Walk this way . . . Somerleyton
PUBLISHED: 14:47 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 14:47 01 April 2014
David Falk, Suffolk County Council's Countryside access manager, takes the Wherry Line train to Somerleyton and follows the Angles Way home
“Wow, this looks like the middle of nowhere.” “Yes, you could be right!”
I’m talking to the conductor as I step off the train at Somerleyton Station. He’s smiling broadly at me, wishing me a pleasant day, then steps back on to the train and closes the doors. The two-carriage diesel whines up and slowly chugs off, continuing its journey towards Norwich, leaving me alone on the platform.
There’s not much here. A small shelter with a bench is guarded by a gnome in a well-tended patch of garden complete with planted pots.
The station stands isolated within the wide valley of the River Waveney. Looking down a muddy track across the expanse of Somerleyton Marshes I see the relic of a brick barn with a tall chimney. A pair of marsh harriers glides close to it and a kestrel hovers nearby.
I’m here at Somerleyton to follow a section of the Angles Way, a long distance path that meanders for almost 90 miles along the border of Suffolk and Norfolk, linking Great Yarmouth and Thetford. Along its length, it takes in castles, market towns, rivers, marshes, fens, forests, museums, churches and numerous pubs. The short section I’m about to walk is just five miles long and is made easy by using the Wherry Line, the regular train service between Lowestoft and Norwich.
From Somerleyton Station, the Angles Way leads past a row of cottages along a sheltered lane. Just to the north lies the heart of picture-postcard Somerleyton village. My route leads away from village life and out into the countryside past ancient hedgerows and magnificent oaks.
I turn on to a wide, sandy farm track past a barn that is home to curly-headed cattle. The track is deeply rutted and I pick a route between water-filled hollows. Pine trees line the path and the sun streaks through dappling the trail ahead.
In the sand the tracks of other walkers, dogs, deer, horseshoes and tyres are evident; this is clearly a very popular route. The track divides and I find myself rising into a tree canopy full of activity with blue tits and goldfinches flitting about. Below me rhododendrons sit amongst native species on a canvas of bracken. In late spring this walk will surely be a kaleidoscope of colours.
The sandy path is like walking on a padded quilt, patched with elongated sweet chestnut leaves. It gives a bounce to every step. I pass a clump of Butcher’s Broom and step through dew sparkling grass as the path undulates along the edge of a wood. The trees part to reveal the River Waveney, shining as it snakes its way along the valley floor.
The path drops on to a length of boardwalk, crossing a weed-covered stream, its banks decorated by tiny ferns.
Approaching Flixton Decoy, the Angles Way skirts marsh before heading back into woodland. Here storms have upended trees revealing undersides of fractured, grey soil bound by fibrous roots. I pause at a bridge to sip tea and enjoy homemade coffee, cardamom and pistachio cake. I am greeted by the thunder of horses’ hooves and look up to see two fine animals behind a wire fence looking jealously at my lunch. They soon lose interest and wander away.
The Angles Way flows on beside ditches, along open fields and through kissing gates. I see a deer stick its head above a parapet of reeds before secreting itself as it feeds. I follow my nose towards redbrick cottages and on to the intriguingly named Queens Highway. The highway, little more than a meandering lane, passes parked cars, converted barns and gardens selling home-grown plants.
At the Church of St Michael I finish the last of my tea whilst observing a mini hive of activity from the comfort of a church bench. There are horse riders, off-road cyclists, walkers, tourists taking photos, and families visiting loved ones. The church sits in a lofty position and is a solid blend of medieval stonework and red brick tower. The churchyard makes a pretty setting with pollarded cherry trees amongst lichen-covered gravestones intersected by pea-shingle paths. It marks a change in my journey as from here, the Angles Way enters the suburban outskirts of Oulton.
I leave the churchyard and continue past a paddock containing a single corrugated iron shack. It looks like something from a wild-west ghost town, all orange-rust, rose-peach and plum-brown. Passing over the railway line I am soon amongst grand properties behind gated driveways.
Nearing journey’s end Oulton Broad itself comes into view, spreading flat and wide. Its silvery grey waters slap and glug against buoys, docks and bouncing boats.
The rumble and hum of traffic along Bridge Road heralds my return to Oulton Broad North Station and at my car, as I step out of my walking attire and back into civvies, I realise just how easy it is to be in the middle of nowhere.