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

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Holt to Mannngton Circular Walk

An 18 mile circular walk using footpaths and bridleways through the attractive Norfolk countryside between Holt Country Park and the Mannington Estate.

This trail takes in woodland, open countryside, lanes and even a stream which one has to jump across to provide a variety of landscape. The majority of the route is clearly waymarked although the start in Holt country park lacks initial direction as does the section around the Mannington Estate. The only disappointment was the lack of pubs, the Hare and Hounds at Baconsthorpe having last closed its doors in 2010.

Holt to Mannington Circular Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

  • Start location: Holt 
  • Distance:   miles (  km)
  • Total Gain:   ft (  metre)
  • Total Descent:   ft (  metre)
  • Min Height:   ft (  metre)
  • Max Height:   ft (  metre)
  • Walk Time:  
  • Walk type: Circular
  • Walk Grade: Easy
  • Terrain:


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. There are links to printed maps and links to downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.



Woodhill Park CampsiteView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Woodhill Park Campsite, Runton


Details of public transport that is required for the walk

Sanders Coaches - bus Service
Service Details
4/5 - Sanders Coaches Service 4/5 Cromer to Holt

Route Verification Details

  • Date of Walk: 2011-10-14
  • Walk Time: 08:30 to 16:00
  • Walkers: Griffmonster, Kat
  • Weather Conditions: Lovely sunny autumn day

Walk Notes

The OS map indicates that the path follows the road alongside the country park but luckily a park worker at the entrance to the park, after a brief casual conversation about our days walking, directed us to the footpath which is off the road and is not immediately obvious. This path runs parallel to the road until it comes to a clearing where work was in progress with felling of the trees. Here it was ambiguous as to the direction to continue in, with what looked like a track across the clearing. After a few moments of hesitation we followed our intuition to keep close to the road and continued along the edge of the clearing where we found the path amid the undergrowth - once again this was not totally clear.

We had similar navigation issues at Mannington Hall. The main entrance, a long straight avenue of trees to the Hall is sited where the road turns a sharp right with a car park on the left. Signs on the gateposts to this entrance clearly indicated this was not a right of way and the OS map depicted the path to follow the road around the double bend. This we did, expecting to find access to the hall further on, but the only other entrance also notified us it was not a public right of way. We eventually took a footpath beyond the Hall that met back up with the official route on the far side of the grounds. My guess is that we should have taken the drive into the car park but there was certainly no obvious waymarker here.

Despite these two sections, the rest of the route is very well waymarked although we found a few waymarkers, near Hempstead and close to Barningham, vandalised and tossed down into ditches. Nonetheless with an OS map it is perfectly clear as to the route one should take in these instances.

According to the OS map there is a pub at Baconsthorpe, and I had calculated that if we kept a good pace we should reach this about 2pm for a deserved drink and possibly a bite to eat. Sure enough, we kept to schedule and as the footpath emerged on to the road at Baconsthorpe the pub was immediately on the left with a large signboard across its side declaring "The Hare and Hounds". A large garden was set to the side and rear of the pub with a fenced border along the pavement. What I thought was the landlord came striding across the garden and bid me a pleasant hello. I asked if the pub was still open for the lunchtime session, and it was quite a shock when he replied 'No, the pub closed a year ago'. This was such a letdown. Not only because this should have been a rewarding drink and a chance to rest our legs for half an hour but so sad to see yet another traditional English Pub closing its doors for good. We had to content ourselves with a seat on the style and a drink of our diminishing water supplies.

Every good walk has to have some challenge and this one was no exception. As the path heads south from Little Barningham it comes to a track marked as 'Watery Lane' on the OS map. A curious name which soon became clear. Its course follows a stream which it has to cross before heading off across the farmland. This part was a little muddy despite the lack of rain in recent weeks. And then came the challenge, the crossing of the stream had no bridge or stepping stones, not even a makeshift plank or tree-trunk. A steep bank led down to the stream which, with a spring in ones step, could just be jumped. I am certain when rains came this would entail getting ones feet wet and is probably why this was called Watery Lane! This obstacle was immediately followed by a large fallen tree which had a style carved out of it!

As we returned through Hempstead, the path takes a track down to Hempstead Hall. Here, it passes through the farm with a duck pond by the entrance. The immediate area was covered with a badling of ducks making a cacophony of quacks and cackles with the resulting din sounding very much like combined laughter. Occasionally the quacking would cease for a couple of seconds and then it would start again as if another joke had been told. Play the video below and see if you get the joke!

It had been a long days walking without much in the way of a rest break and Kat was suffering a little by the time we walked back into Holt. We had a little time before our bus back so opted for a deserved pint of Wherry in the Railway Tavern. The rest was very welcome and it also gave us time to review the collection of sweet chestnuts we had managed to harvest throughout the day.

Mossymere Woods
Mossymere Woods


The route officially starts an ends in Holt Country Park. Throughout the distance it is clearly waymarked with the distinctive Holt-Mannignton Walk waymarkers

