Take a country walk this Christmas

Need to get out of the house this Christmas. Put on your coat and gloves and take a walk in Norfolk - for example, here in the Nar Valley.

Need to get out of the house this Christmas? Put on your coat and gloves and take a walk in Norfolk – for example, here in the Nar Valley.

For many of us, Christmas Day wouldn’t be the same without a stroll. We’re blessed in Norfolk with some beautiful landscapes and getting out in the countryside and fresh air is a great counterbalance to all that turkey and tinsel.

We wouldn’t blame you for looking out the window and having doubts about going outside today but with more optimistic forecasts on the horizon, there should be an opportunity to get out and about without getting wet over the holidays.

We asked the Norfolk Trails Team based at Norfolk County Council for their top picks for great winter walks in the county and they came up with some crackers. Ahem.

A very merry Christmas from all of us at Norfolk Winter and happy walking!

Whether you’re young or old, fighting fit or still working off the effects of a big Christmas dinner, anyone can take part in a good walk, and here in Norfolk we’ve got walks that cater for everyone.

Walking isn’t just a nice social pastime, it’s also a great chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and see some of the great sights of our county over the holidays. 

We’ve listed our favourite winter walks dotted around the county here but there are nearly 200 walks in the series of Health Heritage and Biodiversity Walks booklets, published by Norfolk County Council, with information on short circular walks as well as more challenging longer walks.

The link for each heading will take you to a Google map of the location of the start point of the walk and clicking each link in the main text will take you to information on the walk, and a variety of other walks in the area, giving directions and letting you know where to go and what to look for.

Burgh Castle to Great Yarmouth via Angles Way (Great Yarmouth area)

Distance: 4.8 miles (not circular)

Parking: Burgh Castle site

This wonderful east Norfolk walk takes in the River Yare and Breydon Water and offers a great mixture of ancient buildings and great scenery.

Visit on a clear day and you can see right across the Burgh Castle marshes

Visit on a clear day and you can see right across the Burgh Castle marshes.

At low tide, large numbers of wading birds and wildfowl rely on the invertebrates living where salt and fresh water meet on the tidal mudflats of Breydon Water – particularly spectacular on a clear winter day.

To visit the historic Burgh Castle Roman fort, take a left through the gate beside the church and then bear right to cross the field. This is an addition to the walk and adds about an extra mile – but it’s well worth a visit.

This isn’t a circular walk so to get back, catch the bus from Great Yarmouth to Burgh Castle and walk back along Angles Way beside Breydon Water – or even walk there and back if you’re feeling energetic. The Queens Head pub is next to the bus stop so you can stop off for a drink when you’re done.

There are steps on this walk and being by the river means it can get a bit boggy so make sure you bring appropriate footwear.

Blickling via Moorgate (Aylsham area)

Distance: 3.5 miles

Parking: Pay and display at Blickling Hall

Blickling Hall is one of Norfolk’s most spectacular buildings – as you’ll be able to tell by our photo – but it’s also the starting point for an excellent winter walk.

This wintry shot of the majestic Blickling Hall can be seen in our Norfolk Winter Flickr group. Credit: Gerry Balding

This wintry shot of the majestic Blickling Hall can be seen in our Norfolk Winter Flickr group. Credit: Gerry Balding

You’ll can enjoy the scenery walking through Blickling Park down to Moorgate and pass the remains of Blickling Mill on the River Bure. 

Blickling Park is one of 1,300 County Wildlife Sites in Norfolk and the site is mostly parkland, with a large ornamental lake, formal gardens and woods.

You’ll get the chance to see some picturesque cottages dotted along the River Bure and possibly even birds and bats, housed by the dead trees along the route. Don’t forget to take a pair of sturdy boots with you in wet weather though.

The Buckingham Arms pub is located en route if you want to wet your whistle and there are a couple of cafés to get a bite to eat in as well.

Castle Acre (Swaffham area)

Distance: 1.5 miles

Parking: Free parking at the castle car park

Recognise the photo?

The remains of Castle Acre near Swaffham. This photo is a great example of how bringing a camera on a walk can be rewarding. Credit: Nick Ford.

The remains of Castle Acre near Swaffham. This photo is a great example of how bringing a camera on a walk can be rewarding. Credit: Nick Ford.

The shot at the top this very blog of the remains of Castle Acre happens to be on an excellent winter walk, which is perfect for a stroll in the Swaffham area.

The walk goes through a beautiful route which takes in the rich history and stunning landscape around Castle Acre where the ancient Peddars Way and the Nar Valley Way cross.

The remains of the Castle and Priory, which were held by the Late Saxons, are real highlights of this walk, while the River Nar at Castle Acre is a beautiful example of a spring-fed chalk river home to species such as brown trout and water voles.

