Summary - Homersfield to Harleston, Distance 5 miles (8kms), Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 156
Day 4 - Homersfield to Harleston
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The Great Norfolk Walk a quest for me but it was also supposed to be a holiday for my wife and son and so I wanted a short walk today as I intended to spend time with them. This walk was going to be a five mile walk from Homersfield to the market town of Harleston.
I came across Homersfield, for the first time, when I walked into to it on a sunny Sunday afternoon in 2004. Its cottages were bedecked in bunting and ballons while the inhabitants thronged the streets, it was a village fete, a bucolic scene. People clustered around the pub and a vintage car rally was taking place in a field behind it.
The Black Swan was now closed and quiet in the cool early morning sunshine. Having pulled into the car park we walked to the nearby Adair Bridge, over the River Waveney, named after a local landed family from the Flixton Estate. This bridge just happens to be England's oldest surviving concrete bridge, constructed in the 1870s. After an cursory inspection of the bridge we walked through the village to an enclosed playground where my wife and I took turns in pushing our son on the swings. Then came the time for me to depart so I took my leave of them, with a hug and a kiss, and as I made my way out of the village I could hear the joyful shouts of my son as rode on the swing. I could have easily quit the walk then and there.
Out of Homersfield the Angles Way passes south beside St Mary’s church though a small wood and eventually out on to a back road west to the village of Mendham. From the road I followed at the edge of a wood and the flat meadows beside the River Waveney. A lone swan watched me proceed as I walked by in the shade under the overhanging branches of the trees. In contrast the view of the flat flood plain was painful to behold in the brilliant morning sunshine. I set to and made a swift passage through the woods until I came to Downs Farm. The only witnesses of my passing were a few cows peering through a hedge.
I arrived in the village of Mendham along a country lane coming in from the east. A large woman was busily washing her car in the hot sunshine. Greeting her I said it was a great day. Looking up her response was that it was too hot for walking, quite a witty response for someone perspiring as much she was.
Trotting through the village I noted that the pub was named the Sir Alfred Munnings, the painter, this was after all is his birthplace. On the far side of the village I came to a bridge over the River Waveney, this had been closed last time I’d come this way and I’d been forced into a long diversion. Today it was just a pleasant stroll over the river affording me views of avenues trees, flanking the river, framed in the white iron superstructure.
On the far side of the river I came to the place where I’d realised wasn’t going to make it the previous year, 2004, on the side of the river valley beside a harvested wheat field. The grey/brown stubble flattened against the ground gave it the appearance of a close-cropped head. At the crest of the hill a tractor was ploughing the field ready for the next crop. The previous year, the heat had been so intense that the wheat had shimmered before me. I knew at that moment the heat had beat me. This year, while it was warm the weather didn't have that oppressive edge to it and I thought maybe I was going to make it. As I slogged to the top of the slope the tractor driver saw me and gave me a wave and with buoyant spirits I returned a amiable wave. I lifted my head, put my shoulders back and strode out; I knew I was going to make it.
Having crossed the A143, I walked to the town of Harleston through fields and farm yards, then suburban lanes on the edge of the town. It was a busy day in the town centre and shoppers thronged the streets. I looped around the shops before taking a seat at the base of the town sign. I sat for a while, feeling at a loss, amongst the muddle of parked cars and motorbikes and simply watched the people go about their business. My gaze turned to perhaps the most prominent landmark, the Italianate clock that towers over the market place. It contrasts pleasantly with the town’s domestic architecture. I’d arrived earlier than planned and I had some time to kill, it was early lunchtime, so it was time for a pint. Hitching my rucksack, on one shoulder, I made my way through the people and traffic to the Swan Hotel, OK, it’s only a few yards across the main street, the Thoroughfare. I bought myself a pint of Green King IPA, talked briefly to the owner – about the hotel, a coaching inn filled with 16th century beams and fireplaces, wonderful – I took a seat out in the sunshine until my wife and son arrived. Then, together, we all headed off to Bressingham Steam Museum for an afternoon of vintage filled fun.
Finished 13:30, Miles 5, Weather Sunny and warm but not too hot.