We haven’t been walking for ages and to my shame, when I pulled out my walking shoes, they were still covered in mud from my last Nordic Walking session the week before Christmas. The wet, cold spring wasn’t a great incentive for long walks and with the demands of work, house moving, family and “dealing with builders” the only walking for the past few months has been around the farm, rather than following long distance trails.
But in May, the lure of exploring new places with bluebell woods and blossom laden hedgerows is hard to resist and if fine weather is forecast, the maps are soon pulled out and routes planned for a good walk.
Last year, we started The Monarchs Way and though we loved the first few days walking through villages and beautiful countryside with good access to public transport, we later skipped a big urban section and took an alternative cross-country route to avoid miles of road walking. We rejoined the official route but when we reached Stratford-upon-Avon, we tried to work out if transport and accommodation would be easier along the Cotswold Way rather than the Monarch’s Way. I’m not worried about walking every mile of a long distance trail; we often divert to visit something interesting and take different routes or miss small sections to fit in with travelling and accommodation. However, when we started to consider blue blazing a 100 mile alternative, we wondered if we were walking the wrong trail.
After much poring over maps, train timetables and accommodation listings, we have abandoned the Monarch’s Way, at least for the time being. It seems a bit defeatist and there are plenty of people who would grit their teeth and continue, but we walk for pleasure and if there isn’t any pleasure there seems little point in carrying on. Far better to find a walk that we enjoy. One of the reasons we started the Monarch’s Way was because we’d crossed it so many times on previous walks, so as an alternative we decided to try to link up all the walks that we’ve done. We particularly enjoyed the series of linked trails that took us from Lyme Regis in Dorset across the country to Cromer on the Norfolk coast, so plumped for extending that walk.
After a search for our rucksacks (I haven’t necessarily put everything in a logical place in our new home) and with freshly scrubbed walking shoes, we set off for Cromer.
We wended our way along the very circuitous Paston Way between Cromer and North Walsham that took us along the beach, down paths overgrown with cow parsley and tiny country roads with grass growing down the middle.
When we reached the Norfolk Broads, it seemed silly to walk when we could jump on a boat to go nature watching across wide broads and drift through reed fringed channels.
At Great Yarmouth, the Weavers Way starts conveniently close to the railway station, so we jumped off the train, made a quick detour into neighbouring Asda to buy some lunch and set off along the banks of Breydon Water, watching a steady stream of boats navigate the narrow channel.
We reached Berney Arms Windmill, the tallest marsh mill at 21 metres high and turned north, leaving the river behind us …
… to walk across Halvergate Marsh, where windmills and church towers are just specks in the distance and the sky seems enormous.
Eventually, we reached the edge of the marsh, back to the more familiar landscape of productive farmland and villages and sat on a bench in the sunshine to eat our lunch.
As we ended our walk, leaving the Weavers Way to reach the railway station at Acle, we paused to listen to a cuckoo calling. The first cuckoo I’ve heard this year and a fitting end to a good walk.
After a few glorious days walking, we’re already planning the next stage, so maybe the main reason we didn’t walk earlier in the year was that I just wasn’t enthusiastic enough about the Monarch’s Way.
By the way, is there an easy way to plot lots of routes onto a digital map?