Friday, 3 July 2020

Wandering On

Last time, if you remember, you left my brother and I sitting on a log on the outskirts of a wood in the Brecklands of Norfolk. The man we were talking to got in his truck and drove off and we continued our walk.


Part of the wood looked like a plantation, but most of it is an ancient woodland known as Emily's Wood. Nobody is quite sure who Emily was, but local legend has it that she was witch who lived here. Don't be scared though, she was a good witch who helped the village people when they were ill and her speciality was said to be a potion to improve male virility, though, as the village website drily notes, it can't have been too effective as the population of the village stayed the same for several centuries!


We found this track leading off to the left, but we were looking for a path on the right which was more elusive.


Much of the wood was fairly open so we decided to make our way through the trees following a roughly southerly direction. It's only a small wood so there was no real danger of becoming seriously misplaced. It would have been nice to find that path though!


OK, there is no path! It's unusual for the excellent maps of the Ordnance Survey to mislead you and I suppose that the path has just become overgrown through lack of use. We could have done with some of Emily's witchcraft to open a trail for us! Thinking about witchcraft, it seems likely that most of the so-called witches were women like Emily, just women who learned the medicinal uses of plants from their mothers and grandmothers. Men of science or religion didn't understand them and, with no one to defend them, the unfortunate women became easy scapegoats for any unexplained happenings.


No one knows how old this wood is, but planting of woodlands, woodland belts and lines of trees as windbreaks has a long history in Breckland. It seems difficult to believe now, but early travel-writers tell that parts of the area were reduced to dust bowls, and sandstorms were frequent on this open country. Most famously the area known as Wangford Warren became such a desert that in 1668 much of its sandy soil was blown to Santon Downham where it buried the church up to two-thirds of the way up its tower and destroyed several farms.


We eventually picked up some kind of track but by this time we were almost alongside the main road which flanks one side of the wood.


I must admit I enjoyed making my way through this small woodland; we have little enough of it in England. It's just a pity that there are so few decent tracks leading through it, though that probably appeals to the wildlife that reside within.


The photo above may look like a forest track, but in fact it's a tree-lined road leading through agricultural land towards a small farm. This incongruously grand avenue probably means that it's a survival from the days of Weeting Hall, a very grand country home that once stood near here. 


We found ourselves sharing our walk with a small flock of Guinea Fowl. These are kept by some farms so we guessed we were getting close to human habitation.


And there it is, tucked in among the tees. Maybe this was also once part of the Weeting estate. It looks a nice place to live.


We made our way back towards Weeting village through arable fields. Online aerial maps show this bit of land was recently occupied by outdoor pigs, presumably making the land more fertile. Outdoor pig-rearing has become a lot more widespread in recent decades, mainly because it is a lot easier to comply with animal welfare laws by keeping them this way as opposed to housing them in industrial, high-density buildings. The pigs probably approve too.


 
The last leg of our journey was along village roads, though as you can see these were not without occasional riots of colour.


By taking a wrong turning as we entered the village (How often does that happen; I cease consulting the fine detail of the map when I think I'm back?) I found this row of thatched cottages. At ten dwellings long it's said to be the longest terrace of thatched buildings in the land. Despite its obvious charm it's not really a very bright idea as a house fire in any one could be disastrous for all.

Now to make our way to the car and drive back to my house for dinner.

*******
A short piece of music for a Friday, from the Joscho Stephan Trio:


No, my brother's driving was not as frantic as that!


Take care. 


32 comments:

  1. Perhaps Emily was a witch of her word. Virility improves drive but doesn't guarantee that the men are not firing blanks...
    It was a truly delightful walk - thank you for taking us.

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  2. Beautiful landscapes and incredible music John.

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  3. Hi John - wonderful telling of your wood a-wandering ... loved seeing it - and yes wouldn't it be lovely to have a bit more ... lovely photos too - thanks ... take care - Hilary

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  4. Great photos. I like following other people's woodland walks online. One thing that has kept me going through lockdown has been John Rogers'Youtube channel. He often talks through Epping Forest as well as his urban walks. BTW, I spent 14 years in care work myself before morphing into a teacher. Found your blog via Weaver of Grass, who recommended the music! https://www.youtube.com/user/fugueur

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    1. I shall check out that John Rogers channel. Thanks.
      I tried teaching for a short while, quit and decided I'd never enter a school again, then worked in a residential school as a carer for twenty-odd years.

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  5. It's not very often that you come across a little group of Guinea Fowl. My husband's father was a farmer, and they had Guinea Fowl running around their farmyard. He always told me that they are very, very, noisy, especially for the first couple of hours each the day.

