Archaeological guided walks for the public around Reepham …

… with excursions into neighbouring parishes (Gt Witchingham, Salle and Heydon) too!

Imogen and Trevor Ashwin of the Reepham Exploring Our Footpaths team led a short ‘season’ of walks for the public during October and November 2013. The weather smiled on us throughout, which was very good news (as well as probably quite lucky).

Booton Church Roman road

Looking from a footpath across the landscape to Booton church on the horizon – and along the line of a vanished Roman road (orange). Photo: World Tree

On 19 October we met at Whitwell Station for a two-hour walk which took us around the southern fringes of Reepham and also into the adjacent parish of Great Witchingham. Highlights of the walk included:

  • where a footpath crosses the line of one of Norfolk’s most important Roman roads. It’s invisible on the surface now, but archaeological research tells us where it ran!
  • a footpath at Whitwell which runs within a wonderful ‘hollow way’ – a deep cutting caused by erosion by foot, hoof and cartwheel.
  • passing the site of a deserted medieval village (once called Middleton in Witchingham, but now long vanished)
  • traversing an interesting series of broad footpaths on the high ground between Reepham and Witchingham which, for some reason, have never been adopted as part of the road system
  • visiting a field at Great Witchingham where a prehistoric burial mound may once have stood
  • watching the horizons for distant views – especially of church towers.

On 9 November we travelled instead through the northern part of Reepham, along footpaths, bridleways and minor roads that cross a very different plateau-like landscape, quite different from the hills and valleys explored in the first walk. Highlights included:

  • a well-preserved wooded green lane on the northern edge of Reepham,
    Salle Moor walk

    Setting out northward from Reepham on our journey across ancient Salle Moor. Photo: Reepham Life

    probably a remnant of a part vanished ancient road that once led to Salle Moor Hall (and now threatened by proposed housing development).

  • footpaths across the parkland at Salle Moor – passing ancient pollarded oaks and traces of a medieval moat
  • a mysterious patch of woodland called Crowden, still a focus of many footpaths today. In the wood are the remains of a house …
  • a large oval field on the boundary of Reepham, Salle and Wood Dalling called Kerdy Green – an ancient shared pasture?
  • passing the site of a deserted settlement at Kerdiston
  • a “spigot mortar” gun emplacement from World War II, still guarding the junction of two minor roads at Kerdiston.

On both days of the weekend of 16-17 November we led a rather different kind of walk along the footpaths and bridleways of Salle. Meeting at Salle church, we again talked about features in the landscape that have now vanished. This time, however, we included some elements of improvised performance and gentle audience participation.

Watery Lane

Watery Lane – a beautiful green road at Salle which has never become a metalled highway. Photo: world Tree

We crossed what was once a marshy valley (long ago drained …) to the sound of a recitation accompanied by a drum. We experienced the scent of incense as we looked out across a field where, three thousand years, Bronze Age people had conducted ceremonies when metal objects were buried.

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At the point where the footpath crosses the place where the ancient burial mound stood. The white flags have been used by the dowsers to mark their findings! Photo: World Tree

We spent some time at a point where a footpath crossed the remains of a now-vanished prehistoric burial mound – participants were encouraged to try their hands out dowsing with rods to find out for themselves that this method really can work well for plotting the shapes of ancient monuments that can no longer be seen.

The legends surrounding Anne Boleyn in the landscape around Reepham and Salle were also woven in to the story. We finished with refreshments of hot chocolate and cakes in honour of the recently-past Day of the Dead.

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Walkers crossing the stream at Salle. Photo: Reepham Life

We all enjoyed taking part in these walks and altogether nearly 30 people took part, most of them from Reepham and nearby. As well as sharing what we all knew about the landscape around Reepham, many of us also started to make new friends too. We hope these events will help start to form a little ‘community’ of people in the Reepham area who all share an interest in the ancient countryside, and who might enjoy taking part in further events in the coming spring.