This meandering route gives a great look at the historical and natural riches that typify the landscape of north Norfolk. The wonderfully welcoming market town of Holt is a great halfway and connecting point to extend the route east to Sandringham and Cromer. While this is the longest loop out from our Fakenham Experience Hub it’s entirely on road with under 500m of very gentle rise and fall. That means it’s all rideable on any sort of well maintained bike.
Pedalling for Pudding
While you’re ultimately heading north east to Holt, you roll out of the market square from Fakenham down the hill southwards, crossing the roundabout and then over the River Wensum bridge just downstream of the large mill. Then it's out past the Gas Works museum and out into the countryside following the B road past the racecourse entrance. The road through Pudding Norton can be slightly busy at peak times but you’ll still be able to pick out the remains of the old church tower and the Manor House that’s now a roadside farm. You’ll soon turn off towards Great Ryburgh past the remains of another church tower and then into the village past the large malting factory. This supplies local and international brewers and continues a rich history of the malting industry in this part of the UK. The oldest visible part of this pretty medieval village is the round towered church but just south of the village archaeologists have recently found the remains of 87 planked and tree trunk coffin burials and a 7-9th century wooden structure that may well be an early Christian chapel.
Crossing the River Wensum you rise gently alongside a large but sadly unloved farmstead and then another deserted church which shows this area at least has had much busier times. Heading east through Stibbard and Wood Norton takes you past the site of a WWII airfield complete with a brick pillbox fortification guarding the old junction as you turn north to Hundvelston. Translating to “Farm of the Sword Wolf” this village was a reasonably big deal at the time of the Norman invasion too, with twenty cattle, two beehives and 40 goats recorded in the Domesday book.
The stately home of Melton Hall used to be particularly important, it was used in several films and the tall moated watch tower folly can still be seen over the trees too. Unfortunately, the house itself is all but derelict now though.
Halt in Holt
Topping out on the brow above Melton Constable you cross straight over the B road and a zig zag roller coaster weave on deserted gravel centred lanes through the tiny churched hamlet of Stody and onto the beautiful village of Hunworth. This is one of the nicest concentrations of traditional flint cobble and brick buildings on any of the Cycling UK routes in Norfolk with multiple mills, visits from Edward the Confessor and a Norman timber castle in its past. When you turn left by the award-winning pub away from the old castle hill site, you're on a single width lane for the 2km to the outskirts of the lovely Georgian town of Holt. Here an underpass sneaks you under the main road and into the busy centre where there are plenty of refuelling options from fish and chips to artisan ice cream.
Fords and organs
The need to dodge main roads and seasonal traffic takes us north to the “so pretty it should be the subject of an ‘Old Master’ painting ford” of Glandfold. Don’t worry though there’s a footbridge if you don’t want to get your feet wet. If you get a taste for more paddling though you’re within a few km of the coast at Blakeney at this point, so feel free to divert.
Otherwise, we meander south and west through the olde world hamlets of Saxlingham past the 13th century church in Bale where the National Trust preserve the wooded glade behind that’s said to have a pre-Christian religious past.
The 12th century church at Hindringham is a grade 1 listed site that’s well worth a visit as you roll through, but if you fancy something louder and more garish then hang on for the Thursford Collection. This museum of steam engines and fairground organs includes the 4th largest Wurlitzer in the world with no less than 1339 pipes making up its voice. If fairground music isn’t your thing, then maybe visit the tiny library/book shop in a phone booth just across the road.
From Thursford you curve around the northern edge of the sight of a WWII airfield where the Merlin engines of Mosquito’s and Lancaster’s used to disturb the sleep of the locals in Great and Little Snoring. There’s no thrum of war rhythms in the air now but the partial runway is still in use for civil flights. Back on the ground, you roll through Great Snoring which is another ancient village with a Grade 1 listed church and the matching Tudor palace of the rectory has a Grade 2 preservation order. The shrinking of the rural population, that’s been evident throughout this route, is shown by the fact that the population of the village is only a quarter of what it was less than a century ago.
The Cycling UK Experience hub’s aim to bring visitors back into these beautiful but forgotten areas of the country. And as you roll past another beautiful Tudor house at East Barsham Manor and then south towards Fakenham we’re sure you’ll agree a bike is the best way to see them.
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