Saturday, 4 June 2011

A Riverside Ramble

To the east of the Fens lies Breckland, a unique but often overlooked area of the country, but not overlooked by me; it's where  we're off to today. The light sandy soils were easily worked by early farmers but were soon exhausted (the soils not the farmers!). The name "Breckland" is probably derived from "broken land", as an area of heathland developed with its own special plants, animals and birds. One plant you can't miss in summer is Vipers Bugloss:

After the First World War much of the area was planted with conifers but nowadays recreation is more important than timber - it's said that ice-cream sales now provide more revenue than wood! I certainly bought one on my walk from Thetford to Brandon, following the River Little Ouse. The valley still contains plenty of natural woodland, a welcome change from the armies of conifers.

I got off the train at Thetford - not the most interesting of towns, though it was home of a large Benedictine Priory from 1103 till 1540. The ruins of the old church and cloisters can still be seen.

From there it was down to the riverside path, the haunt of Grey Wagtails and Kingfishers. This morning I also saw a female Goosander in amongst the Mallards and Moorhens. I ambled dreamily along in the early morning sunshine soaking up the green peacefulness.

The path turned away from the river and the path wove its way through the dappled shadows of the trees.

The blissful tranquility was somewhat interrupted by having to pass a factory though the river maintained its charms even in the shadow of industry.

The tiny church near the Forestry Commission's car park near Santon Downham always merits a photograph. The only people I passed all day were within a half-mile on either side of the car park, it always amazes me (and, from a selfish point of view, pleases me!) that the majority of people miss so much in places like this. 

A track led through the coniferous forest, the air thick with the sweet resinous aroma of pine, and brought me to the village shop where I purchased that much-needed ice-cream. My thinking must have been addled by choc-ice as I made the decision to follow the river all the way to Brandon. I knew there was an alternative route, I knew I was wearing shorts and I knew that the path is often overgrown with stinging nettles but somehow the river had cast a spell over me so I found a stick and bashed my way through - with the expected consequences, stung legs and lots of spitefully beheaded nettles. The Little Ouse still looked fine though.

Take care.


  1. I am enjoying these walks with you. I really wanted to go out today, but needed to do some chores and then visit a friend's charity fund-raising tea.. In the end the weather was dull and cloudy and any pictures would not have been a patch on yours. Annoying though - it's been glorious all week while I've been stuck in the office. I imagine the earth in the Brecklands is very dry right now, though the river doesn't look too low.

  2. If you keep doing posts like this I'm going to have to move to East Anglia! My DIL is always trying to persuade me to move down there as it is:) That looks such a beautiful walk - apart from the nettles of course. Weren't there any dock leaves about?

  3. Enjoyed taking a walk with you through your photos, look forward to following some more

  4. I don't even like to think of stinging nettle...we call it stinging weed in the neck of the woods I grew up in.

    But this sure was a lovely walk.


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