214. Dersingham to Kings Lynn

May 2014

This is one of those (fortunately few) coastal walks where I didn’t actually see the sea or even a tidal river at all until I was almost at the end of the walk in Kings Lynn. The whole walk was inland because there is no (legal) public access along any part of the coast, other than 1 dead-end path along the eastern bank of the River Great Ouse (which I did follow). I believe much of the land is part of the Sandringham estate. Mostly I’m going to be walking at least a mile inland, so this is more a positional walk than a coastal one.

I set off from home, took the train to London Waterloo, the train to Kings Lynn and from there a bus to Dersingham. The bus was a double-decker but it hardly needed to be, I think there were about half a dozen passengers most of the time. The bus wound it’s way through the Norfolk countryside to Dersingham, and I got off the stop where I boarded last time (well, to be pedantic, across the road from it).

On reaching Dersingham I re-traced my steps to the old railway station and continued west along the track, following the same route I took at the end of my last walk, to reach the A149. Here I turned left along the road. This is a very busy road (the main route to Hunstanton and the North Norfolk coast) and there wasn’t a pavement. However there was a narrow verge in places and the road itself had about 2 foot of road beside the white lines at the edges of the lanes, meaning in general I could walk out of the way of the traffic, even if it was whizzing close by me at 60mph.

I followed the road for half a mile, but kept up a brisk pace, as I always seem to instinctively on roads, as I want to get off them as quickly as possible. Thankfully I only had to follow it for about half a mile, as I could then turn left onto a public right of way (marked as a restricted byway).

Actually this path was a bit odd. The restricted byway crosses the road in both directions here, so I could turn right, which would take me nearer the coast. However the path proceeded for about half a mile and then ended abruptly (at least, according to the map). It is possible you could then turn left along a track marked on the map (but not as a public right of way) and then you’d reach the dismantled railway line. If I could cross that I’d be in Dersingham Bog (which is open access land, so public access is permitted). But that was a lot of ifs and uncertainties (because there was no legal public right) and I suspected it would end up a wasted effort to try to go this way. So instead I turned left, heading back towards Dersingham instead.

This was a pleasant wide grassy path heading back east alongside a stream. Shortly on my right I was passing the backs of houses at the edge of Dersingham and after a while the path I was following crossed the stream and widened to a track emerging onto the B1440 beside a house. I’d now walked almost 3 sides of a square and as a result I was less than half a mile from where I started! But I had at least walked as close to the coast as possible.

On reaching this road, I turned right and in about 100 metres I could turn left off the road onto a footpath over Dersingham Common.

Dersingham Common

The path was not very obvious on the ground, but I stuck to the left hand side of the common which was a mixture of open land and woodland. After a while I reached the end of the first part of the heath and Heath Road.

Dersingham Common

Here I crossed the road and continue on the path ahead, which now turns partly right to head more due south. I crossed a couple of streams via bridges made of old railway sleepers.

I soon left the common to enter the Sandringham Estate. Sandringham is one of the royal households and this is the one where the Queen normally spends the Christmas period. The public right of way ended, but I’ve now entered what is known as the “Sandringham Country Park“, a part of the park to which the public is granted access. In fact I’d downloaded and printed out a map of the park in order to plan this route.

So on entering the estate I continued ahead to a wide track heading south west. This was a wide and pleasant wooded path.

Sandringham Country Park

I could follow this to join the “Scenic Drive”, a road through the estate.

The Scenic Drive, Sandringham Country Park

Thankfully it is one-way and does not have much traffic. This was a nice enough path, but it didn’t seem any more scenic than most roads through woodlands, really.

Part way along I was pleased to find there was a wooden viewing platform, raised up so that I could get a better view over the trees. At last, my first view of the shore!

Viewpoint off The Scenic Drive, Sandringham Country Park

Although several miles away, I could make out the mud flats and sands of the Wash, and just about the land the other side.

I also saw some royal graffiti “Da Queen Woz Ere” apparently (somehow, I doubt it!).

Da Queen Woz Ere?

Having enjoyed the view, it was time to continue my walk along the Scenic Drive.

The Scenic Drive, Sandringham Country Park

I soon reached the end of the Scenic Drive which had indeed been quite pleasant. The end was marked by some impressive gates, with the Royal Crest which were dated 2002, so a relatively recent addition.

The Scenic Drive, Sandringham Country Park

Crossing the road there was a continuation, but now a path rather than a road, so there was no traffic. This was the “Yellow Nature Trail” which was marked with yellow arrows. This was a pleasant path, lined with rhododendrons, but it didn’t last long, and soon I was back to the road. I turned left to come to a junction.