The 1.5 mile walk takes you round the village of Castle Acre and there are one or two pubs and cafés where you can stop off on your way round.

Bawsey Ruins (King’s Lynn area)

Distance: 2.9 miles

Parking: Off-road parking in front of farm buildings

Standing amongst the church ruins on top of the hill, looking out over the present-day landscape, imagine a time when you would have stood at the centre of a thriving fishing village, when Bawsey was once situated on the edge of the GaywoodRiver estuary.

The ruins at Bawsey are the highlight of a walk that takes in wildlife and picturesque views.

The ruins at Bawsey are the highlight of a walk that takes in wildlife and picturesque views.

That’s all part of the charm of this walk past Bawsey Ruins near King’s Lynn.

Known as St James’, this isolated and ruined medieval church once stood at the centre of a thriving fishing village which grew on the edge of the Gaywood River estuary during the Middle to Late Saxon period and during the Medieval period.

Starting at Church Farm and going past the Gaywood River estuary, this walk also takes in various species of wildflower and birds such as the lapwing and marsh harrier.

Some of this route goes through the Church Farm land so we do ask that you keep any dogs on a lead, and bring a pair of sturdy boots too as it can get muddy.

British Trust for Ornithology Nunnery Lakes Walk (Thetford area)

Distance: 2.6 miles

Parking: Free at Bridge Street, opposite Mill Lane and at the British Trust for Ornithology site

This Thetford walk is ideal for birdwatchers and offers the combination of flat, firm footpaths in the town and softer grassy and woodland tracks around British Trust for Ornithology reserve around Nunnery Lakes.

One of the Nunnery Lakes which is circled by this Thetford walk.

Landmarks to look out for on the walk include the Maharajah Duleep Singh on Butten Island and the old coffee mill

This varied site is home to a wealth of wildlife, including several rare or endangered species including the tufted duck and the scarcer goosander on the lakes during the winter months.

If you’re feeling peckish after you’ve finished, you can venture north of the lakes and tuck in at one of the numerous pubs and cafés in the Thetford area.

Redgrave and Lopham Fen (Diss area)

Distance: various

Parking: free car park at visitor centre; café open on weekends and some bank holidays

If your idea of a good Christmas walk is a quiet family stroll for people of all ages then Redgrave and Lopham Fen is for you.

The sun going down on a winter's day in Redgrave and Lopham fen. Credit: Javier Delgado Esteban
The sun going down on a winter’s day in Redgrave and Lopham fen. Credit: Javier Delgado Esteban

In dry weather, the paths are suitable for wheelchairs and prams and the routes are of different lengths to cater for those who just want to stretch their legs and those interested in a lengthier walk.

Covering Norfolk and Suffolk, the fen is at the source of the River Waveney and is a beautiful fen walk in an oasis of calm and tranquillity just five miles from the hustle and bustle of Diss.

Redgrave and Lopham Fen is the largest remaining river valley fen in England. There are five waymarked trails to enjoy around this Suffolk Wildlife Trust owned site and you can take a look here to see them.

Cromer via Overstrand beach walk (Cromer and Sheringham area)

Distance: 4.3 miles

Parking: nearby pay and display car parks on Meadow Lane and Cadogan Lane

It’s alleged that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle came up with ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ when he heard of the legend of the Black Shuck when staying at Royal Cromer Golf Club.

The remains of the Fernebo, a ship that sunk off Cromer in January 1917, which lies on Overstrand beach.

The remains of the Fernebo, a ship that sunk off Cromer in January 1917. These lie on Overstrand beach and can be seen at low tide.

But don’t let any urban legends put you off. Trekking from Cromer to Overstrand is a picturesque walk at any time of year and winter is no different.

You can enjoy the beach walk to Overstrand before returning via the village and lighthouse. Overstrand Cliffs are classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and are amongst the best soft cliff habitats in East Anglia.

Make sure you check the tide timetables before you leave though as the beach may not always be accessible. The best time to go is an hour before low tide, so take a look here before setting off. In fact, during low tide you might even pass the remains of shipwrecks. The photo above shows the Fernebo, wrecked off Cromer in January 1917.

And of course you can stop off at any one of numerous pubs and cafés in Cromer or Overstrand, with The Rocket House café located at the start point of the route.

Still not sure where to walk?

The Norfolk Trails team have a huge list of walks on the Health Heritage and Biodiversity Walks pdf booklets on the Countryside Access website, which you can access by clicking on the links above or by looking here.

If you’re after further detail of where to go, check the Interactive map with where your nearest walk is. This is being updated in the spring so keep an eye out for a new and improved map in the new year.

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