Stretching between Norwich and Aylsham, the Marriott’s Way is a long-distance footpath, cycle-path and bridleway uses the trackbeds of two former railway lines, from Norwich to Themelthorpe and from Themelthorpe to Aylsham. Clocking in at 25 miles, the Marriott’s Way qualifies as a “long-distance trail” on NorfolkPlaces.
I guess we could say there are two ways to walk the full length of the Marriott’s Way; From Norwich to Aylsham, or from Aylsham to Norwich. Either way, it’s all good! Like many long-distance trails in Norfolk, there are other shorter walks that can be done within the trail, or, if you can vary the walk by making little tweaks to the route, including incorporating circular walks that connecting to the Marriott’s Way.
But for the purist intending on walking the whole 25 miles of the Marriott’s Way, you’ve got think of it as a one-way ticket because doing the whole route there and back in a day would not be achievable for walkers. Okay, on a bike, yes, it should be okay, but it’s a bit much on foot. So, make plans to ensure having walked there you have a method of getting back!
For the purposes of this article, we walked from Aylsham to Norwich, so that involved getting dropped off early-doors at Aylsham Railway Station (the home of Bure Valley Railway) Once at the station, we crossed the Norwich Road, go through a gate and we’re at start of the trail. One last check to make sure the back-pack straps are comfy on my shoulders…..and we’re off!
Initially the walk will take you past housing areas in Aylsham, and as we move out of town it become a bit more scenic. The route will take you past the back of Young’s Park, where Aylsham Town and various youth teams play football, and beyond that the scenes over the hedges will give you glimpses of the Norfolk countryside.
If you don’t have a fancy phone or watch app that tells you how far you have walked, then the track sculptures will come in handy to see how far you have walked, or how far you have to go. Of course, if you’d prefer not to know, then I guess you’ll have to try and ignore these!
Ah, bridges. There are indeed a few of these to go under (and over) along the trail. We are walking along an old railway track, after all.
Something to keep an eye out for on this walk is the Marriott’s Way information boards, which will provide useful information on ecology as well as historical information.
It’s nice to walk in the peaceful countryside, but signs of civilisation can be appreciated too, sometimes. Yes, indeed, we’re coming up to the village of Cawston.
The Marriott’s Way passes near Cawston, and this bridge, below, there is a path leading up to the village. The bridge marked the 4 miles completed stage, and at this point it was another 2 miles to Reepham. You could explore Cawston and even do a nice 4.5 mile circular walk around the village.
Knowing we only had 2 miles to Reepham invigorated our walking team, and we breezed through the next couple of miles.
When you arrive in Reepham, the Marriott’s Way is intersected by the B1145, so to continue following the path you have to cross the road, turn in to Wood Dalling Road, and there you’ll see a bridge. Yep, you’ve guess it – go under the bridge, pretend you’re steam engine as you do, and you’re back on the Marriott’s Way! As you go under the bridge if you look down there are some railway sleepers embedded in to the ground.
A couple of minutes later and we arrive at the former Reepham Station, a welcome site for walkers and cyclists. Here you can enjoy some refreshments at the tearooms, rest your weary legs, check on the blister situation…..
Here’s a couple of views along the old railway line at Reepham Station, firstly looking back down the line.
The photo below looks down the line in the direction of Norwich. So, if that’s the way you’re heading then that’s the way you need to go!
Refuelled, and we’re off again.
As the crow flies it probably isn’t too far from the old Reepham Station to Whitwell & Reepham Train station, however, Marriott’s Way makes a long curving route between the two stations (check it on a map to see what I mean!)
I don’t think you can fully enjoy a walk along an old train-line unless you get to see some trains. The good thing is, you can catch a glimpse of some at Whitwell & Reepham Railway station.
If you want to catch a glimpse from the entrance, or possibly even visit Whitwell & Reepham Railway, then you will need to take a small detour from the Marriott’s Way. Look out for a sign that says “The Two Station Circular Walk”. Follow this path and it will take you to the main road. From there you should see the railway entrance to your left.
There is a cafe here, so another possible refreshment opportunity.
To get back to the Marriott’s Way follow the path back to the signpost, then you are back on the trail. In the picture below you can see a bridge over the road. You’ll shortly cross over this and then you’ll be walking alongside the station at Whitwell & Reepham Railway.
So, below, we arrive at Whitwell and Reepham Station, along the Marriott’s Way after crossing the bridge, above.
Waiting for the next train…. You won’t catch one on this side of the platform.
However, we did spot a working “Steamie” (sorry, too much watching Thomas the Tank Engine when the boys were little), but of course, it was on the other side of the station, where there is some track.
More walking! It’s good to have walking partners on a long-distance trail to help pass the time. Even better if you walk with someone who has a good sense of direction (and supply of sweets to share with you!)
