As you may know I am Spanish but have recently located to Norfolk. I was very excited about moving here but also a little apprehensive. Spain is a large country and where I grew up, we always had loads of freedom to run and plenty of countryside for our walks and hikes. Some of my ex-patriot English friends had gleefully informed me that the UK was small and slowly running out of space, fewer green areas and more housing estates, therefore less space for walking. However, my Mum grew up in Norfolk and she soon reassured me that this wasn’t so. She stated, ‘Norfolk is considered one of the most dog friendly counties, plus we have the Norfolk Trails, so you don’t need to worry about not getting out and about in the countryside, Cocoa – the trails go for miles and miles’!
Now my grasp of English is very good, pawless in fact but I didn’t quite understand what she meant by ‘Trails’ and so mum went on to explain. Basically they are a network of hikes which brings over 1200 miles of walks, cycle and bridle routes together. These trails all go by various names, often followed by a ‘Way’ after them. You have The Peddars Way, The Weavers Way, Angles, Boudicca, Bure Valley, Fen Rivers, The Marriotts Way, Nar Valley, Paston, Wensum, Wherryman’s and finally the Coast Path – wow, try saying all of that after you have had a glass of Pawsecco!
The Coast Path is one of my favourites, starting off in Sea Palling taking in Happisburgh, Bacton, Mundesley, Cromer, Wells-next-the-sea (to name just a few stops along the way) and finishing up in the seaside town of Hunstanton. I haven’t done all 84 miles of it, as going at my brother Luca’s pace that would take forever and a day! The sections that I have done have been superb, walking amidst such a mixed variety of landscapes. For example, part of the path touches the edge of Sherringham National Trust Park (so you can take in a bit of natural heritage) and around the Weybourne area there is a lot of heathland (the colourful gorse pointing the way). As you near Weyborne station you might be luckily enough to glimpse the old steam train as it huffs and puffs its way between Sheringham and Holt (apparently we can also take a trip on this as they are very dog friendly). Of course along this path the sea is the main feature, as it rolls back and forth dominating the landscape; sometimes it’s afar, sometimes it’s so close you can dip your tootsies in and go for a paddle and trust me, those are my favourite bits – well, I am a water dog you know!
One of the ‘Ways’ is the Paston Way and this takes in much of mum’s old stomping ground starting in North Walsham, through Paston, Bacton, Trunch, Mundesley, Southrepps, Northrepps and ending up beside the seaside in Cromer. The section between North Walsham and Bacton does not have any refresher stops, just plain old walking but again the countryside it takes you through is very pretty. Parts of the walk, around Knapton Cutting, are on the disused railway line so the paths are wide and shaded and you can see far into the distance, which is good for Luca as he does have a habit of wandering off to chase rabbits! However, at various parts there are steep steps to negotiate. Further along is Pigney’s Wood, which apparently has over 40 different species of trees and is a designated local nature and butterfly reserve, so this is a great place to get in tune with nature!
Another ‘Way’ is the Marriotts Way; this starts in the pretty old market town of Aylsham, lending its way through Cawston and Reepham which is along another old railway line and through Whitwell, then onto Lenwade, Attlebridge, Drayton and finally after a 26 mile walk you will end up on the outer ring road of Norwich. The good thing about this walk is that if you are less than able, the path is wide enough to get a dog stroller all of the way – so you can take it easy, get a breath of fresh air while your hooman does all of the work! There are also a few refresher stops along the way, not at every section but Aylsham, Reepham, Whitwell and Lenwade offer a few dog friendly pubs or cafés where you can stop.
We have also walked some of the smaller sections of the Weavers Way which is renowned for the historic country estates and also the Norfolk Broads – yes, water is involved again, yippee! The Felbrigg and Blickling country estates are both national trust properties so the walks are well sign posted and they take in various sections of the estates. Unfortunately when we go Mum always seems to pick the section where the cows are grazing and for some reason they always seem very intrigued with Luca. This then unsettles Mum so we normally have to make a rather unsightly dash through the cow pats, stopping for breath only once we have cleared the final gate, which I think is a great game but I don’t think Mum is so keen!
So to sum up, I think the Norfolk Trails are brill as there is something for everyone. You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to enjoy them. There are gentle strolls for the young or full blown hikes for the hyper like me – everything is possible. Water and biscuit stops are available on many routes so if you are like Luca and only live for food and culinary delights, don’t worry, you can base your walks around these! Go on, Norfolk is a great place so get out and do some exploring!