PUBLISHED: 14:52 10 March 2010 | UPDATED: 09:38 09 October 2012
A walk which incorporates some town walking, nature reserves and historic sites.
On common ground
Six miles with shorter options
Although this walk is centred on Thetford, and goes through the middle of the town twice, only about half a mile of the route is along town streets, the rest of the route includes commons, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) nature reserve around Nunnery Lakes, much of which appears to be in the middle of the country, the historic sites of Thetford Castle and St Marys 12th century Cluniac Priory and pretty riverside walks.
Start from the car park on the east side of the A134 on Barnhamcross Common. Ordance Survey Landranger reference 144/866812. For a shorter walk start from the car park by Nuns Bridges, opposite Mill Lane or alternatively from the bus station or one of the other town centre car parks.
1 Head northwards with the A134 to the left, choosing your own route, but if you follow the eastern boundary the path will pass through woodland in which case when the Little Ouse comes into view on the right (with a seat) turn sharp left, then bear round to the right, with a pumping station on the right.
As the Common narrows all paths join Nuns Bridges Road, continue ahead alongside the road then turn right into Nunnery Place.
Pass the BTO offices (the gardens are open to the public during office hours) continue beyond Nightingale Way, along a track over two bridges, then soon right through a kissing gate. Follow the path to a fork with a seat (there is a seat with a better view further round). Choose either path, the route goes right round the first lake with a short diversion alongside the western edge of the second lake to a bird hide. The landscaped lakes are old gravel workings. Along the route are interesting interpretative boards with information about the flora, fauna, the formation of the lakes and changes to the river system. Return to the kissing gate, turn briefly left, then immediately before the bridge, turn right to follow the riverside path.
2 Just before the path reaches a big kissing gate and a footbridge (leading to the Nuns Bridges car park) turn right to follow a woodland and riverside path.
Turn briefly left along Arlington Way, cross Castle Street, pass through a gap in the fence, go left over the old bridge on Melford Common and continue ahead. On reaching Green Lane cross back over Castle Street, pass a childrens playground and continue across Castle Meadow. Follow the tarmac path between the castle mound and the ramparts. The Norman motte, constructed within Iron Age fortifications, is the second largest earthwork in the country, only Silbury Hill is larger. You may continue ahead to turn right along Castle Lane for a pleasant diversion to visit the Forgotten Garden in the grounds of Ford Place (open Thursday to Sunday all year). Otherwise bear round to the right before reaching the road to follow a sunken path, firstly with a wall and then a fence to the left. Turn left on a clear path then up a slope, through a gap in a wall, turn right along Rampart Way then left along Castle Street. At a roundabout continue ahead along King Street. Keep ahead via the pedestrian route into Minstergate, pass the Charles Burrell Museum, then through the subway leading to the priory.
3 Go briefly left along Water Lane, then either turn right to visit the priory ruins, or immediately take the path ahead, soon with the river to the left. When the path bears to the right continue ahead along the river bank, to a bridge, cross and turn left along the Haling path to the Town Bridge. Cross Bridge Street and continue along the river and edge of the bus station and car park and cross a three pronged bridge, turning right in the middle of it onto Butten Island. Turn right along Bridges Walk, then left following the sign to Nuns Bridges via Spring Walk. Turn right along the road, pass the ends of Nunnery Place and Nunnery Drive and then make your way back over Barnhamcross Common choosing a different route to the outward one, being careful not to overshoot the car park unless you actually wish to extend the walk.
Norfolk Ramblers welcome new members. If you are interested in walking in the company of like-minded people, visit www.norfolkra.org.uk or call 01508 538654. The first few walks are free and without any obligation to join.