanse of blue water under blue skies. Birds and wildfowl going about their business. Reeds leaning in the breezes. Ripples playing on the surface of the waters and a singular boat calmly sailing out from the Staithe. One could be entertained by such views for hours but we had a walk to undertake.

The path continues along the side of Short Dyke which connects the broad to the River Yare. In the distance, upstream, one can make out the tall chimney which instils the idea of some long lost mining industry but is in reality the remains of a 19th century drainage pump. The path along the river on this occasion was pretty much overgrown with cow parsley and tall grasses which made the going difficult but not impossible. Amidst this vegetation is a small brick hut which is the location of an electric drainage pump. Prior to the 1940s a steam engine had undertook the work but this is long gone as is the building that used to house the steam engine. Beyond this, the path had been recently cut down showing that this ongoing task of path maintenance was in operation.

The Beauchamp Arms pub was unfortunately closed when we passed by, but it nonetheless is something to explore, with a large patio area adjacent to a mooring channel where, what looked like a 1920's broads cruiser was tied. The pub marks the point where the Wherrymans Way heads away from the river and takes a route along the country lanes to Langley Dyke. This includes a walk through Langley village where it is worth taking time to have a view of Langley Abbey. It is used as a wedding venue and on this occasion just such an event was being prepared which did hamper an attempt to get a closer inspection. It has to be noted that on entering the grounds to the Abbey ones mind instantly conjures up visions of horses with flippers and snorkels and other sub-aqua gear. There are horses here, their stables being evident along with many people in horsey gear. The clip clop of hooves is ever present as these beasts are led out of the enclosure to destinations unknown. It is notable that there is a distinct lack of evidence of swimwear even though this purports to be the home of the Norfolk Polo Club. Of course, the game of polo is played on horseback and does not involve water despite the jests and japes that the common populous infer, including myself in this doggerel that pours forth from my electronic pen. However, I can firmly state that I have never witnessed such a game in progress, not even on televised entertainment, so I can never be too sure that the stories of horses wearing flippers, snorkels, goggles, aqualungs or even bikinis is false. The polo ground sits adjacent to the entrance and it does have high boarded sides, such like it would contains a large body of water.

The trail leads out of Langley, passing the war memorial and then down towards the Staithe where a waymarker has the words 'Lady Violet' carved in its upright, a reference to a Wherry that used to work these waters. The path then leads out to the River Yare where it winds its way past Cantley, with the domineering sugar factory on the opposite bank, and dwarfed to its westward side is the Reedcutter pub. So near for a drink but a water crossing away and no ferries to cross the watery width. We look longingly. A pint of ale would be good on such a sultry day, but we have to suffice with the water in the bottles of the knapsack.

As the river bends around past Cantley, the path leads on atop an embankment. Cows occupy the path but soon move away as we near. They slyly follow us through to the gate which leads into the garden of The Round House, also referred to as The Devils Roundhouse. Its not Round but it is a house, so it is 50% accurate in its description which is not bad, though certainly would not put it top of the class. The reference is to the fact that this was the site of Langley Mill and later the Langley Roundhouse, a steam engine house which itself was said not to be exactly round but six sided as it is said that this was the only way to keep the Devil from tearing it down because "whenever it was built by day, the Devil overturned at night". The house looks well kept and residential with perfectly manicured gardens, benches sit on the riverside alongside an old street gas-lamp. A sign requests walkers not to stray from the path. Where would one go if one did? The river? There is a track. Maybe the track is out of bounds and the grass is the only place for a walkers boots to tread in case such leather artefacts damage the hardened track. Or maybe any attempt to connect with the track and the devil will just spring forth and kindly ask you your business.

Just beyond the roundhouse is Hardley Mill which dates from 1874 and worked up until 1950. It is now restored and a fitting place to take a seat on the Wherrymends Way bench that is inscribed with the word Providence in capital letters. Another reference to a Wherry. We sit on Providence. Providence does not appear to mind, at least there are certainly no signs of protest as sweaty arses are firmly plonked onto her wooden body. Half an hour is spent relaxing, eating pasties, watching river craft float by and cooling off hot feet which were audibly humming from the hard sun baked ground.

Further down stream, the path diverges from the main river to negotiate its way around Hardley Staithe. A mass of river craft is moored around this ancient Staithe which, according to an information board, dates from Saxon times. On the opposite side two middle age men with tripods, cameras and lenses nearly the size of an Apollo booster rocket, emerge from a car. A woman is in tow. She doesn't look too interested in this endeavour. A few words are exchanged between us. It is the usual typical words of greeting between strangers 'Bird watching?', 'Yes, walking?', 'Yes', and it becomes an instant tie in the competition for pointing out the bleeding obvious, a subject I am usually a wizard at but on this occasion had certainly met my match. The woman offers some comment, whether this is her indignation of another tie in a bleeding obvious competition or the fact that she is not overzealous about an afternoon of searching out rare feathery wildfowl is uncertain.

