Category Archives: Posts

Exhibition in Reepham, 17 May

To mark the conclusion of the project, the Reepham Connecting Threads team held a morning exhibition/’open house’ in the main public room at the Bircham Centre, in Reepham’s Market Place, on Saturday 17 May. So much of our emphasis during this project has been on outreach and awareness-raising, so we enjoyed talking to many people who had taken part in our earlier walks and activities, as well as interested people we had not met previously.

Exhibition on 17 MayA series of four 900mm x 800mm display panels recounted the main activities of the Connecting Threads project in Reepham. Members of the core team were in attendance (with maps at the ready!) to talk about roads, footpaths, archaeology and the countryside to everyone who visited. A wide selection of relevant books and maps was available for people to browse. Using a laptop computer, we were also able to demonstrate the Norfolk Heritage Explorer (www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk) and Historic Maps Explorer (www.historic-maps.norfolk.gov.uk) websites to visitors.

Exhibition on 17 MayMany thanks to all of you who attended and took time to talk to us at the end of this enjoyable project. We are left with the feeling that there is so much more we could have done – but it is clear that the project has acted as a starting point for other heritage initiatives in Reepham, notably the Reepham Tracks and Traces events that will take place during the national Festival of Archaeology on 12-27 July. There is no doubt, either, that field recording will continue, and that more visits to the record office will follow.

Click on the image below to view exhibition materials.

Reepham Connecting Threads display panels

Reepham Connecting Threads display panels

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Creative writing workshop, 23 March

On Sunday 23 March a group of us assembled at Broomhill, on the beautiful western outskirts of Reepham, to take part in a creative writing workshop led by noted Norfolk poet Caroline Gilfillan.

Writing workshop at BroomhillCaroline suggested many different ways in which a writer might choose to look at roads, paths and tracks, and the countryside through which they pass. She also put participants through a number of simple ‘exercises’ intended to help let go of self-critical inhibitions that deter many of us from writing. Soon she had us writing acrostics and haiku, focusing not necessarily on the bigger picture of a historic landscape but also on significant details which might catch our attention.

We followed this with a short walk (led by the Connecting Threads team) along nearby Back Lane. This historic path (also one subject of our detailed archaeological and ecological recording) is fertile ground for the imagination as it was once an important route that has become somehow ‘cut off’ from the main road and track network by construction of a nearby railway. An enormous pollarded oak standing next to it gave us all food for thought.

Writing workshop at BroomhillMany thanks to Caroline for her generous encouragement and for providing such a stimulating morning. When we ran out of time, we felt that we were just beginning to explore things properly!

Kay_Riggs_writing_workshop_23Mar14

Signs of Spring – plant and wildflower walk on 12 April

On Saturday 12 April we organised a guided walk that focussed on flora and trees surrounding Reepham’s footpaths. Although this was quite early in the year for wild flower observation the general lack of thick undergrowth allowed us to see small plants beginning to emerge and also permitted close inspection of banks etc. which later in the spring would be covered by thick vegetation. Also, sufficient trees were now in leaf to help in the identification of nearly all species!

On an old path at Whitwell - Tony Foottit explains all about Dog's Mercury!

On an old path at Whitwell – Tony Foottit explains all about Dog’s Mercury!

We were led by Anthony Foottit, a Reepham resident and member of our Connecting Threads core team who has also published a book on British wild flora. He has a special interest in the traditions and religious and other symbolism that has surrounded wayside plants since medieval times so he had many interesting stories to tell.

We were especially interested in what Tony had to say about a small number of species (lesser celandine, polypody fern, bluebell, dog’s mercury) that might be regarded as good indicators of long-established woodland, and are thus significant when noted on footpath banks and field edges. This kind of advice was extremely useful to the project members who were to undertake some field recording of paths during the few weeks that followed.

Twenty-one people attended a really enjoyable morning’s walk.

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.

 

Forthcoming guided walks around Reepham for autumn 2013

So much lies hidden beneath the woods and fields we are familiar with – the remains of deserted villages, mills, prehistoric burial mounds, even a Roman road! A short series of guided walks along the paths, tracks and minor roads around Reepham will point out where some of these monuments once stood and try to explain how we can study the ancient landscape.