Not quite sure what the scupl
Remember the 1-mile railway track sculptures I mentioned earlier? Just a little reminder that they tell you how far you have walked (or have to walk) depending on your direction.
And just like that, we’ve reached Great Witchingham / Lenwade.
We took a break for lunch at a nearby public house in Great Witchingham.
Incidentally, did you know that the Wensum Way starts at Lenwade Mill, which is not far from where the Marriott’s Way passes through Lenwade.
After a plate of chips, cheeky fizzy pop (and I mean pop, no beer during a walk for me) and another blister check, it’s time to rock on once more. so we walk back to the Marriott’s Way, going past the former Lenwade Station on out way. This is a private residence nowadays, so keep this in mind when passing.
Walking along this section, take a look at the base of the fence on the right and you’ll see the old platform.
See what I mean, below. And above the fence….. yes indeed, a signal!
And here’s a rather cool mile marker, possibly my favourite one along the route.
Keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you’re missing. Right below our feet, a rare hint of track pokes through the path, which is pretty cool.
An old railway bridge over the River Wensum.
The River Wensum, an occasional companion along the Marriott’s Way. There are quite a few occasions when the trail crosses the river, and there is a variety of different bridges so enjoy.
Handy train-shaped bench to rest for a while.
If you’re keen to know where exactly you are whilst walking, especially in the absence of any tell-tale signs, you might want to check your position on a phone app very so often. So, for example, the picture below doesn’t exactly leave any hints – we could be anywhere in the countryside. Luckily the Junior member of the NP team in the photo has a sharp memory and said wehad “just past a house that used to be a station.” After a bit of searching on Google Maps I tracked it down to Attlebridge.
Whilst the trail is lined with trees, there is occasionally a clear gap to take in the wide countryside vista.
The Marriott’s Way cuts through Mileplain plantation, an area of ancient woodland. Here the path can be nice and wide, but, as you can see from the tyre tracks in the photo below, has the potential to be a bit boggy.
Freeland Corner, located in Felthorpe, is one of three car park’s along the route, which could be useful if you’re meeting someone part way along the trail (maybe someone with some refreshments).
Crossing the Wensum over an A frame bridge close to Drayton, which are some of the most interesting parts of the surviving railway heritage.
Crossing the Wensum over the A frame bridge at Hellesdon. As we said before, the Wensum is crossed a few times, but the Marriott’s Way also crosses the River Tud at Costessey.
As you can see above, the bridge has been tarmacked. In fact, from Hellesdon towards Norwich the final few miles of the path are tarmacked, which of course is great for accessibility. However, one can’t help thinking that this type of surface takes a little away from the experience; It’s hard to imagine a train chugging along this type of surface.
Although there is a lot of residential and industrial buildings in the final few miles, there are also some greenery to enjoy, in particular, there is Mile Cross Marsh and Anderson’s Meadow.
Almost there. The final mile marker, below!
Wow! 25 mile walk done. Give yourself a pat on the back! Marriott’s Way is certainly an enjoyable and challenging walk, and one requiring a reward for our efforts. What do you mean you haven’t got the energy to walk another half a mile to the pub?!
One thing to be aware of at the Norwich end of the walk is finding a suitable meeting point to join up with your fellow walkers, or a possible lift. Whilst there is a nationwide chain with a car park, it is small and poorly laid out, so best avoided. It’s also not a great backdrop for a team photo!
On the plus side, we always plan to end our walks at a nice watering-hole not far from the finish, so with that incentive in mind we trooped off to enjoy a pint and compare blisters!
FACILITIES – There are three small car parks that along the Marriott’s Way (at Freeland Corner, Attlebridge Station and Lenwade), with others not too far away.
DOGS – Dogs will enjoy this walk! Keep in mind the route is used by commuters on bicycles and there are roads to cross, so dogs in some parts of the walk they should be on leads.
SAFETY – crossing roads, including the Hellesdon Rd, and the Fakenham Rd (pedestrian crossing here) and walking along roads too. The route is used by cyclists, so keep an eye/ear out.
WHEELCHAIRS – In the main, the paths are well-trodden but they are sometimes narrow and can get quite muddy in parts.
CLOBBER – As long-distance walks go, this was the easiest on the feet. I plumped for a pair of walking boots as I was unsure of the terrain. In the end trainers would probably be okay on a dry day as in the main the paths were okay. If you’re used to walking then you will know what works best for you. Study forecasts before going, so you know whether to pack waterproofs and other weather-specific items.
DISTANCE – 25 miles from Aylsham to Norwich (or vice cersa). The good thing about Marriott’s Way is you can start your walk at different points, connect to other routes and numerous other ways to vary the length to suit you.
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