The journey continues, past Limpenhoe Drainage Mill on the opposite bank. It makes a good picture with the Langley mill in the background as the curve in the river encapsulates both. Ahead in the distance is Norton Drainage Mill which is soon reached at the point where the River Chet meets the Yare. A medieval cross at the meeting of the rivers makes the boundary of the jurisdiction of the City of Norwich. The square shafted medieval cross is said to date back to the 14th or 15th century with restorations carried out in 1676, 1820, 1834, 1899, and 1971. A steel fence now surrounds it, probably in a hope that the next restoration will be a lot longer in the future.

The Chet twists and turns as it heads down to form the boundary between the villages of Chedgrave and Loddon. Unfortunately on this occasion there are works being undertaken on the embankment forcing a diversion up by Hardley Hall and then along the road into Chedgrave. At the point where the track meets the road is a stone, masked by undergrowth. It is clearly marked on the OS map as a 'cross-stone' and is also recorded on OS maps from the late 19th century but is not referenced on the 17th century Fadens map of Norfolk. It is probably either the base stone to a cross or a boundary marker. Whatever its intention, there is a ghostly tale attributed to it which states that on certain nights, at midnight an apparition of an old woman in red appears sitting on the stone. She wasn't there on this passing, but then it wasn't midnight.

The end couple of miles become a bit draining. We had only taken the usual two bottles of water, and with no stop along the way, and the walk being fully under the blistering sun throughout, this finite supply had been utilised. The final two miles into Chedgrave was a thirsty walk but boy oh boy did that first pint of beer at the White Horse hit the right note!

Limpenhoe Drainage Mill
Limpenhoe Drainage Mill

Directions

The route follows the Wherrymans Way markers which are regularly placed throughout the route.

The bus stop is located wither side of the main road at the cross roads in the centre of the village. To get to the Wherrymans Way, one needs to cut across country from Thurton. Take the road signposted for Ashby St Mary and proceed up the gentle hill until Mill Common junctions on the right. Just beyond, also on the right is a footpath between the house boundaries. Take this which leads through to a country lane. Walk out onto the lane and follow it around to the left where Ashby St Mary church stands. Just before the church a footpath leads off on the right across the fields. After crossing three fields it turns into a straight track which leads down to Claxton. Before the end, a footpath leads off on the left, cutting diagonally across the fields to emerge onto a road opposite the site of Claxton Castle. Turn left onto the road and follow this through to a junction. Keep straight ahead, continuing onwards when the road bends to the left. This track leads down into a tree filled gulley where a footpath leads off to the right, cutting across the fields and out onto a farm track. Turn right onto the track which leads out onto the road at Rockland. Turn right and follow the road down to Rockland Staithe.

The Wherrymens Way leads down the side of Rockland Staithe and then leads off around Rockland Broad. There is a viewing point with a timber hide which is accessible via a boardwalk from the path. Beyond this the path leads alongside the dyke and then alongside the River Yare. Keep to this path until the Beauchamp Arms is encountered. Take the lane that leads up to the pub, and turn left at the junction. Follow the road through Langley village. At the far end is a junction with a war memorial, take the left which leads onto Langley Dyke. A footpath leads alongside and then continues alongside the river through to Hardley Staithe. Walk around the Staithe and continue along the river bank. The river Yare is then joined by the River Chet, the meeting being marked by an ancient stone cross. The path continues alongside the River Chet down into Chedgrave.

On this instance there was works in progress alongside the river which necessitated in a diversion along the track by Hardley Hall and then the lane into Chedgrave village. Turn left at the first junction and follow the road onto the main road through the village. The White Horse pub is opposite the junction. Continue along the road through the village and into Loddon. The bus stop, is just beyond Loddon Mill with the Swan Inn opposite.

Yacht on the River YareHardley Cross
On the left Yacht on the River Yare; On the right Hardley Cross

Pubs

Beauchamp Arms, Langley View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Ferry Road, Langley
Website

There has been an inn on this site since at least the 18th century which served the trade for the ferry crossing that used to exist here. A chain ferry is thought to have operated here since the middle ages. This ended in 1938 when a local farmer drove a lorry of sugar beat down to the ferry and didn't stop, plunging into the river and taking out the ferry in the process. Although it is thought that a rowing boat ferry continued for some years afterwards, there is certainly no method of crossing in the present day.

The pub was originally known as the Buckingham Ferry House which was later shortened to the Ferry House. Between the latter end of the 19th century and the present day it has swapped the name of Ferry House and its present moniker of The Beauchamp Arms on a number of occasions. Beauchamp is the name of the family who owned the land on both sides of the river and who are said to have been the Lords of the manor from the 12th century up until the 1940's. The present building is thought to date from the very early 1900s and provides an idyllic patio area for sitting and watching the world go by on the river.

There are a collection of old photos of the pub, together with a brief history of the Yare ferries on the Broadland Memories blog.

The pub offers food and a changing selection of ales, together with a pool room and restaurant area.

