Sunday, 15 October 2017

Alfriston, Long Man of Wilmington and Jevington

The Long Man of Wilmington
To my mind this is one of the classic walks in Sussex and at 8 miles long makes for a satisfying day-long loop, especially if you take the opportunity to explore Alfriston and the other attractions en route. It is walk number 21 in Pathfinder Guide volume 24 Surrey and Sussex Walks (it also appears in vol... East Sussex and the South Downs as walk number...).  Officially the walk commences in Alfriston but mindful of how tricky it can be to park there I took the decision to park next to the church at Folkington about a third of the way round.  In that way we could also enjoy Alfriston and some of the other places to explore further towards the end of the walk.
Folkington Church
Folkington is a tiny spring-line village just to the west of Polegate at the foot of the Downs.  There is a large manor house here but hidden from view below the church.  Most of the land around here still belongs to the estate and it looks like an idyllic spot well out of the way of the rat race.  Parking was even a premium here though too - even though church wasn't in session there were enough cars about to suggest that we weren't the only walkers around.  We turned left at the church and began the loop in a clockwise direction.  Our path was the old coaching road from Lewes to Eastbourne, long since defunct as the main route but a very pleasing one to follow as a walker.
Foot of the Downs Near Folkington
I am writing this some weeks after the event so you will now understand why I refer to late summer.  The fields were a blaze of gold as they had either just been harvested or were about to be.  In fact only a few fields further on the path and we could here the unmistakable sound of a combine harvester and attendant tractor going about their business. We couldn't see it in action sadly as the high hedgerows shielded us pretty effectively.  They also afforded some shade on what was building to be quite a hot day.  There was a sickly sweet smell in the air primarily on account of ripening fruit and some that had been shed and squashed into the path.  The air was full of the sound of buzzing insects all going wild for the bounty available at this time of the year.
Ripening Berries
The path looped around the foot of the Downs and eventually changed direction and headed slowly uphill to cross into the valley of the next village.  I imagine Jevington was a spring line village too, although nestled in a dry valley in the Downs rather than at the foot it is a less obvious location.  The so called spring line villages are so-called because at the foot of the Downs where the chalk interfaces with the older gault clay below the water table meets the surface and groundwater is forced out to flow across the impermeable clay.  The springs that develop along this line were valuable water sources in a landscape where there were few and villages grew up around them.
The Eight Bells
Jevington is not one of the picture postcard villages usually depicted in tourist books and pictures of the area but it certainly deserves more attention.  Its chief claim to fame is the home of the Hungry Monk restaurant, where the world famous banoffee pie was invented.  Sadly its last meal was served in January 2012, when it became a victim of the economic downturn.  The pub, The Eight Bells, still trades though and is a very agreeable watering hole.  Sadly it was still closed when we arrived as we were a bit early in the day.
Farm Vehicle
We passed the pub and took a right turn along a narrow path towards the church.  It was quite a relief as the road was narrow and without pavement as it descended a small hill with steep sides.  There would have been almost nowhere to go if a car had come speeding around the corner.  The church is a pretty Downland one built of flint and with origins from the Saxon period (although I couldn't tell you which parts!).
Jevington Church
From the church we were now on the South Downs Way for a short distance.  I have completed this section many times although normally I am coming down the hill and on that basis it isn't easy to get a feel for how steep it is.  We all plodded up and away from Jevington, glad that the hill was completely in the trees.  To be fair this was the only decent sized hill on the route and it wasn't that bad.  It was only at the top that we escaped the trees and before us was a magnificent view across the Downs and the unusual feature of Lullington Heath.  This nature reserve is a rare example of a chalkland heath and abounds with a number of rare species.  Our route took us across it and we certainly saw plenty of insect life, especially butterflies and day flying moths.
Chalkhill Blue
As we cross the heath we passed a group of middle aged women all laughing hard.  When we got closer to them they explained to me that they could see something rather suggestive in the clouds!  They admitted they were dirty minded as they cackled off into the distance!  Onward we went and I smiled about this encounter for some time.  Lucky for me my children were out of earshot at the time otherwise I would have faced a barrage of questions.
Standing Proud
At the top of the next hill we paused briefly at a dewpond and had a little drink break and enjoyed the view.  For me the highlight of the whole walk was to come next as we descended slowly to the village of Alfriston.  The view across to the village with Bo Peep hill, Windover Hill and High and Over guarding this most scenic of Downland villages was quite astonishing.  By now clouds had bubbled up and the sky was filled with cotton wool like cumulus clouds bobbing along on the breeze.  It did look like they would take over the whole sky as forecasted but for this section at least they were perfect in enhancing the scene before us.
Windover Hill From Lullington Heath
On the way down the slope towards the village we passed something I had not previously seen in the UK, a field full of sunflowers.  I wasn't sure that the crop was wholly successful as the field didn't look as flush with flowers as I have seen in France.  A few looked in rude health but for the most part they looked a bit straggly and not in great shape.  I wonder whether these exposed Downland conditions suited them?

