Trans-Norfolk bikepacking, F2C. Part 2: Cley to Great Yarmouth

In Cycling, Nature, Norfolk, UK
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This blog post is the second in a three-part series presenting the ‘Forest to Sea’ (F2C) trans-Norfolk long distance ‘bikepacking’ or cycle touring route. The route, which I pieced together by linking off-road trails with quiet country lanes (some of which form part of the Regional and National Cycle Networks) is a 137-mile journey from Thetford, on the southwest Norfolk-Suffolk border, to Great Yarmouth, on Britain’s most easterly coast. In Part 2, I present a photographic record of the Cley to Great Yarmouth leg. The whole route has a separate, dedicated page, with interactive mapping, video and a comprehensive, highly detailed guide available for download for a small fee.

Although the route is designed to be ridden west to east (heading north from Thetford on the Peddars Way as is traditional for walkers), there’s no reason why it cannot be reversed. As a resident of Melton Constable, North Norfolk, I visited the route on several occasions for development and testing purposes, using a combination of trains and cycling. The same approach is open to everyone, taking detours and revisiting sections or lingering in areas as you wish.

Diversions from Cley are plentiful. One possibility is a short ride west to Morston Quay, with a nearby small campsite, where you can take boat trips to view birds and seals on Blakeney Point.

Muddy creeks at low tide, Morston.

Back on the main route, from Cley there’s around 16 miles of country lanes, passing south along the Glaven Valley and climbing to the dizzy heights of 100m at Melton Constable, before meeting the Marriott’s Way disused railway line at Themelthorpe.

The ford on the River Glaven that gives Glandford its name.
Bayfield Park, looking toward the River Glaven.
The ruin of St. Mary, Burgh Parva, a hamlet of Melton Constable.

Swanton Novers Great Wood, a National Nature Reserve and SSSI, is another potential diversion for naturalists, with a small, certificated campsite (see the route guide for explanation) nearby at Wood Norton.

Muntjac deer at Swanton Novers.
St. Peter on the Melton Constable Estate.
Looking south on Melton Road toward Hindolveston.

From Themelthorpe to Aylsham, and then (after a brief on-road spell in town) Aylsham to North Walsham, F2C follows traffic-free disused railway lines. There is another paved (three-mile) stretch from North Walsham to the hamlet of Bengate, where the Weavers Way once again follows the route old M&GN Melton Constable to Great Yarmouth railway off-road.

There’s little remaining hint of the original railway as the Marriott’s Way to Aylsham begins at Themelthorpe as easy singletrack.
This quiet section of the trail is seldom used by anyone other than a handful of commuters and dog walkers.
The old bridge carrying the Forwater Road to the hamlet of Kerdiston gives a stronger impression of the track’s history.
Approaching Aylsham on fast, fun singletrack.
Junction of the roads onward to Cromer and Norwich in central Aylsham.
Red Lion Street, Aylsham.
St. Michael and All Angels, Aylsham.
Just outside Aylsham, F2C heads off-road again, this time on the Weavers Way.
King’s Beck from the Weavers Way.
Devil’s bit scabious by the trailside.
Rosebay willowherb flourishing in disturbed, sandy areas.
By late summer, the hedgerows bordering the Weavers Way are festooned with delicious blackberries.
Felmingham station, just outside North Walsham.
The disused line now tunnels through vegetation.
Weavers Way, North Walsham terminus.
St. Nicholas, North Walsham.
The shops of North Walsham’s marketplace back onto the churchyard.
A summer ‘shortcut’ along a public footpath. Lifting my rig over a too-small-for-bikes kissing gate was a novelty that I haven’t repeated — the route now follows the parallel lane.
Around three miles from North Walsham, the Weavers Way again follows the old railway line off-road.
The beautifully restored Honing station, a bittersweet reminder of what was lost to Beeching’s enthusiasm.

Ornate Victorian bridge.

At Stalham, in the heart of the northern Broads, F2C continues on-road through Hickling to join Regional Cycle Network Route 30 near Sea Palling. After passing through iconic Broadland and seaside landscapes in Horsey, Somerton, Hemsby, Ormesby and Mautby, the trail uses an off-road bridleway shortcut to reach West Caister and its castle before following local routes to reach Great Yarmouth promenade with its remnants of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian splendour.

Suttton Mill, where the Weavers Way becomes a footpath-only affair.
St. Mary, Hickling.
Brogave Mill and marshes, Hickling.
Waxham church and barn.

The view east from Collis Lane between East Somerton and Hemsby.
Mautby church.
Bridleway near Mautby.
Caister Castle.
Yarmouth stadium (‘banger’ car racing and greyhounds).
Great Yarmouth racecourse.
Scroby Sands windfarm and North Dene dunes.
Great Yarmouth beach from the promenade.
Britannia Pier from the north.
Great Yarmouth Central Beach.
Traditional seaside shenanigans near Britannia Pier in late summer.
The Empire Picture Playhouse, opened in 1911. Now, sadly, disused and neglected.

The Windmill (formerly The Gem) Theatre (1908), now housing amusements and mini-golf. More on Yarmouth’s old halls can be found here.

Go to F2C home

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