All walks are free of charge and open to everyone. Stout shoes and waterproofs essential. Unless the weather is really bad, ‘the show will go on’ for anyone who is interested. If you would like to come or would like more information, please phone or email Imogen and Trevor Ashwin (01603 870523; footpaths@world-tree.co.uk) so that we know how many people are likely to attend.

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Foothpath across the site of a vanished prehistoric burial mound at Salle

Saturday 19 October, 1.30pm. Meet in Whitwell Station car park for a walk through the countryside on the southern fringes of Reepham. Numbers limited to c. 30 people.

Saturday 9 November, 10.30am. Meet in Reepham Station car park for a rambling walk through northern Reepham, Salle Moor and Kerdiston. Numbers limited to c. 30 people.

Saturday 16 November, 10.30am. Meet in the car park outside Salle church for an exploration of the hidden prehistory of Salle and Heydon! This walk will take in a variety of footpaths and greenroads. It will include some activities in which you can take part, so numbers will be limited to 10.

For more information:
w: www.exploringourfootpaths.co.uk
t: 01603 870523
e: footpaths@world-tree.co.uk

Full house for Tom Williamson’s lecture, 10 September

St Michael’s Church Hall was full to capacity for Prof Tom Williamson’s talk to the Reepham Society on the evening of Tuesday 10 September – and Tom did not disappoint. He spoke for an hour and ten minutes but still kept his audience wanting more.

Thanks to Tom, and also to the committee of the Reepham Society for inviting him to come.

Williamson lecture 10 Sept 13

Our unfolding Google map

To keep track of our activities and make notes about our travels, we are creating a customised Google map. We want this to act as a kind of spatial diary as the months go by – a place where we can make notes about what we find interesting, puzzling or amusing.

https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=215152709198045049217.0004df805307ff80a3511&msa=0&ll=52.759464,1.104641&spn=0.077912,0.154324

Reepham Google map

There is not much on the map yet, but this will soon change as the project enters a more active stage in September. You can click on the little coloured symbols/totems on the map to see our thoughts and reflections …

Lecture by Tom Williamson on 10 September

The Reepham project will be heating up soon! We will be starting some more activities for the public, including some led walks, in September, ‘when the school holidays are over’ …

Given this, we are DELIGHTED to report that we’ve persuaded our friends in the Reepham Society to invite Professor Tom Williamson, UEA’s landscape history doyen, to give their September lecture. We don’t yet have his precise title but we know he will be speaking about studying the history of roads, tracks and footpaths.

The talk will take place at St Michael’s Church, Reepham on 10 September, starting at 7.30 pm and will be open to everyone. Tom is a great speaker and we hope this will provide a good launch event for our activities in Reepham this autumn.

8 July 2013 – walking with Year 3 from Reepham Primary School

Reepham is extremely fortunate to have paths so close to the primary school that they are accessible for children to walk without having to first travel by car or coach. This means that the countryside is available to the school in a way which would not be possible if transport had to be arranged and paid for. Although, the majority of the children at the primary school in Reepham live close to the fields and tracks surrounding the town it is surprising how little they know about the plants and wildlife that surround them and the history that has created the environment they now inhabit.

Sarah Spooner and school pupils on ancient footpath at Whitwell

Sarah Spooner and school pupils on ancient footpath at Whitwell

On Monday 8 July the Year 3 class, consisting of 30 eight year old children from Reepham Primary School, ventured out of the school gates for a walk organized under the umbrella of the Exploring Footpath’s scheme. Most of the walks organized within this project are for adults, whether they be students, landscape and history enthusiasts, or interested local people, and the routes have been designed with adults in mind.

Therefore, the school walk had a specially formulated shorter route taken to allow time for stopping to look around and discuss interesting features during the walk, to be able to complete it without exhausting the children and get them back to school before lunch-time.

So, on this bright sunny morning the children donned their fluorescent orange waistcoats, and clutching water bottles and snacks, pencils and paper, set forth down one of Reepham’s minor single track roads. They were accompanied by parent helpers, the class teacher and 2 staff and 1 student from UEA’s landscape history department.

The first part of the walk took us past the houses at the edge of the south east part of Reepham including the old vicarage which is bordered by an old and quite wild hedge consisting of beech, hawthorn, ivy and holly. As the buildings petered out the hedges on either side of the road came more into focus and were interspersed by large oak and ash trees. Several of the older hedges had been cut down by intensive agricultural practices and but there were some newer growth and vestiges of older plants in places.

