The walk crossed the join of my two 1950s treasured OS maps of Norfolk (Sheets 125 and 126 Seventh Series)
“Blickling Hall is a masterpiece of Jacobean architecture famed for its spectacular long gallery, superb library and exceptional gardens. The estate has been home to Falstaffs, Boleyns and Saxon Kings. We walk from Blickling Hall, in the heart of the Norfolk countryside, through the 5000 acre estate northwards to Wolterton, the seat of the Walpole family. From Wolterton we follow country lanes to Mannington Hall, with its famous gardens, before turning south to Itteringham for lunch. After lunch we head back to the Blickling Estate for tea. 11.5 miles.” [From the ATG-Oxford website]
Adrian, our leader, shows the route we’ll follow
This has been my day today! ATG Oxford The Alternative Travel Group organise walking holidays in this country and abroad – both escorted and self-guided. In fact my walking holiday in Alsace in June was an ATG (Footloose) holiday. As a supplement to these, mainly summer holidays, ATG organise a series of Saturday Walks throughout the year in order to raise money for chosen charities and as a ‘subtle’ marketing ploy; for we are like-minded people and keen to hear others’ experiences of walks.
As I left Norwich snow began to fall and in the car the outside temperature measured -1C. By the time I left the outskirts of Norwich behind me the snow had turned to rain and the temperature had risen to +1C. The group of intrepid walkers met by the Buckinghamshire Arms and we set off in misty drizzle past the beautiful Jacobean Blickling Hall and, after a quick look inside the church (even colder than outside!), began our muddy tramp around the icy Blickling Lake and across the estate.
Rear of Blickling Hall one-time home of Anne Boleyn
The half frozen lake at Blickling
Our next Hall – a Palladian design – Wolterton appeared empty and unused but looked quite beautiful from across the Lake. There’s a ruined church in the field next door. Read here about Simon Knott’s delightful birthday visit to the ruin.
Wolterton Hall across its lake
The Ruin of St Margaret’s Wolterton
As we tramped through muddy fields and along wet lanes I talked with many of the group (about 17 of us) about where we had come from. Had we been on any of the holidays? Had we been on Saturday Walks before – if so where? I don’t think there were any local people most had come from London and Cambridge and one or two of us from further afield and making a weekend (or longer) of it – Leeds, Manchester, Stow-on-the-Wold.
Our next and final Hall was the lovely Tudor Mannington Hall whose gardens are renowned in the area and where popular summer events are held. It looked rather bleak today but it definitely has a lived-in feel and is the home of the current Lord and Lady Walpole (they own Wolterton too). Read here an interesting article about owning two stately homes and access to them.
Saxon Church Remains
Our walk continued across more muddy fields and we were just able to glimpse the remains of the Saxon chapel at Mannington. Not far now …
Lunch is about to be served at Itteringham Village Hall
And we arrived at our lunch spot. ATG lay on a super lunch – mulled wine, creamy hot soup, a choice of salads, breads, meats and cheeses. I noticed some chocolate tarts for pudding but opted for fresh fruit – grapes and a tangerine. The lunch was served by ATG’s Sarah in Itteringham Village Hall or The Bure Valley Community Centre as it is known locally. It’s right opposite another Norfolk flint church – St Mary’s Itteringham – with its neighbouring ruined chapel and the preservation of which has been aided by The Churches Conservation Trust.
St Mary’s Itteringham
The lunch was served at the 7.2 mile point so a further 4 miles were walked to our destination. The rain began to fall as we re-entered the Blickling Estate and passing The Grandstand – a strange and rather industrial-looking building (erected for the purpose of viewing the shooting and horse racing on the Blickling Estate) and is now a holiday-let.
We were glad to spot the Blickling Lake and smell the wood smoke of the stoves in the Buckinghamshire Arms where afternoon tea was served. There we heard more tempting morsels about dry, stony Italian tracks, drinks on sunny terraces, gorgeous picnics served on craggy peaks in Spain and Italy and generally about locations that had rather more appeal by 4pm on a very wet, cold Saturday afternoon in December.