Peddars Way VII.2020

Text: Ben Keeley
Pictures: Ben Keeley, Maciej Malyszka
Riders: Kay Burgess, Ken Rosner, Ben Keeley, Maciej Malyszka, Peter Elsegood

The cool morning’s breeze provides a refreshing wake-up call as we cycled along the riverbank of the Great Ouse. Meeting at Purfleet, we left Bishops Lynn via the docks, one of the oldest docklands in the country, which during the 14th Century was one of the most significant. We headed North with the Wash to our left, and the omnipresent shell-laden farm tracks soon led us to join the Norfolk coastal path at Snettisham.  Riding through the beautiful expanse of a nature reserve, we were warmly greeted by the dawn chorus of marshland birds during a feeding frenzy, we knew it would soon be our turn for some breakfast too!

We hit Holme Dune marshes where we turned off from the coastal path to embark upon our journey south along the ancient trackway, Peddars Way.  We rode through the salty dunes, over the thick dry sand and out toward the tidal inlets.  We made camp with the sun shining bright at 8am, with a light breeze blowing inland. Stoves, cookware and foodstuffs were taken out of the neatly packed frame and saddle bags.  The bags were packed for a day trip in mind, and with breakfast being an essential meal we began to boil the water on the stoves for porridge and coffee. A Nanopresso provided a sense of relief for the coffee lovers amongst us, a few pumps of hot water through some freshly @Umamipb ground coffee we were soon all fired up and ready for the journey ahead.  Just look at those faces of coffee-fuelled enthusiasm!

After a short spell of riding on tarmac through some of the Norfolk’s most iconic coastal villages, of Holme and Ringstead, we hit the ancient tracks. The fast flowing, but at times lumpy old Roman Road soon led us through the most tranquil and picturesque scenery you could possibly imagine. We have all ridden sections of Peddars way on numerous occasions, and we knew what we were about to view, small pathways, farm tracks and hedgerows laden with summer gifts either side of us. The sense of freedom and inspiration from riding these rural and remote parts of Norfolk always fills you with a sense of joy and innate satisfaction. Riding in the summer, on a hot, cloudless day makes it even more special. 

Peddars Way is an incredibly straight road, and it’s just incredible how much ground can be covered whilst heading in a perfectly straight line! One moment we were on the beach on the Norfolk Coastal path, the next we were travel at speed through Massingham Heath and then soon arriving at Castle Acre where we meet up with fellow Velouse Flyers to enjoy a little brunch. The second part of the Peddars adventure took us through woodland, narrow country paths and finally onto forestry tracks as we joined Thetford. 

As we reached the Suffolk-border, where the Norwich-Ely Trainline passes through Thetford forest, it felt like our little adventure was just beginning. With no tents or bivvy’s packed we knew we had to take a turn West off Peddars Way in the general direction of home. We rode through the forest to find a small clearing, a bit of sun trap where the meadow grasses sprung a cornucopia of summer wildlife. We made a camp where lunch would be served, belly’s satisfied and mind restored.  After a short grazing we took to the final part of our journey through the forest and along some tarmac roads which took us through Oxborough and onto Downham Market. With a pub in sight, and fresh out of lockdown, we took the liberty to sink a good ale in full gaze of the sun’s rays.  Possibly not the best way to keep hydrated on an 8 hour cycle ride, but it clenched a first and desire. 

Peddars Way brought home to us all just how incredible Norfolk scenery is when riding off-road and you are fortunate enough to avoid the traffic.  With full self-sufficiency, it was a sense of adventure which most of us had craved having just come out of a prolonged lockdown.