From Covehithe ruin to Foxley wood: 20 places in East Anglia that no one else knows
PUBLISHED: 15:50 02 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:57 04 April 2017
To celebrate a new book highlighting some of our best places to go wild in the country, we look at some of East Anglia’s locations to go off-grid.
Everyone needs to go a little bit wild sometimes. And the authors of a new guide - Wild Guide Southern and Eastern England - are keen to help us do exactly that.
From wild swimming to artisan foods, ancient woodland to wild camping, its authors are hoping to inspire us to leave our towns and villages and explore some of the best and most inspirational places around.
Our neck of the (ancient) woods features heavily, of course, and to celebrate the new book, we’ve chosen some of their best picks for our region…
1 Ten Mile Bank, Downham Market
‘A quiet, broad stretch of the Great Ouse river with pontoons and grassy banks N to Denver Sluice and S to Brandon Creek. A little lane, perfect for cycling, follows on one side and the Fen River Way footpath on the other. Remote, beautiful fenland.
From the bridge at Ten Mile Bank (PE38 0HB, off A10 3½ miles S of Downham Market roundabout) explore along the riverbank lane 3 miles N or S. Train at Downham Market and Littleport.’
2 Ouse Washes
‘The UK’s largest area of ‘washland’, or seasonally-flooded grazing pasture, has thousands of ducks and swans in winter, with lapwings and redshank in spring. The shallow Dec–March flood levels offer the best bird watching. A true fenland experience.
RSPB Ouse Washes reserve, Counter Wash, Chatteris, PE15 0NF. From SW end of Manea village (PE15 0LS), take L signed to Welches Dam and follow 2 miles to car park at end.’
3 Ringstead Downs
‘A dry glacial valley, home to brown argus butterflies, warblers and rare wild flowers. The Woodland Garden has tree swings.
From The Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead (PE36 5JU), head S for Sedgeford. After 400m, take unsigned track R to rough parking area on reserve edge. Buy supplies from Walsingham Farm Shop branch at Norfolk Lavender (PE31 7JE, 01485 570384).’
4 Godwick Abandoned Village
‘One of Britain’s best examples of a deserted medieval village, which functioned until the 17th century. Perhaps abandoned due to poor harvests and weather. A church ruin rises above the earthworks of the village buildings.
From St Mary’s Church (Church Ln, Tittleshall, PE32 2QD), head N with church on R. Where road bends L before junction, find footpath on R. Follow for approx ½ mile to church tower.’
5 Waxham and Sea Palling
‘Historic Great Barn with excellent café. Pretty sandy lane leads through dunes to the beach.
3 miles N of Horsey NR12 0DZ (visit Great Barn, NR12 0EE, 01692 598824 on the way). Adjacent Sea Palling is much busier (jet-skis) with offshore rock reefs and artificial coves for swimming.’
6 East Wretham Heath
‘Splendid for its sheer diversity, this is the Brecks’ oldest reserve and largest area of open heathland. Find gnarled old Scots pine trees, nightjars and stone curlews, with their haunting yellow eyes. Also stoats, roe deer and thousands of rabbits.
From A11 N of Thetford, take A1075 signed Dereham/ Watton. After approx 2 miles, find pull-in and byway entrance on L (IP24 1RU).’
7 Mendham, River Waveney
‘Meandering and rather wonderful stretch of the mid-Waveney – warm and not too deep. Otters, kingfishers, and overhanging willows.
From Mendham road bridge (IP20 0NH) walk downstream on left bank (fishing path) for 200m to pool. Or upstream through meadows to wild, hidden reedy pools (bear L on footpath from church in Mendham and ½ mile to reach the river).’
8 St Theobald’s
‘Pilgrims once flocked to see the image of St Theobald at this rugged, round-towered, 11th-century church. Beautiful wild flowers.
From Coltishall (NR12 7A A) head N, signed ‘By way to Lt Hautbois’. After ½ mile, opposite fishpond on R, find kissing gate on L and follow track to the church. NB 100m before the church a track leads to the remains of a 13th-century castle with intricate moat remains.’
9 Grandparent Oak, Bacton Wood (near North Walsham)
‘Sitting beside a path in mature woodland, this gnarled sessile oak is thought to be more than 200 years old. Bacton Wood has lots of smaller intriguing trails.
From Edingthorpe village (NR28 9TJ), follow sign for ‘N Walsham via quiet lanes’ ½ mile to crossroads, then straight on ½ mile for Bacton Wood Picnic Area (NR28 9UE). The red and yellow trail leads past the oak (oak is approx ½ mile from car park).’
10 Snettisham Spectacular
‘Tens of thousands of waders swarm the skies when exceptionally high tides force them off the mud flats. Autumn/winter brings the greatest numbers.
Signed along Beach Rd off A149 near Snettisham. RSPB parking (PE31 7PS) approx 1½ miles up Beach Rd on L. Follow footpaths to the ‘Loop Trail’ at the reserve’s southern tip – the hides here give some of the best views. Timetables available from the RSPB (01485 542689).’