Two grand houses were ahead, either side of another drive into Sandringham, but this time a private part of the estate.

Sandringham Estate

So instead I turned sharp right to follow a minor road heading south west. This is part of National Cycle Network 1 (I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d be seeing a lot of this cycle path on later coast walks). There wasn’t much traffic and there was a bit of a verge alongside, so it was quite pleasant, as road walking goes. At one point I heard a noise in the woodland and managed to spot some deer, and even get a photo of them before they ran off (just left of the tree trunk in the photo below)!

Deer in the Sandringham Estate

This road led me down to the busy A149 again, but a permissive cycle path was marked on my map as starting here and following alongside the road. This looked quite recently built and was quite well done, as it was a separate tarmac path next to the road, but separated by a line of trees and hedges, which makes a huge difference to how pleasant it is.

I continued past a turning on the right for Babingley and Hall Farm which seems like it might once have been important (from the ancient remains marked on the map) but now is just the farm and a couple of houses, but it’s all private, so I had to ignore it and stick to the main road.

After half a mile alongside the main road there was a bridleway marked on the map heading west, to Castle Rising. I followed this, but it was more an old road really, now turned into a cycle path.

I soon crossed the river Babingley (I loved the name) on a bridge and continued over Day Common.

The Babingley River

At the end of the common I reached the edge of Castle Rising Wood. Here I had an unexpected treat – blue bells! They really created a lovely carpet of blue. It’s always nice to see these, a sign spring is now in full force.

Bluebells in Castle Rising Wood

I followed the main path as it turned left to turn south now with the woods on my left and soon passed the barrier designed to stop vehicles using this track. I was now entering the village of Castle Rising.

I knew nothing about Castle Rising, other than it was a village marked on the map that I would pass through. However it was soon clear it was an old and very pretty place with some lovely buildings. The church was also large, hinting that this was once important.

The church in Castle Rising

Castle Rising

Of course it had another thing, hinted at in the name of the village – a castle! I do like a good castle. The village is named after the castle, and is listed in the Doomsday Book. The castle itself was begun in 1138, with the keep dating from 1140. The castle has had various uses over the years, including as a castle (of course), but also a hunting lodge and royal residence and became owned by the Howard family in 1544, who are still the owners today.

Castle Rising

The castle is now partly ruined, but I was pleased to find it was open to the public and the admission charge was fairly reasonable. Checking the time, I had made good progress because I’d mostly been on roads, so I stopped to pay a visit – it felt like my reward after all the road walking away from the coast so far!

Castle Rising

The Keep, Castle Rising, Norfolk

It was a very interesting castle, and I could see evidence of it’s previous uses inside.

Castle Rising

Most of the castle is ruined, but paths inside the walls provided a good view over the countryside.

Castle Rising

A few of the rooms did still have rooms and were used to house information about the castle.

Castle Rising

You could also walk around much of the old defensive walls around the outside. All in all it was a very enjoyable visit, and I was very glad I had made time to visit. It is nice to discover these places I might otherwise never have visited!

Castle Rising

Having enjoyed the castle, it was time to continue my walk. I turned west along Lynn Road and then took the road on the right, just as the pavement ended. As this turned to the right I could turn left along a track. The track passed a house and soon narrowed to a path through the woodland of Wootton Carr, where there were more lovely bluebells, though not quite the carpet of bluebells I’d seen earlier.

This path soon emerged onto the road and here I turned right into the town of North Wootton. This was probably once a separate place, but the urban area of North Wootton merges into Kings Lynn now. I continued ahead on the road which thankfully soon got a neat grass verge and then a pavement. I followed it as it soon turned left to head south and then took the first road off to the right (Manor Road). I then took the first road off the right off this (still Manor Road) and when this too turned left, I continued ahead into Station Road.

Here I found another lovely church and an unusually named pub (The Red Cat Hotel).

North Wootton

My reason for heading down this dead end road was the possibility the old railway line might have been turned into a cycle path, or at least be walkable. Sadly it wasn’t and this minor road becomes a private dead-end a couple miles ahead.

North Wootton

So instead I returned a couple of hundred metres along the road and then turned right along Nursery Lane. This was a minor road without a pavement, but also without much traffic. I continued along it passing large houses (this was clearly quite a wealthy area) and then onwards to the more main road, where there was a pavement.

I passed alongside Wootton Park and continue south along the road for a little over half a mile to reach the village green and pond, which was quite pleasant. I suspect the village has grown somewhat since this green was it’s centre.