Alfriston View
At the bottom of the hill and we met a road.  I can remember cycling these lanes as a boy but wouldn't consider it now for they are surprisingly busy.  In fact I am not even sure I like driving them very much either.   We had to walk alongside the road for a short distance; not a great prospect.  We turned left at the next junction and then again into a field after about quarter of a mile, much to our relief.  In the short distance we had to walk along the road we had to stand aside for at least a dozen vehicles.  Each of them were so large that we felt uncomfortable as they swept by.  When are cars that size going to be banned from these country lanes I wonder?

At the end of the field we turned left again and headed across the bridge over the River Cuckmere.  As one of the four main rivers that cut through the Sussex Downs this one seems the most improbable.  He were are only about five miles from the sea and the river is scarcely 3 metres wide.  The idea of it cutting its way through the Downs seems a little far fetched and yet that is clearly what it has done.  I wonder whether it had some help during the last Ice Age?  As we crossed the bridge our eyes were drawn to a large green caterpillar.  I have seen one of these before - it is from a privet hawk moth.  Even so we were mightily impressed with the size of the blighter!
Approaching Alfrsiton

Once in Alfriston we went in search of some refreshment and had a picnic lunch just outside the magnificent 14th Century church, called by some the cathedral of the Downs although that is a little overblown.  It was lovely sitting in the sun watching the world go by for a little while - there is always plenty of activity on the Tye outside the church.  Alfriston was where Eleanor Farjeon wrote the hymn 'Morning Has Broken' and in these surroundings it is easy to see why she was inspired to write such a joyous song.

Before moving on we decided to take a look at the Clergy House next door to the church.  The main claim to fame of this modest little house is that it is the first property that was acquired by the National Trust way back in 1896. It is quite a survivor, being originally built in the 14th Century.  By the time the Trust bought it for £10 it was in quite a state.  The house itself took only a short time to walk around for there are only a few rooms.  It was quite easy to imagine how it must have been to live there, unlike some of the grander houses under the ownership of the National Trust.

Kayak Instruction
As well as looking inside the house we also took the opportunity to wander around the garden.  This was very much a cottage garden and we were most interested in the kitchen crops that were being grown at the far end.  Insects busily tended all of the late blooming flowers and in truth I would have been quite happy sitting in a deckchair here for the afternoon reading my book and drinking tea rather than plodding on further.

Visit The Tye
The onward path did call us though and we retraced our steps across the River Cuckmere.  As we did so the thunder of the Red Arrows pierced the sky and they shot be on their way to the Eastbourne Airshow that was also taking place that day.  A few minutes later and another squadron of planes went by, a rather more sedate group of propeller planes that sounded like angry wasps.  On the other side of the river we looked again for the caterpillar but it was gone - hopefully not taken away by a bird?  We also gave some lost cyclists some directions and were pleased that they weren't going the same way as us.
Clergy House

We deviated from the official route slightly as we started climbing the hill away from the Cuckmere valley.  This is because I wanted to show the girls the tiny church of Lullington.  This has a claim to fame of being the smallest church in England.  I'm not sure about that but it definitely is the smallest in Sussex and sits only 20 people.  It was originally part of a larger church and the remains of the rest can clearly be traced in the area around what is left.  Apparently the remaining part of the church burned down, believed to be during the period of Oliver Cromwell's reign.  It strikes me as being quite a strange place even now.

