Day Two- Little Cressingham to Castle Acre- 12.5 miles;

Peddars WayAfter a suitably huge breakfast as befits an intrepid endurance plodder I set off into grey cloud and the promise of drizzle. I wasn’t too worried though as I thought that today would be the shortest and easiest day of my Peddars Way adventure. Well, suffice to say I was wrong… instead it turned out to be the greatest threat to the whole adventure!

If yesterday was dominated by forest walking, then today was all about road walking. I must admit that this first part of the Peddars Way isn’t as interesting as the latter stages, and I probably wouldn’t choose to walk it again.

Luckily the roads were quiet- rabbits were scampering across the road and at one point a weasel dashed in front of me. The Peddars Way is well sign posted and there are even signs pointing to local pubs off route, with distances and phone numbers so you can contact them to check that they are open.

Fields along the Peddars Way

The church at the lost village of Houghton-on-the-Hill lies around half a mile off the Peddars Way, and apparently contains some rare Roman frescoes, so I decided to take a look and turned off the main track into the drizzle. Unfortunately the church was locked so the famous frescoes missed out on my visit.

Houghton-on-the-Hill Church

After rejoining the route I walked through fields, the original Roman road being lost here. Although it was pretty, and a welcome change from tarmac, the ground was very soggy and I could feel blisters developing on both feet as they were rubbed mercilessly by my wet socks and shoes. I decided I had better try to sort it out and stopped at North Pickenham to dress my wounds.

I sat on a handy bench and passed the time of day with an elderly lady pushing a wheelbarrow full of weeds. Once the blisters were sorted I left the village after detouring to have a peep at a wooden Anglo Saxon warrior, and followed the Peddars Way along the line of an old railway.

The old railway track

There is another Songline sculpture here- ‘The piety of every man and every woman’s whispered prayer clasped in the grain of wood and stone and in the grace of ancient air’.

The track ended at the A47 and a McDonalds, where I allowed myself to be seduced by a Smarties McFlurry. Unfortunately it had now turned quite showery and I could feel my newly applied dressings sliding around which certainly wasn’t helping my blisters any.

The last part of today’s walk was along more roads, although the path often took to the fields behind the hedge, running parallel to the road. I caught my first glimpse of Castle Acre through a gap in the hedge, with the dramatic sight of the grey castle ruins looming over the village.

A ford allows entry to the village, although there is a bridge too so I didn’t have to get my feet even wetter! The road into the village passes under Bailey Gate, part of the old castle fortifications.

The Bailey Gate

As well as the castle ruins, there are also the ruins of a Cluniac Priory, a victim of Henry 8th’s dissolution of the monasteries and founded by George Cluny (no- not really!)

The castle dates from the 11th century and was built by William de Warrene, the first Earl of Surrey, who also built the priory. The castle was remodelled during the 12th century and fell into disrepair after the Civil War.

The Priory ruins

I had a sandwich and coffee in The Ostrich Inn, and once I had fed my face I took a walk down the road towards the priory ruins. Unfortunately it started to rain quite fast, so I decided not to pay to look around the ruins but headed for the castle instead.

I took some pictures, but it started to pour, so I took shelter in a handy sentry arch in the ruins of a gateway. It was coming down in torrents, so I sat it out in my shelter for 30 minutes, before it eased enough for me to stop playing at sentry duty and find the Cost Cutter and the path to the Bed and Breakfast. Unfortunately my blisters were quite sore at this point, and I found myself obsessing over them, remembering that I still had the longest three days to go.

As I headed out of the village, it started to brighten up, the sun came out and it was suddenly lovely. After some deliberation I decided to run back and snap the castle ruins in the sunshine. As it turned out I was to regret this decision!

The Castle

IMG_3733Peddars Way IMG_3743
I had just scrambled down a steep bank to take the above photo when my right foot slipped on something and I fell heavily onto my right side. Feeling a fool, I got to my feet and walked off quickly before anyone saw me, but after a few steps it was apparent that I had done some damage to my right ankle.

I was hobbling and miserable when I finally arrived at the Bed and Breakfast. I had deliberately chosen lodgings out of the village in an attempt to shorten tomorrow’s distance, and Wicken View fitted the bill nicely with a warm welcome, a cat to fuss and shortbread biscuits. I had another lovely hot bath, and watched a terrific storm break overhead. I’ve never seen lightning quite like it and was so glad I wasn’t still walking!

My ankle felt quite sore during the night, and my blisters looked pretty horrific too- I dressed them as best I could and put on my ankle support, but was seriously worried about completing tomorrow’s 22 miles…

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