North Wootton village green

The road ended at the busy A1078 where I could turn right on a shared pavement and cycle path beside the road. The cycle path beside this main road ended at the North Lynn Industrial Estate ahead and turned left on a track between the residential part of the town and the industrial estate.

This was a grotty path and I didn’t want to linger on it. At the end of the industrial estate I could turn right on a residential road (Reid Way). I followed residential roads west into Kingsway. This was certainly not a wealthy area and the grass verges had been turned to mud by cars parking on them. At the end of this road I could enter a playing field ahead and cut across this to walk through the park close to the road at the far end, heading south. At the end of the park I turned right into Estuary Road – at last names hinting that the coast is nearby!

Sadly despite the name this was a grim road. It passed industrial buildings, some of which had been demolished and most looked run down. Bizarrely, near the end was a little dead-end street of bungalows, in amongst the industry! Not somewhere I’d want to live.

However, just past this was the footpath I wanted to follow, initially along a track to North Lynn Farm. Sadly, at the point it was supposed to leave this track, there was no sign. I went to the right of the only building to the right of the track (as shown on the map) but there was no sign of a path over the field. So I turned right and followed the south edge of the field to it’s eastern edge instead.

Here I then turned left and followed the eastern edge of the field north. At some point along here I rejoined the correct route of the path (which is meant to go over the middle of the field to this point) and crossed a little stream via a wooden footbridge.

Fields near North Lynn

I could then continue north along the right hand edge of the field ahead, passing under power lines, where the path was more obvious on the ground.

At the end of this large field I reached a tarmac track and turned briefly right until there was a “Crown Estate” sign telling me the land ahead was private and so I turned left with the footpath between trees. Tyre tracks were worn along the path suggesting it is also sometimes used as a road.

Old West Sea Bank, North Lynn

I could continue along this track to reach the first part of the sea wall. Here the sea wall continued north, but there is no right of way.

Old West Sea Bank, North Lynn

I couple of fellow coastal walkers both went this way, but it is private with no right of way. Signs warned “KLWNWA Private Shooting.  Membership card to be carried at all times whilst carrying gun. NO PUBLIC RIGHT OF WAY“. I’m not sure what KLWNWA might stand for but it was clear the land was used for shooting, so I was glad I hadn’t tried trespassing on it to find a different more coastal route, as it being the weekend I felt there was a good chance shooting might be taking place.

Instead I turned left with the sea bank to reach the banks of the River Great Ouse. At last, some tidal water on what is meant to be a coast walk!

The River Great Ouse, Kings Lynn

The first crossing point of this river is in Kings Lynn, so that’s where I need to go now. I was now on a public byway, which followed the river south for a mile and a half. However, it also goes to my right (north) for about 300 metres before coming to a dead-end at the Babingley River that I had crossed earlier. I decided to continue to here before heading back south for Kings Lynn.

Although a byway it was actually grass, though a car was parked at the far end where who I took to be the owner seemed to be bird watching. The river now was virtually dry, with just a little bit of water beyond all the mud. I could see why the bird watcher must like it here because the mud flats were lined with prints from the various birds.

Clearly it was low tide because there was a lot of mud!

Mud glorious mud! The Babingley River

In fact this seems to be a bit of a nature reserve, as a small board walk headed west over the marsh near here to a viewpoint.

Now it was time to head back and continue south along the byway. This soon turned to a wide gravel path lined with bushes, but with gaps in the bushes I could look out to the wide river.

The River Great Ouse, Kings Lynn

The water was very calm and the river very wide, with large pylons at either side carrying the power lines over the river. I assume they are so high up to allow tall ships to pass along this wide river.

As I headed south back towards Kings Lynn, I started to get industry to my right again, initially further from the path but soon more or less alongside it. Ahead there were views of the town.

The River Great Ouse, Kings Lynn

The track soon became a road (Cross Bank Road) to reach an interesting little inlet, which I walked beside. This was packed full of fishing boats, which seemed out of place in amongst the industry!

Fisher Fleet, Kings Lynn

I head to head inland a bit now to get around this creek, so I continued along the road passing a large dock (Bentinck Dock) which was entirely devoid of boats, but the industrial buildings around suggested this wasn’t always so.

Bentinck Dock, Kings Lynn

I must admit to being a bit disappointed. Most of my recent walks had been through beautiful villages and I knew from my previous explorations that the centre of Kings Lynn was also very pretty and historic, but I hadn’t expected to find so much industry and decay, it was a bit of a shock after my previous walks.

At the end of this road on the docks I reached the A148 and turned right along this for a short distance before I could turn right off it through the town centre. Familiar sights now!