After a little exploration we pushed on.  We paid the price for our detour by having to walk along the road again for a short distance before striking off to the right and commencing the climb of Windover Hill.  We did not need to climb to the very top though - our path cut underneath the main scarp slope so that we could be afforded the lassic view of the Long Man of Wilmington.  Before we reached that landmark we had magnificent views across the hamlet of Milton Street below us and across to Firle Beacon and Mount Caburn to the east.  This is one of the classic views of Sussex.  A little beyond that was another - the iconic figure of the Long Man.
Red Arrows

The iconic Long Man of Wilmington is one of the enigmas of archaeology for no-one can be quite sure when this chalk hill figure first appeared here.  An early theory was that it was drawn by the monks from nearby Wilmington Priory but this has been dismissed by most now as the man is not clothed.  Some say he is neolithic while the only definite date that he is known to have existed is 1766 when he appeared on an artist's drawing.  He may therefore be a lot newer than previously thought - the 2003 dig suggested that he might only date from the 16th Century.  However old he is he still commands a lot of attention standing proud on the side of Windover Hill and surveying the Weald.

Lullington Church
We passed through the village of Wilmington and past the Priory.  This is now a building owned by the Landmark Trust and rented out as holiday apartments.  I seem to remember it being open as a museum when I was younger but I never visited.  We stopped briefly to look at Wilmington church before picking up the coaching road at the foot of the Downs to return to our starting point at Folkington.  Sadly by now the clouds had completely covered over the blue sky and the remaining part of the walk through the woods that skirt the foot of the Downs was devoid of any sunshine.  No matter - by then we had seen most of the fabulous scenery that this walk has to offer.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

River Bure Walk

Upton Dyke
Our final walk in Norfolk for this trip saw us go back to look at The Broads just a short distance from the one we had completed in Ludham earlier in the week.  After the disappointment of the previous walk we chose one not based on what else we could visit but instead the pure beauty of the walk itself.  Walk number 17 from vol 17 of the Pathfinder Guide Norfolk and Suffolk Walks did just that as it promised to be one of the classic Broadland walks.
Traffic Jam
We started at Upton Dyke, a short stretch of drainage channel the serves the village of Upton.  Although the parking area was in the shade of a small wood we soon lost the tree cover as we headed out along the left bank of the dyke.  Immediately we could see this was big sky country as the countryside all around was almost entirely flat.  Perhaps unsurprisingly for such a flat landscape it is also entirely dominated by water and even those areas of dry land are separated by drainage channels that keep the grazing land from being swamped by water.  I imagine during the winter months it probably is covered in water much of the time. 
Looking Ahead To The Mills
For now the main interest was the variety of boats along the dyke.  In the past few years we have enjoyed walking along waterways and enjoying the different craft on view.  Those in Norfolk are less traditional, with a preponderance of motor cruisers and certainly no narrowboats.  We found them rather less interesting as a result, although they undoubtedly looked more comfortable inside.  On the right we also passed a small water pump - this hollow post mill is a rare survivor apparently.
Swanning around
It wasn't too long before we reached the main River Bure and the only option available was to turn left.  Unlike our walk the other day this path followed along the top of the river levee and that meant we had better views all around.  On the river side the boat traffic seemed relentless - this is obviously a very popular waterway.  On the land side we could see lots of bird life especially geese, swans and herons that all seemed to be in abundance.  The sky was full of puffy white clouds bobbing along gently, making this the perfect day for walking. 
Oby Mill
We soon passed the first windmill - a derelict affair called Oby Mill on the opposite bank.  It looked like it would take quite a bit to restore it even as a place to live.  I wouldn't mind betting that someone will in the next 20 years.  A little further on and on our side of the river was the rather more looked after Upton Mill, which has been turned into a home.  It does look like a nice place to live but I wonder how easy it is to access during the wet winter months?
Upton Drainage Mill
The path continued on towards some more mills in the distance but we were never destined to reach them.  The River Bure swung off to the left as it was joined by the River Thurne. As there was no bridge upon which to cross it was pretty obvious which way we had to go!  This area is obviously a popular place to moor for there was another boatyard on the opposite bank and a very attractive looking village (Thurne) behind dominated by the church.  In a flat landscape like this the churches seem to stand out more than ever.  Off to the left and it was bird life that caught our eye again - a heron hunched over watching the drainage ditch for any sign of movement underwater.  Further on and it was the little grebes that caught our eye.  They were easily disturbed though - any hint of us moving and they would dive under the water, only to pop up quite some distance away.  It actually took some patience to see one after they had initially dived!

St Benet's and Thurne Mills
On shore the banks were alive with dragon and damselflies all enjoying the warm late summer sun.  Butterflies abounded too, especially the browns, whites and red admirals.  In fact I am not sure I saw any other kind - perhaps they don't get a look in with all these about?  The reeds largely screened the river but I soon became aware of a couple of sailing craft approaching largely because of the flapping of the sail as the yachtsmen tacked into the wind.  It looked like a difficult job getting the yacht down the river using only wind power.  Any wrong move would surely have ended in disaster!  It was fascinating to watch their struggles and managing to avoid other powered craft also using the waterway.