The official walk starts in Holt Country Park. Take the path that runs along the edge of B1149 Saxthorpe Road. Keep along this until an open grass field is reached with a waymarker pointing diagonally across. Keep to the track down and across the small river and follow the watercourse until there is a track up through the woods and out across open fields. It is now a virtually straight line through to Hempstead and beyond. Out of Hempstead, as the road bends to the right and junctions with Back Lane, walk 10 yards up Back Lane and the path continues on the right across more fields. There are crops on these fields and the route is not totally clear - just head diagonally across to the waymarker in the far corner. Cross the road and take the track down to the road by Hole Farm where the route turns left to follow the road through to Ralphs, a modern eco-friendly building with a roofed garden. Follow the track through the woods at the side of Ralphs, turning left at the bottom of the hill which then leads along the border of the wood. Continue over the road and keep to the track all the way through to Barningham. At this point the path meets the return route. Go straight across the road and through the sheep field and continue until a field boundary is met. Turn right and follow the boundary around to Watery Lane which is no more than a footpath. Keep to this path until it meets the road. Double back up the road and down to the woods, taking the track on the right into Mossymere Wood. Follow the way markers through and onto Keepers Lane which meets the road to Mannington. Turn right and follow the road through to Mannington Hall. Here it is unclear as to the direction one should go. There is a footpath on the left just beyond the hall, at the top edge to this field follow the boundary to the left then follow the way markers through to the road. Cross the road and continue straight ahead to Barnignham Green Farm. At the road turn left, then take the track on the right which is the crossover point of the trail. Continue straight along this track to Plumstead and then follow the Baconsthorpe road until there is a footpath on the left. Keep to the path through to Baconsthorpe. Take the road past the old Hare and Hounds, then the lane on the left into Hempstead. There is a track down the side of the church which leads through to Hempstead Hall. Follow the track past the duckpond then across the grass field with the donkey in it. At the bottom keep to the right up the hill and along the field boundary to the road. Turn left and follow the road back along the side of the country park.

Ruins of St Marys Church, ManningtonRiver to cross!
On the left Ruins of St Marys Church, Mannington; On the right River to cross!


The Railway Tavern, Holt View in OS Map | View in Google Map

The Railway Tavern, Holt

Town centre pub with long bar and sports on tv. Woodfordes and Adnams ales. Sadly, this tavern is no longer open for business - Part to be converted into dwellings, future of remaining part of public house `uncertain


Was pretty quiet at 4pm when we arrived. Woodfordes Wherry was on offer and it was a deserved pint at the end of a good days walking. The friendly barman was impressed that we had walked the entire Holt Mannington trail.

Hempstead Mill
Hempstead Mill


Ruins of St Marys Church, ManningtonView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A well maintained ruin of the former church of St Marys at Mannington

On the opposite side of the road to Mannington Hall, enclosed in a small wood is the ruins of the 12th century Saxon church of St Mary. When the parishes of Mannington and Iteringham were combined in 1780, St Mary's church became redundant. Despite its disused status, the Earls of Orford of Mannington Hall continued to use the church as a mausoleum complete with a folly garden full of old stonework and mock memorials. The 2nd Lord Orford is believed to have destroyed a tomb belonging to the Scalmers family, former owners of Mannington Hall, and ever since then the church is said to be haunted by the ghost of lady reputed to be of that family. Eventually the church fell into ruin and more recently it has been placed on the English Heritage 'Buildings at Risk' list. The remaining roofless and tower-less structure is well maintained and still houses a number of monuments including the old font and a broken stone coffin. The church has never been de-consecrated and services are still regularly held in the summer and at Christmas.

Mannington Hall and GardensView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Mannington Hall is a 15th century moated and battlemented flint and stone hall set in landscaped gardens.

The gardens feature a wide variety of plants, trees and shrubs in many different settings. Throughout the gardens are thousands of roses, especially classic varieties. The Heritage Rose and Twentieth Century Rose Gardens have roses in areas with designs reflecting their date of origin from the fifteenth century to the present day. There are believed to be more than 1500 rose varieties in the gardens. The park is about 20 acres. One unusual feature are the depressions in the ground which may still be seen, two near the chapel and one to the right of the main drive. A contemporary description of 1717 says 'to the astonishment of those that were present, first single oak with roots and ground about was seen to subside and sink into the earth' and continues to say that then another two trees disappeared, leaving large pits. This alarming event probably occurred because of changes in the course of those underground springs which are still present and feed the lakes and moat. Substantial tree planting has taken place in the last thirty years.

Hempstead MillView in OS Map | View in Google Map

A former working watermill on the River Glaven, built in 1830 by Richard John Gurney

Hempstead watermill is set on the River Glaven alongside the Baconsthorpe to Holt road. This flint and brick building with a pantiled roof was built in 1830 by Richard John Gurney and was then known as Holt mill. The watercourse had to be moved 40 yards up the hill in order to accommodate the mill and a large mill pond formed with the mill acting as a dam. It would appear that this was not a good place to site a mill as the locals used to say "Mr. Gurney, he built a barn where there weren't enough corn to put in it and a mill where there weren't enough water to turn the wheel." In 1905 the mill wheel was replaced by a turbine which was a more efficient way of using the limited amount of water the river afforded.

Hempstead watermill and the adjoining mill house are built of local flint and brick under a Norfolk pantiled roof. The present building was built by Richard John Gurney in 1830 and at that time was known as Holt Mill. The original watercourse, along which the parish boundary runs, was moved southwards some 40 yards slightly up the hill towards Holt in order to better accommodate the mill. The Glaven, which used to be called Hempstead Beck, was effectively dammed by the mill thereby forming the large lake that is still above the mill today. Even then the mill could only operate for a maximum of 5 hours a day without draining the pond.

In 1911 a bakery was built within the mill complex and this lasted up until 1953 when new hygiene regulations prevented the use of spring water for bread making and the Norwich firm Sunblest moved into the area, taking away the mills trade. Today the mill machinery is incapable of operating as one corner of the shaft support beam has sunk preventing the turbine from disengaging.

Mannington Hall and Gardens
Mannington Hall and Gardens


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

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2021-12-07

2011-11-06 : Initial publication
2017-02-05 : General website updates
2019-01-09 : General website updates
2021-03-17 : Update website improvements and removal of ViewRanger reliance
2021-12-01 : Removal of ViewRanger links due to its imminent demise


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