Kit P

Windmills, meadows and the River Waveney — hiking the Angles Way

Nick_Rowland (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Windmills, meadows and the River Waveney — hiking the Angles Way

Hiking Collection by Kit P
6-13 days
3-6 h / day
99.0 mi
2,050 ft
2,000 ft

Starting in Great Yarmouth where the North Sea laps at the shore, this fantastic long-distance hiking trail retains its watery essence as it travels inland for 92 miles (148 km), following the River Waveney and the Little Ouse. With much of the route founded in 1989 by The Ramblers, its extension to Thetford is more recent and allows for greater accessibility.

Hiking this beautiful and largely flat trail, you’ll walk the entire extent of the River Waveney, passing its source at Redgrave where you’ll pick up the Little Ouse River to the finish. These rivers form the border between Suffolk and Norfolk and you’ll find yourself meandering from one to the other constantly.

Starting in the phenomenal landscape of the Norfolk Broads National Park, you’ll get to experience plenty of marshlands and the thriving life it holds. There’s little in the way of built-up areas along the Angles Way. Instead, you’ll ramble across farmland and heaths, glimpsing the winding river and exploring small towns and villages.

Castles, manor houses and old bridges bring an intriguing history to this adventure and people have been using many of the footpaths for generations. The Waveney is a quiet, serene river with water meadows and plenty of birds, but once upon a time, it was a busy trading route. Roman artefacts have been found here and you’ll find signs of times gone by in every town.

There’s little in the way of ascents on the Angles Way making longer days more manageable. I’ve split this route into seven stages which correspond well with accommodation and food options. However, you could easily join stages together if you’re a more experienced long-distance walker, particularly the middle stages.

The ends of the Angles Way are well-served by trains as there are several stops along the route (although the lines don’t necessarily link up). Much of the route runs near the A143 which has the frequent 581 bus service, allowing you to walk the stages separately or stay at the same accommodation for multiple nights. While I’ve written this Collection east to west, you can, of course, do the reverse.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Difficult
    07:41
    18.7 mi
    2.4 mph
    325 ft
    325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Once a considerable estuary, Great Yarmouth lies on land that hasn’t always existed. A lively seaside town, the Angles Way begins at the train station, making it about as easy as possible to reach. You’ll find numerous supermarkets at the beginning too so you can easily fill your pockets with snacks.

    The Tour leads you across Haven Bridge, a historic lifting bridge spanning the Yare, and out into the Broads proper. Walking alongside Breydon Water and looking north across Breydon Flats, you’ll immediately get a sense of just how low-lying this region is. After around four miles (six km), you’ll reach Burgh Castle, the impressive remains of a Roman fort. Free to access and with tremendous stone walls surviving, it’s the first piece of ancient history you’ll come across on the Angles Way.

    The Tour leaves the water to cut through the town of Belton and out through peaceful rural countryside. Fritton and neighbouring St Olaves are both good places to pause for lunch, with pubs and, latterly, pretty river views. Onwards, you’ll head across fields before finding yourself back at the water’s edge in Somerleyton. While invisible, from here you’ll mostly be following the boundary of the Norfolk Broads National Park past Oulton Marsh and into Oulton Broad where this stage ends.

    Oulton Broad has a train station that links back to Great Yarmouth and into Lowestoft proper. You’ll find plenty of accommodation and food options in the immediate area.

    Difficult
    05:16
    12.9 mi
    2.5 mph
    125 ft
    100 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage of the Angles Way spends its entirety alongside the River Waveney, unlike the other stages. You’ll find small local supermarkets at the start where you can stock up on snacks before heading directly out across low fields to the river. Half way, I've added in an optional pub stop which takes you over a mile off the route.

    The trail here is wonderfully pretty, following earthen and grass paths along the meandering river. Tall grasses obscure the true edge of the Waveney and, thanks to the flat land, you can see for miles. It doesn’t take long to reach Castle Marshes, an expansive wetland nature reserve which can be easily viewed from the Angles Way footpath. Wading birds nest here during the summer and, in winter, it’s home to countless wildfowl. In the colder months, the marshes are flooded, creating a considerable habitat for these overwintering birds.