11 Botany Bay, Lakenheath Fen
‘Remote, wild and wonderful lakes and river swimming in the Little Ouse. Large nature reserve, restoring traditional fenland habitat.
Take a beautiful riverside walk 2–3 miles downstream from Lakenheath station through the nature reserve. Or by road, turn L ½ mile N of station (Cowle’s Drove public by way, opp Moor Drove). Continue 2–3 miles on track beyond King Cobb industrial units. Good place for stargazing.’
12 Belchamp Hall Folly
‘Isolated 18th-century folly near Belchamp Hall, near Sudbury (which featured in the TV series Lovejoy).
From village pond in Belchamp Walter head E (Hall Rd) past playing field to find footpath track on R after 300m (CO10 7AS). Follow track 350m along field edges to folly. Walk on 2 miles for Gestingthorpe and The Pheasant (CO9 3AU, 01787 461196).’
13 Shotley Marshes
‘Flanking the River Orwell, this is Suffolk’s top breeding site for waders (lapwing, snipe, redshank).
Travel N out of Shotley Gate on the B1456. After 400m footpath on R opposite Over Hall Farm (IP9 1PW) leads 400m E to the marshes and river. For a longer walk, turn L at river and follow path 4½ miles N to Butt & Oyster pub at Pin Mill (IP9 1JW, 01473 780764). Fine views from St Mary’s church (IP9 1ER).’
14 Bull’s Wood
‘See floods of rare oxlips (April), plus wood anemones, in this 13th-century woodland. Early purple orchids also abundant, as are butterflies, tawny owls, chiffchaffs and tree creepers. A peaceful place.
Turn E off A1141 for Cockfield. 500m after Cockfield Post Office (on R) turn R at dead-end road by triangular green. Follow to signed parkings at Palmers Farm, (IP30 0HD) and follow footpath 600m to wood.’
15 Westwood Marshes, Walberswick
‘Beautiful walk across Tinkers marsh and fens, passing derelict 18th-century pumping mill and Dunwich river, to arrive at a remote section of Walberswick beach. Walberswick itself has a sandy village beach with dunes, seasonal beach camping and crabbing, or explore the River Blyth.
From Walberswick, head W on Lodge Road at IP18 6UN for ½ mile to Nature Reserve signs and Hoist Covert car park on R. Follow path opp SE through trees, turning L at end towards sea and stump of wind pump. Turn R at river and eventually cross dyke L on footbridge to beach. Back in Walberswick, crabbing competitions take place in the shallow channels behind the beach (where you may find seasonal camping). Swim in the Blyth upriver from the row-boat ferry jetty, riding up or downstream with the tidal current.’
16 Covehithe Ruin and Beach
‘Medieval ruin with 14th-century tower, set back from cliffs. Smaller church sits inside the crumbling shell. A wild, eroded coastline, much of Covehithe has been lost to the sea. Remote beach with lake is a short walk away.
From A12 in Wrentham turn off for Covehithe and continue to church (NR34 7JW). Footpath 100m before church leads to beach (10 mins – follow field edge to cliff and down to Covehithe Broad). Difficult parking.’
17 The Thicks, Staverton Park
‘Primeval woodland with gnarled, twisted and ivy-clad trees. More than 4,000 pollarded oaks, some of Britain’s largest holly trees and the oldest oaks in East Anglia.
½ mile SW of Butley (IP12 3PU) on B1084, dir Woodbridge, find footpath on R. Difficult parking. Continue straight into woods.’
18 St Peter on the Wall, Dengie Marsh
‘One of England’s most remote churches, founded by Anglo-Saxon bishop St Cedd (AD654). Wander S along the sea wall for marsh views and stargazing. Head N past the monastic community to find a simple remote mud/sand beach with stakes, and cockles.
Drive to end of East End Road, Bradwell-on-Sea from church (CM0 7QL). Follow track to coast and ruin.’
19 Fingrinhoe Wick
‘Wander through this reserve on an early-summer evening and get treated to a concerto of nightingale song. Varied birdlife (lots of waders). Carry on to beach for a high tide dip in the Colne Estuary.
South Green Road, Fingringhoe, CO5 7DN (signed from Fingringhoe). Gates shut to cars at 5pm.’
20 Foxley Wood, Foxley
‘Norfolk’s last remaining tract of ancient woodland is a butterfly hot-spot with more than 350 types of flowering plants. Discover banks of spring primroses, followed by bluebells and orchids.
Car park (NR20 4QR) is on lane between Themelthorpe and Foxley (A1067).’
Extracts and photographs from Wild Guide Southern and Eastern England: Hidden Places, Great Adventures and the Good Life, by Daniel Start, Lucy Grewcock and Elsa Hammond, and published by Wild Things Publishing, £15.99.