Kings Lynn

Kings Lynn

I continued west through the town to the water front. As I have commented before it is a very pretty town even though I know now that just north is a lot of heavy industry. I passed a pretty old quay area, probably once industrial too even if most of the industry has now moved further down the estuary. This means the buildings here now mostly have leisure uses.

Kings Lynn

Kings Lynn

It was tempting to end my walk here. In fact a ferry crosses the river here to West Lynn. However I knew my next walk would be long (due the fact it goes through a remote area with no public transport). As it was a nice afternoon I decided instead to continue the walk south to the first bridge (called Free Bridge), around a mile further south.

Kings Lynn

The reason for this is that I planned to start my next walk at Sutton Bridge and walk to Kings Lynn. As this was so long I wasn’t sure I would make it to West Lynn in time to get the last ferry so would likely have to walk to the bridge instead. If I could walk as far as the bridge on this side instead it would mean next time I’d only need to reach the bridge and could then end, so could catch the bus into Kings Lynn, if I was flagging by then.

So that’s what I did. I had to head slightly inland to cross the River Nar via a bridge, as that flows into the River Great Ouse at Kings Lynn. Once over this I could follow a pleasant path beside the river. This is part of the longs distance Ouse Valley Way. This runs for around 150 miles to the source of the river near Syresham in Northamptonshire.

I was only going a short distance to “Free Bridge”, however. I got fine views back to the town as I headed south and soon could see the bridge.

The River Great Ouse, Kings Lynn

I was rather disappointed, it was extremely ugly!

Free Bridge, Kings Lynn

I did wonder about the name and presumed there was perhaps once a toll bridge further north, but I don’t know if that is true.

The River Great Ouse, Kings Lynn

On reaching the bridge, rather than re-trace my steps I headed more directly to the railway station, so I followed the road through South Lynn and across the river Nar again and then continued north along the main road into the town centre, passing this fine gate house.

Kings Lynn

Presumably, once part of a town wall, south bound traffic now went beside it rather than through it, with the right hand leg of the gate house in the middle of the road now!

I then made my way back through the now familiar streets of Kings Lynn to the station, where I took the train back to London.

Park in Kings Lynn

This was a long and tiring walk (which I’d made even longer by extending it to Free Bridge) and I fell asleep for a while on the train back, but at least it made the journey pass more quickly!

This was very much a positional walk, which I didn’t much enjoy. Most of the walk was away from the coast and much of it was on or close to roads (often busy roads). The stretch around the industry of Kings Lynn was particularly grotty. However, I had very much enjoyed the unexpected delights of Castle Rising and it’s lovely castle. The last part of the walk beside the River Great Ouse in the fine sunshine was also nice. Still I was pleased that I had now passed Kings Lynn, the largest town in the area, so my next walk would be more rural.

Here details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Lynx Bus routes 34, 35 and 36 : Hunstanton – Heacham – Snettisham – Ingoldisthorpe – Dersingham – Kings Lynn. 4 buses per hour Monday – Saturday. 3 buses per hour on Sundays. It takes around 30 minutes to travel between Dersingham and Kings Lynn.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow.

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8 Responses to 214. Dersingham to Kings Lynn

  1. Kings Lynn was the starting place for my coastal walk. I do remember thinking how ironic it was to be walking a coastal walk, but without much sight of the sea 😆

    • jcombe says:

      Just re-read your post now and I do wonder if I’d have been better to trespass anyway, it certainly would have saved a lot of miles and walking through industry. I’m glad such an “Inland” start didn’t put you off continuing!

  2. Billy Dockery says:

    John, when Joanna and I walked this section we did indeed walk unmolested, despite being seen by a number of estate workers. There were r royals in residence that weekend and that may have been the key. I did, however, come to grief with a fall and subsequent injury that stopped me walking for six weeks.

    • jcombe says:

      Yes does seem I wimped out of that route, but everyone else seems to have gone that way without any trouble. Perhaps I’ll have to go back and try that route.

  3. I don’t know, despite not being by the sea, most of this looked quite attractive, especially the Castle. I suppose the grotty bits went unphotographed though!

  4. snowgood says:

    I can sense the felling of disappointment – I guess we walkers will always have dull passages to cover, and must keep plodding until hitting the next good bit. I was up at Kings Lynn 2 weeks back. It was better than I expected.

    • jcombe says:

      Yes that was exactly how I felt about this walk (and in fact most around the Wash). Having said that I do find walks like this make me appreciate the really good walks along spectacular coast far more! Yes Kings Lynn in the centre was a pleasant surprise to me too, very pretty.

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