Named after the once important weaving industry, which flourished in the Middle Ages around North Walsham, Weavers’ Way runs for 61 miles between Cromer and Great Yarmouth.
Weavers’ Way offers a rich contrast of scenery, from the woodlands and mixed farmland of north Norfolk to the grazing marshes beside the rivers Thurne, Bure and Yare.
Outstanding features include a number of flint churches, large country houses, wind-pumps, and historic railway infrastructure such as station buildings, bridges and crossing cottages.
The 61 mile Weavers’ Way between Cromer and Great Yarmouth offers a wide variety of scenery that ranges from woodland and mixed farmland to grazing marshes and tidal mud flats.
Along its route, as well as passing many areas of wildlife interest, the Weavers’ Way takes in several market towns and country house estates and passes numerous medieval flint churches and tower wind pumps that are characteristic of this part of the county.
Acle is a small market town, halfway between Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
The name ‘Acle’ means ‘oaks lea’ - a clearing in an oak forest. In Tudor times, hundreds of oaks were felled here for timber to construct Elizabeth I’s war ships.
The town also has a nationally important complex of World War II defences.
Acle can be used as a starting point to explore the Burlingham Woodland Walks.
In around 500 AD a Saxon named Aegel established a homestead at a place destined to become Aylsham. In 1086 the Domesday Book records a settlement called Elesham. By the middle ages the Manor of Aylsham had passed to John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, who subsequently became Duke of Lancaster. The red rose of Lancaster and the arms of John of Gaunt feature in the north transept window of the Grade 1 listed parish church, built during the 13th and 14th century.
Eventually the manor of Aylsham became the property of the Earls of Buckinghamshire, who also owned the nearby Blickling Estate. In more recent times the Blickling Estate was bequeathed to the National Trust, and the Trust still owns Aylsham’s Market Place and Butts Land today. The centre of the town has many properties which are listed by Historic England as being of special architectural and historic interest and several of these were formerly associated with the wider Blickling Estate.
At the end of the 18th Century, the River Bure was made navigable and Aylsham was linked to the Broads and the coast at Yarmouth. The town prospered and although huge floods destroyed the river’s locks in 1912 the town was by then well connected by railways, both to the coast and the city of Norwich. Although no longer railways, these routes, now known as the Marriott’s Way and the Weavers’ Way, place Aylsham at the heart of the Norfolk Trails network.
But not all the trains have gone. The narrow-gauge Bure Valley Railway still connects Aylsham with the Broads at Wroxham and the trackside Bure Valley Path provides yet another interesting walking route.
Aylsham is a Walkers are Welcome town.
For more information about Aylsham visit the Norfolk Heritage Explorer.
Berney Arms station, one of most remote railway halts in the country, is only accessible by rail, boat or foot but still maintains a regular request stop service. The railway line was built in 1844 and the station takes its name from Thomas Trench Berney, a local landowner who sold the land to the railway company on the condition that trains would stop here in perpetuity.
The nearby Berney Arms Inn is also one of the remotest pubs in England, in that it can only be reached by customers on foot or by boat.
Berney Arms Windmill, at just over 70ft high, is one of the highest in the Norfolk Broads and can be seen for miles around. It is thought to have been built around 1870, to grind cement, though more recently was used as a drainage pump to remove water from the surrounding marshes.
Blickling Park, with its landscaped lake, mature trees and gardens, was originally the site of two medieval deer parks that were enlarged in the 17th and 18th Century by Humphry Repton and his son.
The estate now encompasses nearly 5,000 acres. Blickling Hall, built in 1619 has a very large 18th Century yew hedge and formal gardens that contain a temple and an orangery. The hall has belonged to the National Trust since 1940 and was once in the possession of Anne Boleyn’s family.
Breydon Water is at the mouth of the River Yare and its confluence with the rivers Waveney and Bure.
An RSPB Nature Reserve and the largest protected wetland in the UK, it offers the chance to see a huge range of birds from wildfowl to marsh harriers attracted to an abundant food supply on exposed low tide mud flats. Wooden stumps are visible at low tide: these are an intriguing mix of the remains of revetments, post medieval oyster beds, boat wrecks and possible fish traps.
Cromer became an important seaside resort in the late 19th century when the railway first arrived. The town has long been associated with crab fishing and Cromer crabs are still highly regarded.
The church of St Peter and St Paul in the town has the tallest church tower in the county. Next to the church is Cromer Museum where you can learn all about the fascinating history of the area. The museum includes a fossil display, a cosy Victorian fisherman’s cottage and the ‘Old Cromer’ gallery with displays of historic photographs and illustrations. There is also a nationally important collection of photographs by pioneering North Norfolk photographer Olive Edis.
Cromer Pier built at the beginning of the 20th century houses both the offshore lifeboat station and the end-of-the-pier Pavilion Theatre.
The elegant 19th-century Hotel de Paris on the promenade just above the pier was designed by Norwich architect, George Skipper.
Further along the promenade to the east of the pier is the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum, which documents the thrilling history of the Cromer Lifeboat and the town’s most famous coxswain, Henry Blogg.
Cromer is now also a Walkers Are Welcome town.