    If you’re after a pub lunch on this riverside walk, your only real option is to cut south just after Castle Marsh and take the footpath to Barnby and the Swan Inn. It’s around a mile and a half (2.4 km) from the Angles Way and has an impressive seafood menu.

    Onwards along the trail, you’ll stay hugging the wandering river, walking around the edge of Beccles Marshes, once given to the townsfolk by Queen Elizabeth I. Comprising grazing marshes and drained arable land, you can see the network of drains and pretty water meadows.

    Reaching Beccles and the end of this section of the Angles Way, you’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants and accommodation to suit your needs.

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  • Intermediate
    04:30
    10.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    250 ft
    250 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Unlike the Oulton to Beccles stretch of the Angles Way, this Tour scarcely meets the River Waveney at all. Instead, it leaves the Saxon port town of Beccles and goes off on a fantastic meander of the fields, villages and histories of this intriguing area. With some gentle hills, this 11-mile (18 km) hike makes for easy, serene rambling.

    Starting at Beccles market, the Angles Way heads out across marshes and meadows but not before passing the driveway to Roos Hall, said to be one of the most haunted houses in the country. Following the earth farm track between fields and marshes, the trail is as pastoral as you could get outside a Constable painting.

    As you reach Shipmeadow Marshes, the Angles Way turns south to Shipmeadow inself and across the B1062. After crossing the road, to the east you’ll see Viewpoint Mews, a pretty cluster of old houses. There’s more to these residences than meets the eye though, for prior to conversion, they comprised a workhouse for the poor.

    The trail leads further from the River Waveney and near to Mettingham Castle, a moated manor now lying in rather impressive ruins. Built in the 1300s, you can easily admire its striking gatehouse by taking a few steps off the route. After the castle, the Tour leads you back downhill to the river and follows it as it winds around the north of Bungay.

    Water meadows, bridges and streams are the name of the game in this last stretch and you’ll walk through the Bath Hills nature reserve as well. This slight ascent offers lovely views of Outney Common, down to Bungay. Finally, you’ll finish in the village of Earsham.

    Due to the rural nature of this Tour, there is little in the way of lunch options on the route. Maisebrooke Farm Shop just east of Shipmeadow is the only place serving lunches, otherwise, bring your own. Beccles has a train station and buses whilst Bungay and Earsham both have bus services. Food and accommodation is easily found in Bungay and Earsham is home to the lovely Queen’s Head pub.

    Intermediate
    04:35
    11.1 mi
    2.4 mph
    325 ft
    250 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This section of the Angles Way wanders about from Norfolk to Suffolk and back again, through fields, across meadows and past grazing cows. Starting in the sweet little town of Earsham, this Tour rises up just enough to offer sweeping views before heading back down to the river’s banks and marshes. At 11 miles (18 km), it’s a peaceful and bucolic day’s hike.

    The first thing you’ll do as you start this trail in Earsham, is cross the River Waveney at a sluice and stroll into Suffolk. The path leads gently up into the low hills and past the site of Bungay airfield, in use by American bombers during the Second World War. If wartime aviation history is your bag, you can leave the path briefly and head to the museum in Flixton to find out more about it.

    Flixton Pits, once a working quarry, is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest thanks to its thriving habitats for all sorts of wildlife, notably beetles. The Angles Way picks up the River Waveney again at Homersfield, which has a lovely bridge from which to admire the river as well as the Black Swan pub, if you’re in the mood for some lunch. Keep and eye out for barn owls as you walk, they’re well known for hunting the fields in the area.

    Follow the path as it winds past water meadows and grazing cows until it crosses the river again at Mendham, back into Norfolk and up to Harleston. In this ancient market town, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options, pubs, delicatessens and cafes. It also has bus links to nearby towns.

    Difficult
    05:45
    13.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    350 ft
    375 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This 13-mile (21 km) hike meanders along the River Waveney between two old market towns, never quite knowing if it wants to be in Norfolk or Suffolk. There’s so little in the way of elevation gain here that you don’t need to worry about any ascents and instead you can ramble along past water meadows and weirs, listening to the sounds of the birds and the water as it chortles eastward.

