Wednesday 2nd April 2014: (Where’s The Sea) By eye, Castle Acre is roughly half-way up the Peddars Way cycle route and the straightest bit seen on the map, well to get to the end of Peddars Way that is. However my journey didn’t end there. I then planned to cycle back to King’s Lynn to catch the train to Cambridge. Perhaps it was a good idea that I wasn’t paying to much attention to my progress – in my mind I had reduced the final leg quite considerably.
From the northern end of Peddars Way down to King’s Lynn station, via NCN1, was actually just under 34Km (21miles). Whereas the distance from Thetford Railway Station to the northern end of Peddars Way was 83Km/52 miles. Which means the last leg was about 30% of the station to station distance.
Whilst I could have planned the route more meticulously and worked out various distances along the way I did know the overall distance according to BikeRouteToaster – 116Km/72 miles. So I wasn’t too bothered I knew I could enjoy cycling that sort of distance. The real unknown was just how cycle-able the off-road bits were going to be. If things got really bad I could always cut directly across to King’s Lynn. The spirit of adventure means leaving some things unknown until you get there – well when cycle around Norfolk. I would do it differently in some parts of the world.
the first part of Peddars way out of Castle Acre follows the Massingham Road. As it follows the course of the Roman Road it is pretty straight. There were more vehicles than some of the earlier roads – but it was by no means unpleasant and I didn’t feel harassed. Perhaps the pace of life really is slower in Norfolk. (Here is a picture of the “Rush Hour at Castle Acre Ford”.)
I usually use the OSM maps for most of my navigational needs – however I do sometimes use the OS maps when I want more detail about rights of way. Just to the north-west of Castle Acre there are some strange patterns in the fields. They do not appear on the Where’s The Path old 25K OS map or the satellite view though. I don’t know what they represent – but could be the way the land was apportioned for tenants of the Manor?
If you follow the route on the OS map you’ll see that it does undulate a bit. You leave Castle Acre at 53m above sea level which rises to 64m then drops to 56m then up to 84m. It is actually quite pleasant to climb a short hill and enjoy the ride down the other side.
As it turns out I missed out a small section of the off-road track and followed a small detour – however I didn’t realise it at the time – which seems rather weird. I don’t think I would have noticed if I hadn’t loaded both the route to follow and the route I took onto Google Earth.
I seem to have a blind spot when it comes to following routes off-road. Here is the section on the OSM map and here is the Streetview link. Here is the bit where the two traces re-join. I do wonder whether my GPS locked onto the road when I took the byway because it looks familiar. But the mind can play strange tricks.
Problem solved – I have just checked and I did take the road route – because when I first digitised the route it did indeed follow the road and the detour. Which I didn’t notice at the time. However when I was playing on Bike Route Toaster I edited a few similar errors out of the map and this was one that got fixed.. So the BRT map is correct as far as I know and I did take the detour. So the red line is the route I originally plotted and followed, the blue line is the correct line to take and the one on BikeRouteToaster.
An unintended Peddars Way Detour
After a relative short run of country lane it becomes a green dot road at a 25K scale. It means “Other routes with public access (not normally shown in urban areas)”. This is what it looks like in Streetview. It undulates and at first gave me cause for concern – the track was rather sandy. Almost but not quite too sandy. I did find myself seeking out the firmer bits. The edge of the tracks up on the grass was usually the easiest to cycle on. The trouble is with sand is that my wheels dig in then I have to stop. Re-starting is hard and the whole thing is very energy-sapping.
This picture was taken where the Peddars Way crosses the Lynn Road on its way to Great Massingham. The track climbed up to 92m – which is mountainous for a flatlander like me. You can see it here on the OS map or here on the OSM map.
Now I don’t have GPS on my camera – what I do is use the uploaded GPS record of my route in Google Earth – when I stop there is usually a small gap in the trace – which shows where I was when I took the picture – simples.
Peddars Way – Crossing the Lyn Road to Great Massingham
Let me just mention once again – the weather was wonderful warm, but not too warm, the skies were blue, the fields were yellow. In the picture the wood at the end of the field is called Nut Wood. To the left is a bridleway that runs the other side of the hedgerow and past the wood to Little Massingham. The next time I venture this way I am going to have to create my own route and try out some of the other tracks.
As you can see, the field is not so far along – which shows how far north I’d come – at this rate I’d be seeing snow soon.
Nut Wood seen from Peddars Way (nr Little Massingham)
Another of the Norfolk Songline sculptures, Just up the track according to my GPS trace. It is next door to a bridleway – whereas on the web there is a picture of this sculpture which shows it next to a bridleway . Yet on the map they have it marked here. I think I am correct – but you never know,
Norfolk Songline Sculpture – Peddars Way – Little Massingham
In fact as I think about it this picture was taken alongside the sculpture – there is the same bridleway sign. The reason I took the picture is because it highlights the wonderful abundance of off-road tracks in this part of the world. However it supports my view on where the Sculpture was.
Peddars Way – Little Massingham – Bridleway to Nut Wood
Along this part of the track there did seem to be some signs implying that the Peddars Way might be closed for repair – although the dates on the signs seemed to be wrong. I really should have taken a picture or two to remind myself. However at the time it served as an annoyance and I figured whatever the repairs I would get around them. You can’t just close a route without ensuring that there is a decent suitable alternative.
As it turned out the track was not closed and I didn’t have any problems. I did check the National Trails website before I set off mind – although I favour not knowing too much before I set off there are limits to my ignorance – honest.
