Oxborough to Gooderstone heritage walk, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk
Enjoy this rural walk taking in some of Breckland's nationally protected farmland, and heritage. Visit Gooderstone; it’s Water Gardens and medieval St. George’s church; see the remains of Chalkrow Tower Mill, and of course don't miss visiting St. John the Evangelist church and Oxburgh Hall while you are here.
An ideal rural walk for families. Some stiles, so not suitable for buggies.
Bedingfield Arms car park, 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 not-very-well-signposted 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 (with barbed wire, so be careful).
Despite being built during the Wars of the Roses, Oxburgh was never intended to be a castle but a family home. It was completed in 1482 for Sir Edmund Bedingfield, and the family have lived at Oxburgh ever since.
Cross this stile and enter another field currently full of rabbit holes. At some times of the year you might see piglets in the field on your left. Carefully make your way across the field from left to the right hand corner past the sewage works, to another stile.
These piglets are running around in the late Autumn sunshine
Climb the stile and turn right along the road. Follow the road for approximately ½ mile (800m) in to the village of Gooderstone. On the way you will pass the Gooderstone water gardens.
Gooderstone water gardens
In 1970, Billy Knights, a retired farmer in his 70th year, began designing and creating these water gardens. After his death in 1994 at the age of 93, the gardens became somewhat forgotten and overgrown. In 2002 in memory of her father, his daughter Coral commenced restoration work. The gardens re-opened in 2003, and are now open all year. The tea-room is open most days.
Continue down until reaching Gooderstone's St George's Church. This church is worth the 10 minutes or so to explore.
Gooderstone St George
St George's Church is medieval 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 (restored in 2000-2001) is a walnut-cased chamber instrument, 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 which date from the 15th century.
After exploring the church, the Swan pub opposite (if open) would make 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.
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. This area of farmland is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is good for farmland birds, brown hare and bats. The nightjar is a nocturnal bird which can be seen hawking for food at dusk and dawn. They arrive in the UK between April and May, and leave around August to September.
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 on to 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).
Chalkrow Lane Tower Mill
Chalkrow Lane Tower Mill was built around 1829 for a Mr George Seppings. It was quite a small mill, standing around 33ft high and only having the minimum of three storeys. The mill used four double-shuttered sails, each with eight bays of three shutters. Unusually, the sails turned clockwise and were struck via a lever with a swing hook. The boat-shaped cap held a gallery and a six-bladed fan. The bakehouse was attached to the mill house.
When reaching the T-Junction turn right and follow the road back to Oxborough. Now take the time to visit Oxburgh Hall.
Oxburgh Hall was built in the 15th century for the Bedingfield family, who have lived there ever since. Inside, the family's Catholic history is revealed, complete with a secret priest's hole and stunning needlework by Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bess of Hardwick. Outside you can enjoy panoramic views from the gatehouse roof and explore 70 acres of park and woodland. Check opening times before you visit.
At the end of your walk visit the church of St John the Evangelist. When you are finished, you'll 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. There was also a tall western tower, with a spire reaching 150ft (45m). At the east-end of the south aisle is the chantry chapel, or Bedingfield Chapel, which was founded in 1496 and contains very rare terracotta screens from about 1530.
Bedingfield Arms car park, grid ref: TF744014
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