    Harleston is the starting point here, a historic market town with local supermarkets which are perfect for filling up the backpack with snacks. You’ll first head south to cross the river and the county border, heading into Suffolk. The trail takes you along serene lanes and across fields passing farm after farm.

    From Lucksmill bridge, you’ll hug the river with just water meadows between you and the water’s edge. The Angles Way heads back into Norfolk at Brockdish, a tiny village with a pub if you’re looking for a hot lunch. If not, the footpath will carry you along the north bank of the river’s water meadows to where the River Dove joins the Waveney at a spot delightfully named, ‘the Crotch’.

    The path leads away from the river and up past fields and farms to Diss, the final stop on this Tour. This historic market town is full of interesting buildings and miniature histories. It holds a traditional market every Friday with a farmer’s market on alternate Saturdays. Here you’ll find old pubs, teashops and a good range of accommodation options.

    Diss has a mainline train station to Ipswich and Norwich. You can also change at Ipswich for other Angles Way stations or Norwich for Great Yarmouth.

    Difficult
    06:41
    16.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    275 ft
    275 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    At just over 16 miles (26 km), this is one of the longest Tours on the Angles Way but it’s essentially entirely flat, making the distance easier on the feet. Hiking from Diss to Rushford, you’ll pass classic water meadows and even reach the source of the Rivers Waveney and Ouse, which dominate this adventure.

    Even more exciting perhaps is that, nearby, you’ll pass by Walnut Tree Farm, the home of the great, late Roger Deakin. Author of ‘Waterlog’ and ‘Notes from Walnut Tree Farm’, Deakin made great contributions to British nature writing and the idea of wild swimming.

    This fen-filled Tour sees vital habitats and the largest river valley fen in the country at Redgrave and Lopham Fen.You’ll also cross heathlands and walk past grasslands where Exmoor ponies graze.

    The most rural spot on the Angles Way, your accommodation options are very limited. You can either end the Tour early and stay in Hopton which has a couple of accommodation options or use the local Suffolk dial-a-bus service to catch the bus at Knettishall to places like Thetford. You can call 01638 664304 for more information on transport in the area or 01440 712028 to book the bus.

    This Tour has a slight diversion which is reflected in the navigation; a short section now stays to the north of Redgrave Fen to avoid a stand of diseased ash trees.

    Difficult
    06:20
    15.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    400 ft
    425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    At 15 miles (24 km) long, the final stage of the Angles Way travels through the majestic landscapes of the Brecks. There’s little elevation gain on this Tour and you’ll spend most of it rambling along tracks and footways past grazing land and farms. With a completely different atmosphere from the wetlands of the Waveney Valley, this Tour takes you into historic farming scenery.

    Sandy and chalky soil creates habitats that draw incredibly rare wildlife and if you walk this Tour in spring or summer, the air and ground is abuzz with life. The landscapes you’ll walk through are some of the driest in the country and have been managed by farmers over the centuries to make the best of it. As a result, you’ll find a mixture of plantations and arable fields on both sides of the trail in some pretty interesting formations.

    You’ll find toilets at Knettishall Heath Country Park, at the beginning of this Tour, and it’s worth noting that the Angles Way here also follows the Icknield Way to Thetford so you’re likely to see waymarkers for both. This Tour is rural all the way to Thetford, so take any food and drink you need along with you and enjoy a picnic.

    Whilst the Angles Way technically ends at Barnham Cross Common, it makes send to continue on into Thetford proper. In the town, one of Norfolk’s oldest settlements with a Neolithic history, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, pubs and accommodation waiting for you. Thetford itself is wonderful to explore with museums, the impressive Castle Hill and the ruins of a 12th century priory. You’ll also find a train station on the Norwich and Cambridge line.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    99.0 mi
  • Duration
    40:47 h
  • Elevation
    2,050 ft2,000 ft
Kit P

Windmills, meadows and the River Waveney — hiking the Angles Way