Last week I walked along footpaths 15, 17 and 18 in the blistering heat with my husband Dick. We took Bella our dog who thoroughly enjoyed herself on new territory. Footpath 15 is getting overgrown with tall grasses so Bella was tunnelling through happily and investigating all the resting places and pathways made by various animals muntjac especially.The small tortoiseshell butterflies were fluttering in clouds. They are so numerous this year.
Crossing from FP 15 to FP 18 between two dwellings either side there was a little shade afforded by some oak trees. None of these looked of any great age but this was a cursory visit just to get the feel of the pathways. We can’t afford to assume on a first quick recce! This restricted byway would have been the final part of the journey to St James’ Hospital (remnants now in the grounds of Horning Hall) where the St Benet’s pilgrims and some of the visitors would have been welcomed and accommodated after their travels. Today, in beautiful strong sunshine, we could see across to Ranworth Church and Woodbastwick while the Bure thronged with small sailing craft and leisure boats below us to our right across the fields as we walked eastwards.
The lane had several medium sized oak trees (about 2-2.5 metres in girth) and some mature ash. Much hedge planting seems to have occurred along the southern side of the path- field maple, a mix of common and midland hawthorn, possibly some dogwood, and a few small hollies as well as a large holly tree.. Occasionally stretches were interwoven with dog rose, plenty of bracken and convolvulus. Also growing was ribwort, great plantain, cow parsley, tufted vetch and some tansy. There was one oak which we measured that was 5 metres in girth which is of a size that the CPRE project would like to be recorded (anything over 4 metres girth ) and there are probably some stumps that are so well covered with bramble and foliage at this time of year that we will have to not only record the path in detail during the summer, but come back when the plants have died down in late autumn and see what lurks beneath.
We saw a pair of mating broad bodied chaser dragonflies looking like a chinook helicopter ducking and diving along the hedgerows and a green eyed hawker! Anita and I saw one earlier in the month along footpath 17. Butterflies included many small tortoiseshells, small white cabbage and both male and female orange tips.
Returning up the same footpath (as no 18 terminates at the junction with the private road to Horning Hall) and turning left, we then went along footpath 17 down to Horning Old Staithe. This is, for a small stretch, a tree-tunnelled lane, and appears sunken as it descends to the flatter area near the River Bure. In places the banks came as high as our heads on the eastern side. There were several oaks probably with a girth of over 2.5 metres and what appeared to be a couple of coppiced ash. Plenty of field maple and hawthorn and a beech.
In the verge adjacent to the Waterworks building was a decent crop of ripening raspberries which gave us some unexpected refreshment. Elder and sloe and a self seeded buddleia lined the west side of the path. We will probably be having a good look at the grasses growing on the flattened area around the staithe when we come to survey this patch. From here directly opposite across the marsh stands Ranworth Church. If you walk to the southern side of Horning church, the view over the Bure to Ranworth Church is beautiful across the river valley especially at sunset.
Words and pictures by Annie Jepson
19th July 2013