Sunday, 24 September 2017

How Hill and Ludham

How Hill
After a lengthy walk the previous day we wanted something a little shorter today that explored a different part of Norfolk away from the coast.  We settled on walk 12 from Pathfinder Guide volume 45 Norfolk Walks, principally because it was close to where we were staying and also because there looked to be a pub lunch opportunity half way round!
Mill House
We parked outside How Hill, being one of the first vehicles to arrive.  It was a pretty overcast day although the sun did threaten to shine a number of times through sporadic gaps in the cloud cover.  Adjacent to the car park was the rather magnificent Toad Hole Cottage, rather more substantial than a cottage in my book.  Apparently it ended up being on a grander scale than first envisaged when it was built in 1903.  Being on the side of a hill, even as modest a size as How Hill is, means that it must have the most amazing views.
Ready For Harvest
Our route took us out on to the lane we had arrived on although we turned left rather than right.  We almost immediately passed The Mill House, a converted residence from what was a windmill.  There must be countless properties like this in Norfolk - there is a lot of scope for them!  We continued for a short distance along the lane and then left via a pretty substantial looking farm track.  It really reminded me of the tracks between fields that we explored in Normandy a couple of years ago.
Kings Arms
When the substantial track took a left turn we headed right crossing a stile and into a freshly harvested field.  Late summer was really upon us now and the harvest was in full swing.  I imagine that at this time of year Norfolk would once have had thousands of people working the fields.  Now it was just the odd tractor driver going about his business (I never saw a female tractor driver but presumably there are plenty out there?).  Once across the fields we found another farm track bordered by a pretty substantial hedge.  What was immediately apparent to us as we passed the hedge was the sheer amount of insect life associated with it.  I expected to see butterflies, bees and hoverflies but wasn't prepared for the number of dragonflies that we saw - there were enormous numbers!
Ludham Village Sign
Soon we were to find the road and sadly for us we had about half a mile of road walking all the way into the village of Ludham.  The first part of the lane was the way we had driven and we soon witnessed an incident that I am glad had not happened to us.  Two cars were caught in a standoff while they decided which one of them was going to back up.  Eventually one relented and had to reverse a significant distance.
Ludham Church
On reaching Ludham we first went through the part of the village where all the Council houses had been built.  I think every village in England has an area like this although most of the houses are now privately owned rather than under the control of the Council.  Judging by the magnificent gardens on show I imagine that this is true here too.  Eventually we came upon the King's Arms where we were to stop for lunch.  I am pleased to report that both food and pint were excellent and very welcome.

Old Jalopy
After a leisurely lunch we roused ourselves for the rest of the walk and crossed the main road that leads through the village.  Apparently this route has some historical status and has been selected for speed measures to preserve its character.  Across the road and we admired the church, which stood on its own right in the heart of the village.  It looked like some renovation work was taking place for a lot of the windows were blocked out.  It looked rather uninviting for a visit so we pushed on down the lane and out of the village.  We took a right turn at the wonderfully named Lovers Lane and soon we were out in the fields once again and walking alongside one of those monstrous hedges absolutely teeming with insect and birdlife.  I would be curious to know whether any habitat surveys of these hedgerows have been done as I am not sure I have come across such a concentration of life in such a small area before.

The Dog
We crossed another lane and wandered through the farm of Ludham Hall.  This substantial old place was once the Bishop's Palace for Norfolk.  It is now a working farm and home to a number of holiday lets.  On the other side of the farm we took a right hand turn at another lane and wandered along towards the Dog Pub.  Flanking the road were lots of fruit trees that looks like they were cropping pretty well although most of the fruit wasn't quite ready.

We were soon on the main road once again and had to walk a short distance along it.  Thankfully there was a pavement, probably important for road safety as there were plenty of potential pedestrians from caravan sites and the river further on who would want to access the pub.  The pub itself is well placed for just the other side of it was the bridge over the River Ant and plenty of boats use this as a mooring spot.  We turned right at the bridge and entered a new phase of the walk as we would be following the River Ant for the rest of the way.

Ant Bridge Moorings
This is a type of walking that I'm not normally a fan of and the overcast conditions didn't help matters.  Nevertheless the rushing noise of the reeds flanking the banks and the possibility of seeing one of the shy and retiring bitternes that live in these parts were enough to keep my senses alive.  I did find the meanders of the river a little diconcerting - it made some of the landmarks in this flat landscape look both nearer and yet further away at the same time.  a particular case in point was one of the drainage mills that characterise this landscape.  At the bridge it seemed very close but thanks to the meandering river it seemed to take ages to get there.

Neave's Drainage Mill
The river itself was barely seen for much of the time the reeds were too thick to be able to see the water.  A boat even passed without me realising!  As we meandered around the river the cloud seemed to break up again, just in time for us coming to the end of the walk!  As we left the river bank for a embankment along a drainage ditch something caught my eye moving very quickly across my path.  I thought it might be a lizard judging by its speed.  Unfortunately I didn't get a good view of it.  A little further on and we passed an old man who stopped to pass the time of day.  He was curious about what I'd seen but when I relayed it he thought that it might be a newt rather than a lizard.  I wasn't sure that I was too bothered about a lizard but I would like to have seen a newt.  He told me a little about the natural history of the area as he lived just over the way from here in a very nice looking cottage.

Turf Fen Drainage Mill
We parted ways and we headed for the mill in the distance which would be the end of our walk.  We got a good view of How Hill once again on this stretch and it glowed in the newly found sunshine.  Just up from the mill we came to a mooring spot.  I think this is the limit of navigation on this river for it was quite busy with young people in particular seeing to their vessels.  Adjacent is a science and nature centre and we did want to look in briefly but when we saw how many people were in there we thought better of it!
How Hill Moorings

This was a very pleasant if short walk greatly enhanced by our pub lunch.  It probably deserved a better day than we had available but nonetheless the section along the riverbank at the end was delightful.  Keep an eye out for newts if you come this way!

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