Further along I became aware of large groups of people on the opposite bank and as we got closer I realised that they were looking around an old ruin; the remains of St Benet's Abbey, founded in 1020 as a Benedictine Monastery.  Ironically the main structure left behind is an old windmill that was built among the remains.  This too was left to its fate in the mid 1850s, while the original abbey seems to have succumbed around the time of the dissolution back in the 1540s.  Some claim it was not destroyed by Henry VIII but it was seized by the crown at that time.  The monks all went their separate ways apparently and left the abbey to nature.  Judging by the crowds of people looking around it still attracted a good deal of interest although for us it was impossible to reach from our path.

St Benet's Abbey
A little further on from the abbey the bank took us along a channel away from the main river.  It soon became apparent that this was a channel built for boats to moor and we soon hit the line up as we neared the village of South Walsham.  According to the map the opposite bank was covered in woodland but this didn't seem to be the case on the ground.  The trees were more like shrubs and more widely spaced than I would have expected.  As we got close to the village we saw South Walsham Broad, a beautiful little haven that was surrounded by some lovely looking (and I suspect pretty expensive) looking houses.

South Walsham Broad
We were directed around the village by the boat yard and houses before eventually taking a hard left and entering a field.  Immediately the mood of the walk changed for no longer was the focus upon water but on the surrounding farmland.  At the other end of the field we crossed into a lane and went past a very attractive looking tile cottage.  The lane soon ran out and our onward route took us along a slightly elevated path through some thick hedgerows.  To our left were fields of horses, the grassland just high enough above the general level of the land to enable it to drain slightly more freely.

We were 'welcomed' by several dogs on the next few hundred metres of the walk.  Evidently the local canine population doesn't take too kindly to interlopers and we were seen off from several houses as we passed by.  Eventually we disappeared into woodland surrounding Upton Fen Broad and the onward path was a delightful wander through a shady nature reserve, using boardwalks on a fairly lengthy section.  This was perhaps the nicest part of the non-water section of the walk although it was a shame we didn't get a decent view of the Broad itself as it was tucked just out of sight in the woodland.

We came out on to a road at Cargate Green and followed this all the way back into Upton.  Normally I am not a big fan of road walking but I would make an exception in this case.  The houses were pretty and the gardens well tended.  Many of them were showing off their late summer blooms and crops by now including some showy dahlias and in one case some prize winning looking pumpkins.  By now we were feeling pretty hungry and so we headed to the White Horse pub for a spot of lunch.  We discovered that this place was now owned by the villagers through a share scheme and used funding from the Prince's Countryside Fund to re-establish the business after it was threatened with closure.  A poster showing the Prince of Wales pulling a pint was proudly displayed on the wall inside.  As for the food and drink - top notch!  We both really enjoyed it and would definitely call in again if we were back in these parts.

The White Horse
After a lovely relaxed lunch in the pub garden we headed the short distance back to the car feeling good about our walk.  This definitely was one to do again and again if we lived in this area.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Blickling Park and The Upper Bure Valley

Blickling Hall
After a couple of days rain in Norfolk we were raring to go again and chose this walk largely because we wanted to explore Blickling Hall, sometime home of Bono (according to Alan Partridge anyway!).  I'm always partial to a walk through a country estate and this provided a good opportunity of seeing some deer and a preposterous folly or two along the way.  This is walk number 14 from Pathfinder Guide vol 17 Norfolk and Suffolk Walks.
Blickling Park
As National Trust members we were able to park for free at Blickling Hall but under a new system had to obtain a ticket first which wasn't very easy.  We then struggled to find the official onward path from the car park, a problem that we had elsewhere on this walk.  Eventually we struck out in what I took to be the right direction and found ourselves in the landscaped park.  All the attributes were there - a man-made lake; rolling countryside and large oak trees dotted across a park largely dominated by grassland.  Sadly we couldn't see any deer - I reckon they had made themselves scarce ahead of a music event that was scheduled to take place a few days hence.
Tower House
Eventually we reached Great Wood and took the opportunity to leave the path for a few minutes to check out the mausoleum of The Earl of Buckingham.  As with so many mausoleums funded by unfathomly rich people this one was a testament to bad taste being a large pyramid  dating from 1793.  It was fun to find in the trees though!  We decided to head off in the vague direction of the original path rather than retrace our steps and found it after squelching our way through some pretty waterlogged conditions, not something you expect at this time of year.  Out across the fields we could see another of the follies in the park - this time Tower House.  I suspect that would be a fun place to stay.
We turned left when we reached a road and for half a mile or so we had tarmac under our feet.  The fields on either side were at different stages of harvesting and the clouds above were showing signs of parting to show us a bit of sunshine.  At the end of a lengthy straight section we crossed into the adjacent field and picked our way across a surprisingly swampy field.  The torrential rain that we had experienced during the last two days had clearly taken effect here.  On the other side we could see a bridge across the River Bure, by now just a trickle.

