It is day two of my walk along the Tas Valley Way and I need to get from Cringleford to Long Stratton by bus so that I can pick up the trail where I left off on the previous day. The cheapest way to do this is to get a ‘day ticket’ on the bus which will get me into Norwich then out again.
It’s a cool, grey and cloudy October morning as I wait for the bus on the main Wymondham to Norwich road. A endless line of cars are heading like every other day towards the City centre. Thankfully the number 15 bus is only running a few minutes late and it is good that a bus lane runs much of the way into the City Centre so I get there quicker than many of those car drivers that had passed me whilst waiting at the bus stop. In Norwich, my bus pulls in opposite the next bus I want, – the number 38 which will take me down the A140 to Long Stratton. My timing is perfect insomuch that I was starting my walk a half hour earlier than planned and it’s not even 9am!
Leaving the bus at Long Stratton I head west to pick up the Tas Valley Way where I left off yesterday. This time I vary the route so as not to trek across so many ploughed fields and head out via the hamlet of Bustard’s Green. A brisk wind blows across the open fields on what is quite a cloudy and nondescript morning. After a good half hour, I rejoin the Tas Valley Way to head north and for once I am now in a very shallow valley with crop fields on my right and poor grazing meadows interlaced with water channels on my left. This is the scenery for the next two miles and some of the meadows have cattle grazing. Along this section I stop at a stile for an early morning break. I later cross the infant River Tas then continue north with water meadows now on my right. Ironically this is the only point I see the River Tas on the whole walk.
Reaching the small village of Hapton I opt to divert and visit the local church but the place is locked. Returning to the Tas Valley Way, my route now passes through the grounds of Hapton Hall which is a fairly upmarket equestrian centre with countless paddocks and stables and stable girls everywhere learning on the job. The place is a hive of activity unlike much of Norfolk I’d seen so far.
Beyond, I joined a road briefly, and again divert along a hidden enclosed path to visit the little church at Flordon and like Hapton Church it is locked but this churchyard is very overgrown and neglected. To reach Bracon Ash the landscaped changes and I cross slightly higher ground with well maintained arable fields and a good path to boot. At Bracon Ash I briefly join a lane then take a woodland path north but I go slightly astray due to the numerous paths being unsigned. Some road walking follows to reach the larger village of Mulbarton and entering this larger community I opt to stop for an early lunch break in a small park with many seats close to a large but empty play area. By now the sun is making more of an appearance.
The northern part of Mulbarton lies around a large common which I cross and head to the village church which is unlocked. Inside I find a detailed documentation of those who were killed during World War I together with much information on local family trees. It makes for some interesting reading, and on a wet day I could have spent some time reading about the short lives of the various soldiers from their birth through childhood to their sad end during the World War I.
From Mulbarton I leave The Common and take an extremely overgrown path west and one I will report to Norfolk County Council on my return home. Afterwards I head northwest and now the conditions are better but it appears that the Tas Valley Way had been re-routed away from this overgrown path. As I head north it is ironic that I enter a long section of shady woodland called The Carrs to walk through just as it turns a really sunny afternoon. Afterwards I have water meadows on my left again but this isn’t the River Tas which takes a course well to the east and far out of site. A lane is followed west from Swardeston Common before joining a footpath through Lower East Carleton. I join the same lane again further west then take a driveway north followed by a field path with a couple of fields with cattle in including a bull which thankfully carries on grazing. Of note along this section is a series of broken stiles which means that I will report these faults to Norfolk County Council later. The remainder of the Tas Valley Way is via lanes to reach Cringleford and on the way I stop at Intwood Church which is dominated by its tall flint round tower. There was little of interest beyond this point as I follow residential roads through Cringleford to the northern terminus of the Tas Valley Way which I take to be Cringleford Bridge over the River Yare but there is no evidence that I have reached the end of the trail.
The afternoon is still young so I continue my walk slightly by visiting Eaton Church. It had been fifty eight years since I was here last, when with my parents I attended the wedding of an aunt and uncle. The medieval church which is thatched, now has the addition of a large modern second church attached on the southern side which I feel has spoilt the fabric of the older church. In my opinion it would have been better to have built a second church away from this historic building.
It is merely a case now of heading back to the Travelodge at Cringleford but not before a brief visit to the parish church in the village. My route back is parallel to the busy A11 dual carriageway which is rather unpleasant and noisy for the last mile.
Another trail had been completed but overall this trail didn’t have a lot to offer except for passing through one or two interesting villages. I feel that Norfolk County Council have failed to maintain and promote this path. I came across so many rotted wooden way markers dumped or propped up in hedges and in places vital way markers were simply missing. At least I had two dry days in which to undertake this walk and saw no one else walking it except for the occasional dog walker. I am left with the question,- Will the Tas Valley Way fade into obscurity in the not too distant future?