The route did cross the A148 near Harpley Dams, but this one was relatively easy to cross, despite it being an A Road. I didn’t realise that I has crossed the route of what had been the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway. This was an odd line that seemed to bypass King’s Lynn with a marshalling yard to the south and South Lynn Station.
Apparently the nickname for the route M&GN line was “Muddle and Get Nowhere” which if you follow the track it seems to weave around a lot. After its closure the nickname became “Missed and Greatly Needed”. The closure of this line was in 1959 and preceded Beeching.
After crossing the A148 and a very brief stretch of “civilised” road the route becomes a green dot route again, phew (In this case more byway that road.) This bit of Peddars way seems to offer the best off-road for cycling – in that it is straight and long and seems to go on for miles and miles. In fact it not only seems to, it does.
The North Bit of Peddars Way – Glorious Off-road Cycling for Miles
If you look on the OSM map there are what appear to be three airfields nearby. The closest to Peddars Way is Great Massingham, then the disused RAF West Raynham and RAF Sculthorpe. RAF Great Massingham was a satellite airfield of RAF West Raynham. According to this line Great Massingham still operates privately. Read the bit at the bottom – the modern-day pilot comments on what it must have been like in war-time. Here is a bit more on RAF Massingham from the village website. (Here is the WTP link as well.)
Finally a bit about RAF Sculthorpe, this was a second satellite airfield of RAF West Raynham, the airfield remains in military hands – but is hardly used and much of the housing was sold off apparently.
So that leaves the question where were the two Ospreys that kept circling round and round and round flying from. Were they using RAF Sculthorpe as part of their training or flying from somewhere else. The Ospreys I mean are the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aiircraft. When you see them flying they make a strange sound – a cross between a normal propeller plane and a helicopter. Also you wonder how they would land – since the propellers would scrape the ground. (They tilt – hence the term tiltrotor.
V-22 Osprey (one of two) flying above the Peddars Way, Norfolk
Being military aircraft the plane markings are not easily seen – well not with the lens I was using.
V-22 Osprey (one of two) flying above the Peddars Way, Norfolk
I was going to caption this picture with a comment on it being a more normal Norfolk sight – farming the fields. However having looked at the list of airfields that there used to be in Norfolk (over 50) then they probably miss the sounds of planes flying overhead. A few still exist with RAF Marham to the west of Peddars way. They will be acquiring F-35 5th gen planes.
The countryside in Norfolk gently undulates, oh have I said that already. This picture rather nicely illustrates it with a mix of fields, woods, hedgerows and a farmer working in the field. The farmer is using a GRIMME CS 150 soil separator, preparing his field for high quality potatoes.
Norfolk Farmer – preparing for spuds – Peddars Way
Those Osprey’s just kept on going around and around. I am not sure where they are based, although they could be based at RAF Mildenhall (US Air Base) which has two and is getting 8 more in August this year. They aren’t cheap at $78million a pop. Here is a YouTube video of one landing at STANTA – with sound.
V-22 Osprey (one of two) flying above the Peddars Way, Norfolk
Eventually all good things come to an end and this off-road bit of Peddars Way then turned onto Fring Road. The Peddars way footpath continues but not for cyclists alas. Although there was one last ford to cycle through – although it looked more like a puddle really. So for walkers this is a crossroads. A bit further along the OS map this stream seems to be connected to the River Heacham, actually it is the River Heacham.
Fring Crossroads – Peddars Way crosses the River Heacham
Once I reached Sedgeford I joined NCN1 – a route I have cycled a few times before. You climb up out of the village and down into a dip and a Signal Box comes into view – yet another abandoned Norfolk Railway Line. This one came in from King’s Lynn – with a spur up to Hunstanton and a line across through Burnham Market and then to Wells-Next-The-Sea where it then heads south. The line was the West Norfolk Junction Railway.
Here is a picture of Sedgeford Railway Station taken in 1976, there isn’t a Signal Box.
Sedgeford Signal Box
For my route to the sea I didn’t take the longer route, but instead followed the more direct route of NCN1 to Ringstead, I was going to take the longer route back. Now I had not been to Holme next the Sea before and it seemed the further North I went the murkier the weather got. It was almost cold enough that I had to put my jacket on. The sun had gone and it was grey.
There has been quite a lot of building in the area and barn conversions – I passed this house being built - £2.5m. I assume that quite a lot of the demand is for second homes – although this seems a lot to spend for a second home in the middle of nowhere.
As I was also feeling quite tired I lost the inspiration to take any pictures, for the record rather than for any particular sight. I did want a picture of the sea though. Unfortunately the Peddars Way ends up crossing a golf course. It is a byway and so a right of way to the beach – it didn’t feel very welcoming though so I stopped at the road bit. Knowing what I know now, maybe I would have crossed – but I wasn’t wearing a cycle helmet and golf can be a dangerous sport.
I can see why people like playing golf near to the sea – but if I had been living in Holme-next-the-sea I would have felt a little peeved by having to cross a golf course every time I want to get to the beach.
Next time I think I would head across to Hunstanton.
Holme-Next-The-Sea – Peddars Way meets a Golf Course
Whilst looking on the web for stuff I came across this Blog. A cycle ride along Peddars Way, the other way. They set of from Waterbeach Station and caught the train to King’s Lynn. They cycled up to Sandringham on NCN1 and then cut across to the Peddars Way on Ling House Road and from Ling House to the Peddars Way by green dot road. They managed to notice the Castle at Castle Acre and take loads more pictures.
Talking about exploring the byways – here is an interesting website Peaceful Byways – 12 cycle rides in West Norfolk.
And finally – for this post – Peddars Way on Flikr. (A walking/camping view.)
Finally to King’s Lynn and the train back to Cambridge.