Peddars Way & Norfolk Coast Path Joins IAT
In March 2013, England's Peddars Way & Norfolk Coast Path National Trail joined the IAT as a 150 km (93 mile) path that starts in Suffolk at Knettishall Heath Nature Reserve and follows the route of a Roman road to Holme-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast. At Holme the Peddars Way meets the Norfolk Coast Path as it runs from Hunstanton to Cromer. The two trails joined as a Long Distance Path in 1986 in a ceremony performed by the Prince of Wales at Holme-next-the-Sea. In 1991 the name Long Distance Path changed to National Trail, and became the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail.
The Trails are defined by a Roman road, unique Brecks, rolling open farmland, low cliffs, extensive sandy beaches, sand dunes and fabulous salt marshes. The majority runs through the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Brecks, a unique area of forest, heath and low river valleys.
The route of the Peddars Way has existed since Roman times and was built shortly after AD61 to enable troops to move through East Anglia for policing purposes, following the revolt and subsequent defeat of Boudica and her Iceni tribe. As with most Roman military roads it was built in a straight line, using local materials, to provide a fast link between the Roman garrison in Colchester and the Iceni heartland.
Statue of Boudica by Thomas Thornycroft near Westminster Pier, London
The name 'Peddars' was not given to it by the Romans but is more likely to be one attached to the path in the 15 or 16th centuries. The Norfolk Coast Path is in comparison a modern route deliberately created using a network of existing footpaths and newly created ones to link the coastal end of the Peddars Way with Cromer.
Knettishall Heath to Little Cressingham (14.5 miles / 23.2 kms)
Quiet river valleys, rich in wildlife and crossed by Roman legionnaires 2000 years ago interspersed with unique dry heathland, this is the Brecks, a place of strange beauty and hidden stories that go back to the Stone Age. Start the Peddars Way here, where the last ice age over 12,000 years ago left pingo ponds and curious patterns in the heath land vegetation. Along this stretch you will find both the first and second Songline sculptures telling the stories of how landscape and man interacted all those years ago. The regional long distance routes Angles Way and Icknield Way link with the Peddars Way at Knettishall Heath.
Thetford Forest at Great Hockham in the Brecks
Little Cressingham to Castle Acre (11.7 miles / 18.7 kms)
From the water and windmill of Little Cressingham to the popular village of Castle Acre, the sense of history is never far from you on this stretch of the Way. Houghton on the Hill hides the renovated church of St Mary's and the amazing 11th Century wall paintings. Near North Pickenham find the third Songline sculpture; this stone reflects the pilgrim links of the village. It was here that Catherine of Aragon paused on her pilgrimage to holy shrine at Walsingham. The Nar Valley Way regional long distance route crosses the Peddars Way at Castle Acre.
Castle Acre Priory
Castle Acre to Sedgeford and Fring (13.9 miles / 22.2 kms)
If you seek peace and solitude this is the stretch for you. The northern section of this stretch has a particularly remote feel to it. This is old heathland, which during the early part of the 20th century was ploughed and converted to large cropped farm fields. Be ready for the wide open skies. It was here that the agriculture improvers of the 18th and 19th Century left their mark in the form of marl pits dotted about the landscape. The fourth Songline sculpture is to be found on this stretch and reflects the enclosure of heathland and common.
Fourth Songline Sculpture
Sedgeford to Holme/Hunstanton (8.9 miles / 14.2 kms)
An old magazine of the Cromwell era starts this section. Followed by an old railway line. The local building material of carrstone now starts to make an appearance giving a warm glow to houses. The chalk base rock becomes evident as you walk down to Ringstead. Keep your eyes peeled for a first glimpse of the sea.
Holme/Hunstanton to Burnham Overy Staithe (16.1 miles / 25.8 kms)
From the farmed remoteness of the Peddars Way prepare to enter another world. One where salt, sand, marsh and sky mingle and blend with small harbours, flint villages, shell fishermen and local communities. This is the Norfolk coast AONB, internationally renown for its wildlife. See winter flights of pink-footed geese, as you have never seen before, silhouetted against the evening sky. Experience the wild remoteness of a lonely sea bank. Intersperse the natural world with the warmth of village life and you have a wonderful experience. As you descend towards the coast pass the final Songline sculpture, marking the last leg of the Peddars Way, and looking out over the Wash. On a clear day see the Lincolnshire coast and the Wolds AONB beyond.
Path near Holme-next-the-Sea
Burnham Overy Staithe to Stiffkey (9.8 miles / 15.7 kms)
This section continues the theme of sea, sand and saltmarsh. The natural world has an awe-inspiring omnipresence. For a spot of culture visit Holkham Hall, home of the 19th Century agriculture improver, Thomas Coke. Take time out at Wells-next-the-Sea for a famous mix of historic buildings, old port and various amusements. These occasional villages provide brief and intermittant interludes in the peace and quiet of the Norfolk coast.
Stiffkey to Weybourne (12.5 miles / 20 kms)
Watch bait diggers out on the mud flats or take a trip from Morston to see the seals or Blakeney Point NNR. Experience the beauty of an early morning high tide when the rest of the world is still thinking about breakfast. Walk along the rabbit trimmed grass paths over looking one of the most important areas of salt marsh in Europe. Visit the mecca for bird watchers at Cley next the Sea. Above all enjoy the feeling of being away from the everyday rush of the world.
Cley next the Sea
Weybourne to Cromer (8.6 miles / 13.8 kms)
"He who would old England win, must at Weybourne Hoop (Hope) begin" so runs the old saying that recognised the deep water access to Weybourne Hope. Visit the Muckleborough Collection that traces years of military presence here. If museums are not the place for you then enjoy the cliff walk, Norfolk style. Not massive but cliffs all the same. Deposited by the retreating ice of 12,000 years ago these cliffs have yielded mammoth bones. Look down onto the roof tops of Sheringham then climb the Cromer ridge before descending through woodland to Cromer, home of the famous 19th Century lifeboatman Henry Bloggs, Cromer pier, Cromer crabs and some good local beers. The Weavers Way regional long distance route links with the Norfolk Coast Path at Cromer.
Aerial view of Cromer, eastern trailhead of the Norfolk Coast Path
Much of the Peddars Way is open to cyclists, however the Norfolk Coast Path is not. For a map of where you cannot cycle, click here. There is also a special route available to horse riders of the Peddars Way, and for those looking to make a longer journey, there is also an accommodation guide available.
To learn more about the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail, visit their website .... or walk an ancient Roman Road to the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty!