Oxborough to Gooderstone heritage walk, Norfolk
Enjoy this walk taking in some of Breckland's nationally protected farmland and heritage. Visit Gooderstone with its Water Gardens and medieval church, see the remains of Chalkrow Tower Mill and of course explore the Norfolk village that surrounds Oxburgh Hall.
Some stiles along this route, so not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs.
Oxburgh Hall National Trust, grid ref: TF744014
Starting at Oxburgh Hall, turn left out of the car park and then turn right along the lane next to the Bedingfield Arms. Pass Chantry House on your right and after 100yd (90m) or so look out for a public footpath on your right with a fence on one side. The footpath enters a field adjacent to Church Farm over a stile. Turning immediately left over the stile, follow the footpath along the right-hand side of the hedge line, changing from right to left-hand side of the hedge further down. After about 500yd (450m) you will reach another stile.
At the heart of the Norfolk village of Oxborough, you'll find Oxburgh Hall. Home to the Bedingfeld family for 500 years, Oxburgh reveals one family's unshakable Catholic faith and story of endurance. Despite being built during the Wars of the Roses, Oxburgh was never intended to be a castle but a family home. It is currently undergoing a £6million roof restoration project, which is due to be completed in 2021.
Climb over the stile and enter another field (watch out for rabbit holes). At certain times of the year, you might see piglets in the field to your left. Carefully make your way across the field to the right hand corner, past the sewage works, to another stile.
A great majority of the land in Norfolk is devoted to farmland and West Norfolk is now home to a number of pig farms. The highest proportion of these can be found in the Breckland area, with its sandy soil; the Brecks is also one of the driest places in Britain, which can make it challenging for growing crops.
Climb the stile and turn right along the road. Follow the road for approximately ½ mile (800m) into the village of Gooderstone. On the way you will pass Gooderstone Water Gardens, which are worth a visit if you have time.
Gooderstone Water Gardens
In 1970, Billy Knights, a retired farmer began designing and creating these water gardens in an area too wet to graze his cattle. After his death the gardens became somewhat forgotten and overgrown. However they were restored and re-opened in 2003 by his daughter Carol and they're now open all year round. The tea-room is open most days.
Continue until you reach Gooderstone's St George's Church. This church is worth the 10 minutes or so to explore.
St George's Church
St George's is a medieval church dating from the 13th century, when St George was patron saint of the Crusades in the Middle East. The font dates from 1446 and was given by the vicar at that time, a Mr Peter Floke. The organ was built around 1820 and brought to Gooderstone in 1947 from a house in Sydenham, South London. The other interesting features are the array of carved benches and a rood screen, all of which date from the 15th century.
After exploring the church, the Swan pub opposite (if open) would make for a good refreshment and toilet stop. Now retrace your steps back out of Gooderstone until reaching Elm Place on the left. Elm Place is signposted.
A special area for wildlife
As you walk down and past Elm Place, the farmland to your left is designated a Special Protection Area. This important European designation is due to the birds that can be found living in the area, such as stone curlew, nightjar and woodlark. Keep your eyes peeled.
Now walk for around ½ mile (800m) until reaching a public bridleway on the right (Mill Drove). Follow this bridleway until the end and turn left onto Chalkrow Lane.
Mill Drove is an old drovers' road (now a public bridleway), which in years gone by hosted a post-mill, hence the name. This mill appears on maps from the late 1700s to early 1800s but little is now known about it.
Follow the lane and on the way look out for the remains of Chalkrow Lane Tower Mill on the right. The gate to the yard has an interesting plate (seemingly of LNER railway vintage). The mill was built around 1829 for a Mr George Seppings and was quite small, standing around 33ft high.
When reaching the T-Junction turn right and follow the road back to Oxborough. If you didn't have chance to look around Oxburgh Hall at the start of your walk, we'd recommend taking the time now.
Oxburgh Hall is in the parish of Oxborough. Both spellings were interchangeable until recently, but now the spelling 'Oxburgh' is used only for the hall and its estate. The names mean 'a fortified place where oxen are kept'. Also, did you know that a Bronze Age ceremonial oversize dagger was discovered nearby in 1988? The Oxborough dirk was acquired for the nation and is now on display in the British Museum.
At the end of your walk visit the church of St John the Evangelist. You'll also find the Bedingfield Arms across the road from the church.
St John the Evangelist
The 14th-century church of St John the Evangelist originally consisted of a nave, chancel, vestry and north and south aisles, each with its own porch and doorway. There was seating for 225. On a windy day in April 1948, the church tower and its spire measuring 150ft, collapsed, taking the roof with it! Although the nave and south aisle were destroyed, by some miracle the 16th century Bedingfeld Chapel survived, which contains one of the best examples of terracotta tombs in England.
Oxburgh Hall National Trust, grid ref: TF744014
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