Felbrigg Hall, owned by the National Trust, dates from the early 17th Century and is surrounded by parkland that is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest because of the variety of its trees./p>
The house was built by the Wyndham family on the site of an original medieval hall built by Simon de Felbrigg. The house, its contents, and estate were left to the National Trust by Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, the last Squire of Felbrigg Hall, who died in 1969. The estate includes a fabulous walled garden, orangery, orchards and lake. The lake was created in the mid 18th Century by damming Scarrow Beck, a stream that passes through the estate.
Great Yarmouth is full of fantastic places to visit and even has its own heritage quarter.
The town includes museums like Time and Tide Museum of Great Yarmouth Life which is housed in a converted Victorian herring curing works and the Elizabethan House Museum, where you can experience the lives of families who lived in this splendid Quayside house from Tudor to Victorian times.
The town also boasts one of the most complete medieval town walls in the UK.
Halvergate village lies on the edge of Halvergate Marshes. Although it now stands 8 miles from the coast, before the marshes were drained the village would have stood on the edge of the vast River Yare estuary.
The 13th Century church of St Peter and St Paul dominates the village with its 84 foot-high Perpendicular style tower. Four evangelist stone statues once stood on the tower and three of these can now be found either side of the south doorway, one of the earliest parts of the church.
The church also has a fragment of a 14th century window depicting St Christopher carrying the Christ child across the river.
Halvergate Marshes were once part of a great estuary but now make up the largest expanse of grazing marsh in East Anglia.
Outstanding panoramic views pick up a landscape dotted with windmills, grazing animals and masses of wildlife. In particular, the marshes support a large number of wintering Bewick’s swan as well as other waders and wildfowl like golden plover, lapwing, bean goose and wigeon.
Other breeding species include snipe, oystercatcher and bearded tit; short-eared and barn owls are frequent winter visitors.
Heigham Bridge, a medieval bridge over the River Thurne at Potter Heigham that dates from 1385, is well known for being difficult to navigate beneath.
Only small cruisers can pass beneath it at low tide, usually with the assistance of the resident bridge pilot.
Hickling Broad, was formed by the flooding of depressions left by widespread peat digging in the early medieval period.
This internationally important wetland site has the largest expanse of reedbed in England and largest expanse of open water in the Broads. It is home to many species of plant, insect and animal that include rarities like swallowtail butterfly, marsh harrier and bittern.
Hickling Broad is a Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserve and both a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Weavers’ Way skirts the south side of the broad. The visitor centre is on the north side.
Honing station was open from 1882 to 1959, the remains of the platforms and the station buildings can still be seen and explored. The station crossing cottage is still standing, it is now a private house. The second platform, which was added to the station in 1901, has a passenger shelter on it – the canopy has gone, but the brickwork still remains. You can also still see the foundations of a signal box by the road, (the signal box itself is now at Wroxham’s Barton House Railway Museum, which is open to the public). Amazingly, the wooden trellis fencing around the site is largely original, although it was repaired and repainted by volunteers in 2018. Original cattle pens and a short section of reconstructed track can also be seen here. At its peak, on a busy summer Saturday, over 80 trains a day came though here! The site has rustic picnic seating, artworks by local schoolchildren, and an interpretation trail.
In 1724 the south and west sides collapsed and storms in 1836 brought further damage. The 14th century porch is a riot of decorative carving with figures in ornate riches. The church contains a 15th century painted font cover which is topped by a pelican and the base of a 15th century painted screen that was damaged by Cromwell’s men during the Civil War. Most notable is the ornate tomb of Sir William Paston, who founded nearby Paston School, now Paston Sixth Form College, in 1606. The school was later attended by Horatio Nelson and his brother William. The present red brick building dates from 1766.
North Walsham market place has an impressive octagonal market cross with a three-tiered dome. This wooden structure was erected in 1602 to replace an earlier structure that was destroyed by fire in 1600. It was fitted with its chiming clock in 1899.
North Walsham and Dilham Canal, Norfolk’s only canal and the only one ever built specifically for wherries, was constructed in the early part of the 19th Century to transport goods between Antingham and Great Yarmouth via the River Bure.
The canal is now much narrower and shallower than it once was and currently only navigable for 2 miles between Smallburgh and Honing Lock.
The estate also runs the RAF Oulton Museum, which houses an ever-growing collection of objects, documents and oral histories relating to the working life of RAF Oulton, a bomber base that was created on Blickling Estate in 1939.
The base undertook work vital to the war effort before being closed for operations in 1946 and was decommissioned in 1949.
In Stalham, St Mary’s Church dates from the 14th and 15th Centuries.
Adjoining the churchyard is the Stalham Firehouse Museum, the second oldest firehouse in England.
Close to the town, Sutton Mill is the tallest surviving windmill in England. Originally dating from 1789 but rebuilt after a fire in 1861, the mill ceased working in 1940 after its sails were struck by lightning. It was restored in 1976.
The Museum of the Broads, a waterside museum of Broadland life, is located at picturesque Stalham Staithe.
The village of Sustead has the church of St Peter and St Paul, a round towered church of Saxon origin. 17th century Sustead Old Hall was once the home of the famous landscape gardener Humphry Repton.