Norfolk Walk: Holme Hale, Houghton-on-Hill and Ashill
This is a pleasant walk between three churches and through two pretty villages. Tiny St Mary's Church at Houghton-on-the-Hill stands on top of the hill on the site of an abandoned medieval village. It is a beautiful, peaceful place.
HOLME HALE, HOUGHTON-ON-THE-HILL AND ASHILL
Start: Holme Hale Village Hall, School Road (Holme Hale is about two miles south of the A47 through Necton). Map: Explorer 236 G/R 888072.
Distance: 7.5 miles.
Public Transport: Holme Hale is on a bus route from Watton or from Swaffham (on schooldays).
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This is a pleasant walk between three churches and through two pretty villages.
Tiny St Mary's Church at Houghton-on-the-Hill has been in the news recently as help is needed to keep it open. It is a Grade 1 listed building and contains the oldest wall paintings in the country. It stands on top of the hill on the site of an abandoned medieval village. It is a beautiful, peaceful place and is usually open in the afternoons from 2pm.
Bob Davey has done a wonderful restoration job over the past 20 years and the churchyard is pretty with flowers. The flints show the extent of the original church and there is evidence of a roman building here – not surprisingly as the original line of the Peddars Way passes by the bottom of the track that leads up to the top of the hill.
At 14th century St Nicholas Church, Ashill, look out for the west ogee door and the medieval glass. The 13th century St Andrew's Church at Holme Hale was unfortunately locked.
The route also comes across some former railway buildings. These were part of the East Regional Branch running from 1875 to 1965.
There are wide ranging views over the rolling countryside from the quiet lanes and paths. The permissive paths are available until 2018.
For refreshments, McTaggarts Freehouse in Ashill is on the route. It is closed all day Monday and at Tuesday lunch time, but then open normal pub times.
? From the village hall, go left along the road, then turn left along narrow Church Road. Turn left again opposite the church into Church Lane. Follow this narrow, quiet lane for just over half a mile to a junction with the wind turbines at North Pickenham in sight ahead. Turn left yet again and continue along this lane (Brown's Lane) for just under half a mile, crossing a small stream on a footbridge, to reach a crossroads.
? Go ahead into the lane opposite past the old Holme Hale station buildings, with a signal box and the platform still visible, and the old goods shed now called the Depot. Follow the lane around a right bend and then on for another one and a quarter miles, ignoring a lane off to the right and a way-marked path on the left. Then turn left into a bridleway signed 'Historic Church'. Go uphill following the track as it bends right and then left to reach St Mary's Church, Houghton-on-the-Hill.
? Continue along the wide grassy track past the church: there are excellent views along here. At the crossing track, turn right and follow the path left, then round a grassy triangle at the corner of the field. Then go left and then round to the right, then right again, past buildings and across a drive into the track opposite. At the crossing path turn left with a ditch on the right. There are also good views along this section.
? At the end of the trees on the left, turn left on a wide grassy path then follow it to the right at the corner of the field. At the next field corner turn right again by the power pole. Then follow the path left and right, ignore a path on the left and then go left at the marker post and follow the path to the road. Turn left along the road towards Ashill.
? At the church, turn left through the gate into the churchyard. Turn right in front of the church and leave by the lychgate. Continue ahead along The Street past pretty cottages and McTaggarts public house. At the T-junction by the school turn left (signed to Holme Hale): there is a pavement on the right. Continue past Goose Green and the village sign then, immediately past the last house on the right (called 'Seaview'), turn right at the DEFRA sign onto a permissive path and turn left walking parallel with the road on a field edge path. Then follow the path round a pond and past impressive Bury's Hall with its tall chimneys (on the left across the road).
? Approaching the old railway bridge, keep ahead in the field over a plank bridge. Then go up the embankment ahead by a marker-post. The path goes between the bushes and up steps to reach the old railway line. Turn left over the bridge. Continue to another marker-post and go right down the embankment turning back parallel with the road to a gap. Cross the road to another permissive path and DEFRA board opposite and walk with the hedge and stream on the right.
? At a crossing public footpath, with a wooden bridge on the right, turn right through the hedge. Follow the path towards the houses just left of the church. Continue between the houses to reach Church Road. Turn right along the narrow road and then go right again at the crossing road (School Road) back to the village hall.
JOIN THE RAMBLERS
The Ramblers is Britain's walking charity which has been working to encourage more people to take up walking and to safeguard footpaths and the countryside for 75 years.
Whether you're an old hand or a complete beginner, the organisation can help you get the best out of walking through its network of local groups.
The Norwich Group has been established for more than 35 years and was the first group in the Norfolk Area of the Ramblers Association. Non-members are welcome to join all walks in national festivals and some special events and programmes. Most regular walks are intended for Ramblers members, but you are welcome to attend two or three walks on a try-out basis.
? For more information about the Ramblers' Association call 01508 538654 or visit: www.ramblers.org.uk