A sunny January 14th and a walk along Footpaths 15 and 18 towards St Benet’s, St James’ Hospital with St Benet’s Abbey in the distance. The weather proved too good to miss today. I was exploring Footpath 15 to try and see the linear earthwork which stretches from St Benedict’s Church to the back of the houses along the A1062.
It was all ploughed out probably over a century ago, but there is a slight raised area where
the telegraph poles are positioned within the field nearest the church.
It is tempting to think that this earthwork, possibly late Saxon and
thought to have been a defensive barrier, could at sometime been used as
an early pathway across from the marshy River Ant area to the marshy
River Bure the other side. Could there have been an earlier church on
the site of the present one and the earthwork used as access?
Footpath 15 was known as the Bearers’ walk, for sometimes coffins were
carried this way to the church in the past, from the boat-builder and coffin-maker at Upper Street.
Crossing over to Footpath 18 and I think I can safely say this was one
of the muddier walks I’ve taken this year. The terrain becomes,
according to a much missed local “old boy” from Potter Heigham, full
of slub. (Mud to you and me). The farmer has been busy ploughing and there
is a lot of activity this western end of the path.
The ubiquitous, noisy Egyptian Geese were grazing on the new growth in the field and all around I could hear the sound of farm machinery. Plenty of rooks were
combing the fields in small flocks, settling and then shifting across the landscape playing a dappled leapfrog game. Down the far end of
Footpath 18 across in the marsh a digger was clearing a field dyke.
Walking along this footpath especially at this time of year I could
appreciate that it would have been high and dry, away from marshland.
The views now with the trees and hedges bare afforded a splendid panorama towards Ludham marshes, across to Ranworth, along to the River Bure and St Benet’s Gatehouse. I imagined the awe inspiring image of the Abbey which would have loomed so much larger than the remains on site today. It would have completely dominated the landscape.
It is with that thought in mind that I realised the duration of time this piece of track must have been used by wayfarers and pilgrims so long ago and has continued to be enjoyed to the present day by walkers and ramblers. It has an ancient pedigree.