End of the Rosebay Willowherb
It was a relief to find dry land again at the edge of the field on the other side and we wandered across rough pasture to a corner that tapered into a gateway.  We went through and at this point we made a massive mistake in following the onward path.  Signage wasn't helpful and we picked our route based on the field boundary that we thought we needed to take.  We weren't to know but we picked wrong and even as the landmarks didn't seem right further on I took it that things had changed on account of the age of the book (this edition was from 1997!).  We passed by a mother and daughter who looked equally lost at this point and we swapped notes about our respective walks. Even when the ground got swampy again I didn't realise how wrong I had got.  It was only when we found ourselves back on the road we had come from half an hour earlier that the penny dropped!  It is very rare I go this wrong on a walk and I was really cross with myself.  Rather than retrace our steps through the bog we decided to complete the route by doubling back on ourselves and meet the official route later on.

Harvest Time
A good mile of road walking followed and while normally I don't like doing this I have to say it was a relief after the poor walking conditions that had gone before.  Just after passing Blickling Mill we left the road and passed through a small tract of woodland and crossed the River Bure once more.  As we did so we met the couple we had seen earlier.  Both of us were now thankfully on track and we shared a joke about our experience as we passed each other.

Bridge Over The Bure
We were now on the network of estate roads that cross the countryside here.  Off in the distance we caught the merest glimpse of Wolterton Hall - the guidebook suggested that we would have really good views of it.  I kept looking but no better views were forthcoming not helped by the large hedges that prevented any view in that direction.  I wonder whether they were as tall when the guidebook was written?  We had to make do with admiring the lodge houses on the edge of the estate instead.  Thoughts also turned to lunch and as we were as far from Blickling Hall as we were going to get we were praying that the Saracen's Head pub marked on the map was still functioning.  It is very difficult to tell now as so many pubs have closed in recent years, especially isolated ones like this.

Thankfully the pub was open to a cheer from both of us!  I am pleased to report that we had a very nice lunch and real ale to fortify us for the onward journey back to Blickling Hall.  Initially we had some road walking to do but at the edge of the next village we headed off across country again, with hints of views across the estates of Blickling and Wolterton, the adjacent country piles.  The walk back to Blickling wasn't hugely interesting although it was generally pleasant.  Perhaps it would be better during the spring or autumn when the colours are more vivid but on a dull August day it wasn't too special.

Saracen's Head
Eventually we got to the Park once more and preparations were in full swing for an outdoor concert due to take place in a few days time.  It was rather fascinating to see all the deliveries and work going on to accommodate I imagine quite a sizeable crowd.  It wasn't far past the showground to reach the lodge at the edge of the main estate.  This apparently is a holiday house - it looks smashing and worthy of consideration for the future I reckon.

At the end of our walk the sun began to shine again and the clouds rolled away much as they had for the last walk.  All rather typical!  We did take the opportunity to look around Blickling Hall, which was once the estate belonging to Thomas Boleyn - father of Anne.  The earlier reference to Bono is of course a joke - Alan Partridge is a spoof local TV and radio host who wanted to impress a girlfriend by bringing her to the house.  As with so many National Trust houses this one has a long and varied history but perhaps the most surprising connection was with the Declaration of Independence of India and there was a fascinating exhibition detailing how Blickling came to be part of this slice of history.  It all revolved around a visit to the estate by Nehru and his daughter Indira and discussions at a party held here.  The garden was equally absorbing and we spent an hour or so soaking up the atmosphere outside. 

As a walk we found this one a bit disappointing - I think we both expected a more scenic route.  Blickling Hall itself though was magnificent and we were very pleased that we made the trip. 

Blickling Hall Gardens

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!