The children had been learning about grasses and were interested to find and identify the types they saw along the side of the road. We also looked at the leaves of the hedge trees and answered such beautifully basic questions such as, ‘What is a hedge?’ and ‘Why do they grow here?’

One track we passed had been used as an unmetalled road in living memory but had then been downgraded to a bridleway so had remained small and overgrown, unlike others which changed status to roads and, after surfacing, began to be used by cars.

The mid-way point of the walk was a mill and we talked about how many of the roads and tracks converged at there. Why would that have happened? Well, we discussed how the tracks would have had carts pulled by horses carrying wheat, or other cargo to be processed by the mill, making their way down in one direction and away on another track. Like an informal one-way system, used because the carts could not pass each other in the narrow space available in the slightly sunken tracks with high hedge walls.

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Studying and measuring an ancient oak tree. How old is it?

Re-energised with chocolate we made our way down through the station to avoid the short but rather dangerous section of road; and made our way across onto the Marriotts Way and onto the path that marks the old parish boundary between Reepham and Hackford. Along this path there were more copsed hazel and some large alder, beech and ancient oaks.

One oak tree in particular was examined for its size which turned out to be 7.2 meters in diameter and probably between 6 or 7 hundred years old. These trees were used for fuel and the lower branches cut away for building wood as well as burning. It was explained that it is likely that this tree is the same age as the churches in Reepham and, together with other trees at the time, may well have been used in its original construction.

These ancient trees are home to an enormous range of wildlife and support a whole infrastructure of habitats. They have been likened in importance to the coral reefs in the sea because of their capacity to support and encourage plant and animal life within their structure.

Childrens' notes from the footpath walk

Childrens’ notes from the footpath walk

At this point the children knew they were on the home stretch back to school and lunch and playtime and they quickened their pace to cover the last part of the walk in extra quick time. In total the children behaved fantastically, showing great interest and enthusiasm in all they saw; they produced some lovely drawings and notes and we hope they will continue to walk and look around with the same openness and interest they showed that morning.

Childrens' notes and sketches

Childrens’ notes and sketches

Many thanks go to the class teacher, Miss Hands who organized the whole outing with great good humor and efficiency, to the parent and class helpers and to the UEA specialists who brought their knowledge and expertise to the walk, and to the head-mistress Mrs Jones who encouraged and supported the project.

Helen Lindsay
July 2013

 

16 July 2013 – Reconnaissance walk through Witchingham and Whitwell

Six of us assembled at Tony and Rosie Footitt’s home on Whitwell Street to do a circular walk of 5 miles through the countryside to the south of Reepham.

Remarkably enough, their house lies directly upon the probable line of a vanished Roman road which once passed to the south of the town. Surely an auspicious start for a project which will get all of us looking more closely at subtle remains and traces in our familiar countryside.

Setting out towards Witchingham on our first walk!

Setting out towards Witchingham on our first walk!

In starting the project with a series of walks like this, our aim is start appreciating the great variety of the countryside in the Reepham area. In many ways the town lies on a topographical boundary, between the river valleys and sandy/gravelly soils to the south and the open clay plateau to the north. Different history and prehistory – different soils and drainage – different farming methods – different flora and trees? Our next reconnaissance will be to the north-west of Reepham, towards Kerdiston. It will be very interesting to compare what we see with what we have seen today.

The paths we trod were very contrasting. Some were mown strips across arable field, some were broad unmetalled bridleways. At least one path had once been metalled but clearly had never been adopted as a public road. Our route also took us a little distance along the Marriott’s Way to the south of Whitwell Station. Along two sections of path we enjoyed old trees and hedgebanks – especially along one length of footpath north of Eade’s Mill, where an authentic ‘hollow way’ had developed along a steeply sloping section.

Trees on a hollow way bank at Whitwell

Trees on a hollow way bank at Whitwell

Tony helped identify wild flowers at many points. We enjoyed the subtly changing views as we walked across the high land on the fringes of the Wensum valley. We passed several archaeological sites – two deserted medieval villages, medieval moats, the site of a windmill and the probable location of a prehistoric burial mound. We crossed and re-crossed the line of the Roman road. This was once one of Norfolk’s Roman ‘trunk roads’ but no trace is now visible. It is clear that this landscape is not going to give up its secrets without research and a bit of persistence.