Review

Unfortunately the pub does not open until midday and the landlord, who was mowing the lawn, wasn't willing to open early to allow us a drink, therefore I cannot comment on the ales but its location is top notch.

White Horse, Chedgrave View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Norwich Road, Chedgrave
Website

Popular thriving village pub dating from the 18th century that hosts plenty of events throughout the year including 40's nights, bands, psychic evenings and beer festivals. The pub boasts a large garden complete with a full sized bowling green. They serve up to five ales from both local and national brewers.

Review

Charles Wells Burning Gold was the guest ale on at this house and it slide down a treat after a long hot days walking. The pub was gearing up for a 40's night so the bar was only open to the general public for the afternoon and the evening it would be ticket only. This looks a lively and well used local. Top marks for what they do

The Swan, Loddon View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Church Plain, Loddon
Website

Originally an 18th century coaching inn, this popular pub, sitting opposite the church, has continued to trade up until the late 2000's. After a period of closure it was renovated and reopened in 2012. Local food and local ales are served including examples from the Humpty Dumpty from just up the river at Reedham.

Review

A range of guest local ales is what I like about this pub. With the choice of offerings from both Humpty Dumpty and Green Jack it was difficult choice and the Trawler boys won on this occasion.

The remains of Claxton Castle in front of Claxton Manor
The remains of Claxton Castle in front of Claxton Manor

Features

Langley LegendsView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Wiiliam Alfred Dutt, recorded in his 1903 book entitled The Norfolk Broads:

At Langley, not far off, but on the other side of the Yare, might be seen the Devil's Round House, which, whenever it was built by day, the devil overturned at night. There was also at Langley an Abbey of some note, and Langley Cross stood perhaps for centuries, in the village, exposed to rough sage in later times, so that the dwellers in the hall time and again thought of removing it into the precincts of the park for protection. There was, however, an ancient prophecy, of unknown origin, which declared that upon the same day that the cross was removed there would be a conflagration at the hall. At length a Lady Beauchamp, setting oracles at defiance, had the cross carefully moved into the park and re-erected. While the villagers witnessed the daring deed, and just as it was complete, a shout of 'fire' was raised, and the whole gathering rushed off to save the Hall, from a turret of which ugly wreaths of smoke were curling. Prompt measures quenched the enemy, and it was satisfactorily proved that no son of the prophet had tried to verify his prediction.

The Devils Roundhouse refers to the site that the present day Roundhouse is located, on the riverside opposite Cantley. Today it is a fairly modern building which is used to house an electric pump but prior to this there was a building housing a steam pump and even earlier it is thought to have been a wind pump. The building that housed the steam pump was given the name Roundhouse although in fact it was said to have been a six sided clay building and local folklore attribute this shape as a method of preventing the Devil from tearing it down. The Roundhouse is depicted on Fadens map of Norfolk from the late 18th century and the marshes, now known as Langley Marshes, are named the Roundhouse Marsh.

With regard to the legends of Langley, Langley Hall still exists today, as does the the shaft to the cross in the grounds to the Hall although the actual cross is missing. The base is inscribed with the parish names of Chedgrave, Carleton, Langley, and Thurton to indicate its position as the boundary of four parishes. It is thought that the cross dates from the 15th century and was originally placed outside Langley abbey precincts and this is indicated on Fadens 18th century map of Norfolk.

The Hall was built in the 1730s for Richard Berney and in 1738 was remodelled by George Proctor before passing into the hands of the Beauchamp family in 1745. The date when the cross was moved is uncertain. According to information from Heritage Norfolk, it was moved to present site by Sir Thomas Beauchamp Proctor around 1801, these details being supplied by the Ordnance Survey Record Cards. However, in the Gentlemans Magazine of 1806 there is a detailed illustration of the cross and the accompanying script states that it was on Langley Common, which, according to Fadens map is close to the Abbey. Further to this, Heritage Norfolk also record a contradictory statement that it was moved in 1875 after which the inscriptions were added to it. There are currently no records found that indicate a fire having occurred at the Hall after the cross was moved.

References
Rockland Broad
Rockland Broad

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: ... 2016-01-16

  2 comments:

  1. Hi Griffmonster
    Thanks for all the useful indications on your site. This Wherryman's Way walk looks really stimulating, but if I am to make it with a group of not-really-great-walkers I'm hoping to in July I'll have to plan for a shorter, circular route of no more than 7 miles or so. What for you is the purest essence of this route we can access in this way? We'll have a vehicle so won't rely on public transport. Thanks in advance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Steve - there are a series of circular walks on the Wherrymans Way website - have a look at http://www.wherrymansway.net/circularwalks.html - To capture the essence you really need to take in the riverside path and maybe the Langley with Hardley or a combination of the Surlingham and Bramerton walks would suit your requirements. I must admit I was impressed with the area around Surlingham and aim to do a circular walk there my self sometime in the future. This also has a great friendly family run pub in the way of the Ferryboat House

      Delete

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