Day One- Knettishall Heath to Little Cressingham- 14.5 miles

Peddars WayI had committed myself to walking the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trails, but it was an adventure in itself just getting to the start of the Peddars Way at Knettishall Heath. I had driven down to Mum’s caravan the day before, so I caught the Coast Hopper bus from Wells to Kings Lynn, the train from Kings Lynn via Ely to Thetford, where the excellent Suffolk Links Brecks Bus was waiting to transport me to the start. This truly is an amazing service- bookable in advance, a minibus will collect you from the station and deposit you at Knettishall Heath, all for the princely sum of £1.80.

The lady who collected me advised that this is a local community service used to take people to Day Centres etc, but like all public services it is under constant threat from Government cuts. It would be a great shame if it were lost.

Once we reached Knettishall Heath, she drove off with a cheery good luck, leaving me to have a good faff with my rucksack and to feel a little nervous and lonely… this was it- no backing out now! The start of the Peddars Way is very unassuming- a solitary finger post next to a car park in the middle of the forest marks the start of the adventure.

I walked across the car park to look at the end of the Icknield Way, which connects to the start of the Peddars Way, and chatted to two ladies who were planning on cycling the route and overnighting at Ringstead some 40 miles away.

The start of the adventure

The first part of the Peddars Way is through forest- lots and lots of forest! I set off down a somewhat gloomy and muddy track which opened out into the heathland known as The Brecks. I had read that The Brecks is one of the driest areas of Britain… shame nobody had actually told it.

The start is actually in Suffolk, although it only stays in the county for the first few hundred yards until the Little Ouse river is crossed.

Walking through Breckland

This path was quite pleasant, meandering through woodland, Breckland and along small rivers. It was cloudy and overcast but stayed dry all day… my pack wasn’t too heavy at all and I was feeling quite positive.

The raised ‘agger’ of the Roman Road can be seen here

The sun even made a rare appearance as I reached the car park at Roundall Heath and succumbed to a coffee from the burger van, which appeared to be doing a roaring trade from passing truckers. I wasn’t looking forwards to the next obstacle though- a 100 metres dash over the A11 dual carriageway- but a few minutes later I was safely over and plodding towards the village of Stonebridge. Or East Wretham, depending on which side of the road you are standing on apparently; I walked on both sides to maintain some impartiality.

I knew there wouldn’t be a pub in Little Cressingham, where I was stopping for the night, so I stopped for a meal at the Dog and Partridge in Stonebridge (or is that East Wretham?!). I had intended to be healthy and choose a baked potato but they didn’t have any- so I had to make do with egg and chips… shame…

The Dog and Partridge

I didn’t enjoy the path beyond the village. It followed a wide track through rather bleak, dense forest, and felt quite dark and intimidating as the sun had hidden again. There was an army training ground to the left, with signs warning not to stray into this area or else. I did find the first of the ‘Songlines’ sculptures though- these are a number of carved stone sculptures by Tom Perkins, featuring words from a book in an effort to link the present day Peddars Way with the past. The words are becoming less legible, but I could make them out- ‘The footprints of our ancestors familiar as our own faces remote as fossils written on clay and washed away over and over, over and over’.

The expanse of Thompson Water lies just off route, but I somehow managed to miss it. Soon afterwards the path narrowed to a much more pleasant track which led me to the second Songlines sculpture; ‘Surveyors have made their lives on the land trapping Albion in a net of roads a taut web on the edge of empire’.

Walking through fields to Little Cressingham

Finally the track left the woods, leading past a wide common and then following farm tracks towards Little Cressingham. My socks, which I had bought new but were thicker than my usual ones, were rubbing my instep a little, but I felt otherwise okay. The road into the village is quite busy, but the Peddars Way follows tracks behind the hedgerow or along the verge so it’s still pleasant. The sun was a welcome companion as I entered the village.

I was quite early, so once I spotted my night’s lodgings I continued down the road to have a nose at the church. It is quite spectacular- parts of the church tower and chancel have collapsed, but the rest of the church is still very much in use.

Little Cressingham Church

Peddars WayA little further down the road is a combined wind and water mill, which is in the process of being restored;

Little Cressingham Windmill

There is only one Bed and Breakfast on the route in Little Cressingham- Sycamore House. Although I had paid for a single I was upgraded to a twin, and indulged in a lovely long bubble bath. The owner offered to run me to Great Cressingham where there is a pub, but I declined as I had eaten earlier and had some snacks with me. I couldn’t be bothered to go out again and so slobbed out in front of the telly, reading up on the next day’s walking. As I surveyed my feet I noticed that I had a small blister from my socks, but otherwise felt in good shape and ready for the next stage of my adventure.

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Filed under: EnglandLong Distance PathsNational TrailsPeddars Way & Norfolk Coast PathTrekking

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