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  6. After an adventuresome day, and the fine company of your brother, I hope you prepared a good dinner for him. As for the guinea fowl, I had noticed during my last visit to the UK that several farms had them, and I was told that among other reasons it was because they were great alarms, if someone strange arrived, setting up an awful racket. It is surprising that feral populations have not become established in the same manner as pheasants have. Nice ramble, John. Was glad to come along with you.

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    1. I suspect that Pheasants might die out if not for the constant stream of new recruits released by gamekeepers; both the Golden Pheasant and Lady Amherst's Pheasant are now very rare if not extinct in our landscape. Despite the (negative) publicity that a few invaders have attracted there must be many more that fail to establish themselves.

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  7. These old woods may last for hundreds of years, if left undisturbed. There is still so much to discover by us humans. What a great walk you both had John.

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  8. Great hike with perfect commentary for us, John. Enjoyed the pictures and all of the wonderful details you share. That music is really something! What a talent. Thanks so much for your awesome posts!

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  9. Such amazing woodland - I envy you walks such at that.
    The cottages are very interesting but, as you say, thatched roofs could be a catastrophic for all in a fire - fingers crossed that never happens.

    Stunning wildflowers John - bees and butterflies galore I'm sure!

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  10. What a lovely group of Guinea Fowl. I loved this walk through the woods. It's so beautiful and peaceful. I agree about that row of thatched roof cottages. If one catches fire, oh my. Thank you for bringing me along. Enjoy your day, hugs, Edna B.

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  11. I really enjoyed this post, John. The photos of the wood are so beautiful. I gazed at the first photo for quite a while. Interesting to think about witches and how they might have been misunderstood and used as scapegoats. And as if all that isn't enough, WOW, what an amazing rendition of Hey Joe!!

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  12. I loved your wander through the woods! The thatch homes look nice but you are right about fire spread. I wonder if the thatch is sprayed with anything to prevent fire or at least slow it down.

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    1. Quite possibly the thatch has been sprayed with fire retardant. They also sometimes put a fireproof layer beneath the thatch to try to contain any possible blaze.

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  13. Enjoyed the walk through the woods, John Nice landscapes and fantastic photos. I liked seeing those thatch homes, I've only seen a handful over here. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend.

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  14. A lovely walk through the woods. Loved seeing those Guinea Fowl.
    Thank you for the music.

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  15. The woodland scenes are places I’d love to wander. Great photos!

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  16. Those times of superstition must have been hard for those wise women and their ancient craft and knowledge of plants as medicines. I hope Emily didn't suffer the same fate of some of those women. How wonderful to be joined on your walk by the Guinea Fowl:)

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  17. I am so jealous of all the wonderful walks in your area. Thank you for sharing them.

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  18. I always love the idea of thatched cottages but do know I would not want one because of fire. They sure are attractive, though. I love those woods...my mom and I would often take off to the woods on a Sunday afternoon.

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  19. lovely trip. thanks. what are the majority of the trees in that woodland? I know nothing about trees in England. I'm really wondering about the taller slim ones in the first few photos.

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  20. The wood looks both haunting and beautiful. And those thatched cottages are simply charming!

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  21. Great post! I miss English woodlands!

    Hope all is well - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  22. I enjoyed the splendid woodland walk, thank you John! English woodlands in any season take some beating!

    The 'Chocolate box cottages' are a joy to see!

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  23. Glad to hear your brother's driving wasn't as fast as the guitar trio John, pretty frantic pace 😉 I enjoy walking through tall trees so much, this was a gorgeous walk. Hopefully the occupants of the thatched cottages are extra careful 💛

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  24. Interesting about the witch of Emily’s Woods. The early American colonists had the same need/fear for and eventual exploitation of the herb women of society, whom they needed for doctoring and then blamed for all sorts of imagined mischief.

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  25. A wonderful place for a walkabout.

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  26. Had to go back and catch up with you and Les! What beautiful woodland photos. I wonder, do you get bothered by insects in your woodlands? We have the dreaded ticks here, and then those little biting gnats that can make it a misery to be in the woods. Which is why I seldom go into the forests in summer.

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  27. I could very happily live in that house just on the edge of those woods! I very much enjoyed a virtual walk in the woods and an interesting place too. I've not been for a walk for weeks!

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  28. A fairy tale land with the wood where a good witch lived, flock of fowl, row of thatched cottages, flowers, and so on. In my childhood, there used to be bamboo forest here and there even in the city but have disappeared due to development. You’re lucky still to have such area.

    Yoko

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