When a lovely path is not the right one to lead on.

The Peddars Way runs from Knettishall Heath, near Thetford in Norfolk, and runs for 46 miles to Holme-next-the-Sea where it meets the Norfolk Coast Path. The start and finish could not be more different. You start in beautiful woodland, walking on earth paths sheltered within the trees and then end, in our case 4 days later, emerging onto the wide-open beach with huge wide Norfolk skies and onto a sandy path which makes walking a challenge.

This walk offers some wonderful scenery and we were blessed with warm sunny weather on all but one day. It’s a beautifully rural walk, so a great one for escape and we were finding so many beautiful flowers, wild and cultivated, as well as the promise of sloes, elderberries and a mighty crop of blackberries. On the first day, we walked alongside fenced-off military land which begged many questions. On another day the main thing was the many pigs. And by the way, this part of Norfolk is not flat! That came as a bit of a surprise, but it did afford great views even though the climbs were nothing like those in other parts of the world.

It all sounds great, doesn’t it? So why would I feel that it’s not right for leading on?

I have walked many paths in many different parts of the world, some organised for me and others I have led myself. There are key things that make the journey doable, and more pleasant, and for me some of those were absent. I know my audience and my women and I know what works for them so they have a great experience.

On an ongoing path lasting over a period of days, the last thing you want to do is have to walk more miles to the place that you are staying once that day’s walk is over. At the end of the first day, there is only one place to stay on the path in Little Cressingham. It’s a great B&B so we were lucky and if I booked far enough in advance it could be possible, depending on group size, because I have to think about twin-bedded rooms. But there is nothing else for miles. At the end of all the other days, there was a pub with rooms but again limited availability. Also on this first evening, we had to rely on the kindness of our host, who is happy to drive his guests to the pub in the next village for dinner and collect them again afterwards, as there was nowhere in the village we were staying in to get a meal.

We bought some supplies for lunch on the first day, so that was covered, but it had to stretch further than initially planned as there was nowhere to stop for lunch on any of the days. In only one place was there a shop to pick up supplies in the morning as you left.

When I say rural, it was, and places where there had been pubs there are no longer. So sad because pubs often are the heart of the village or community. I enjoy picnics but if the weather is bad what do you do? Sheltered spots were limited too and not helped by the hedgerows being so overgrown that it was hard to get to what was beyond. On our third and longest day there was not even a place to actually stop and sit unless you wanted to stop, as one lady did, in the middle of the path. With cyclists and 4x4s this is not a risk I wanted to take. At the very end of that day, and at the start of the following day, we did find some lovely benches which would have been so welcome but there are not enough of those.

Water… when you are walking you need to drink and keep hydrated. We were carrying all our gear with us so there was a limit as to how many water bottles I could carry, both for space and weight. My body needs water and water is healthy and good for us. There were days when I was eeking it out, small sips at a time because there was nowhere to get bottles filled and it was nearly empty. I am spoilt because when on the Camino there are taps and fountains along the path, so this is not an issue. If you don’t drink you get headaches and your body aches. This is a very key reason that this path doesn’t work for me.

On day two we were walking on roads for 90% of the time. I appreciate that some road walking is to be expected but continuously the hard surface is hard on your body, draining energy and making you more tired than usual. Then on our last day, wanting to finish in Hunstanton, we continued along the Norfolk Coast Path. We soon had to give that up and head down to the sea and the harder sand as the designated path is through the sand. Have you ever walked on sand? Even more draining than road walking, soft sand must be the most draining of all and it slows the pace so much. When walking the ‘Literol’ path in Portugal, which follows the coast and is along the sand dunes, a boardwalk has been built making it an extremely joyful experience. My next step is to explore the Norfolk Coast Path and I am interested to see how that pans out. Parts I have walked are on grassy paths but I am sure there might be sand and stones too. There should be more options for accommodation, for eating and/or getting provisions but I will see. I am sure that there will be the possibility of some walking offers and I am not even ruling out the fact that bringing together some of the third and last day of the Peddars Way could work. I guess it’s watching this space.

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