We woke on the Sunday morning to a sparkling frost and a temperature of -3C (outside that is, in the van it was a cosy 21C).
The evening before, we’d found a rather pleasant spot to wild camp with the van and had passed a very peaceful night.
Geoff got wrapped up and took the doggies out for their pre-breakfast ablutions.
We’d travelled down to Suffolk so that Dixie and I could walk the Peddars Way, with back-up in the form of reasonably priced B&B and home comforts being provided by Geoff and Tilly.
The Peddars Way, at 46 miles long, is classed as a long distance footpath. It follows the route of an ancient Roman Road which was built to allow the Roman armies access to the area, so that they could police the rebellious East Anglian territory. Long before the Romans, however, the same route had been used by migrating animals and Bronze Age travellers. And then later – in the 15th or 16th centuries – it was dubbed the Peddars Way, because of the pilgrims who would walk the route to the coast and the religious centre at Walsingham.
After breakfast, we drove a couple of miles down the road and picked up the start point for the route.
Dixie and I set off – I couldn’t believe the weather. Cold, but bright and sunny, it definitely hinted at Spring.
I’d split the walk into 4 days worth of walking – 12 miles, 11 miles, 12 miles, 11 miles. With Dixie’s arthritis being so much better since Christmas, I was hoping she’d manage those mileages without too much trouble. With having the luxury of the van to pick us up each evening, it meant that Geoff could meet us virtually anywhere – I didn’t have to aim for particular villages or towns.
Being the first time I had ever sought out a ‘flat’ area for walking purposes, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, although many people had told me that Norfolk was rather nice. (The path starts in Suffolk, but is only in it for about 5 minutes before crossing the border into Norfolk.)
Almost immediately, I noticed how quiet and peaceful the route was.
The route traced its way through forests, down leafy lanes and along field boundaries. We hadn’t gone too far though, when we needed to cross the River Thet. With a bridge, this is obviously not normally a problem, but we soon realised that today it was going to be a non-starter. The river had burst its banks and as I started wading deeper and deeper across a large expanse of water, in the general direction of the bridge, I began to think that discretion was the better part of valour and maybe we should retreat and organise ourselves a bit of a diversion.
This we did, following some quiet roads through a small village, and picked up the trail again on the far side of the river.
Norfolk is obviously an important agricultural area – much of it arable, although pigs seem to feature quite a lot too.
Dixie and I decided to have lunch here. I tried to ignore what lay in store for the pigs in the future and focused on how happy they seemed to be instead.
By the end of lunchtime I felt I’d developed quite a bond with these two.
And so we continued on our way. The sun was still shining, birds were tweeting all over the place and I began to feel that Norfolk was starting to weave a bit of a spell over me.
It’s always nice to walk with others, but it’s also nice to sometimes just have your own thoughts occupying your brain for a day or two. And of course, Dixie is the perfect companion to any wander.
By mid-afternoon, we were passing through the small village of Stonebridge and decided that this was a nice spot for afternoon tea.
Dixie took the opportunity for a bit of a snooze.
We didn’t linger for too long though and pressed on along what ended up being the muddiest few miles of the whole trail.
We passed the Pingo Trail – where Geoff and Tilly were walking that afternoon.
We were due to meet Geoff and Tilly in the small village of Merton, at around 4pm. In fact, it was nearer 5:30pm when we finally got there – the diversion we’d made earlier in the day having added a few miles to the route.
The light was already starting to fade a little over the last few miles.
By the time we did meet up with Geoff, we’d actually done 15 miles rather than the planned 12. I was amazed at how well Dixie had done – her arthritis wasn’t appearing to be a problem at all, although she was obviously tired.
And what had Geoff been up to all day? Well, in the morning, I had in fact left him with a flat tyre to deal with…….. He’d managed to blow it up with a small compressor we carry and had then limped to Kwik Fit in Thetford. Luckily, they’d then found a nail in it and had been able to repair it. So, his planned walk with Tilly around the Pingo Trail was a bit late in starting. The Pingo Trail hadn’t apparently been an easy route to follow either, so he hadn’t had the best of days. Tilly was happy though, she’d found plenty of mud and water to dive into.
Geoff had managed to find us another peaceful spot for a wild camp with the van, so a good sleep was had by all.
Dixie seemed none the worse for wear after her long walk the day before, so after breakfast Geoff duly transported us back to the trail near Merton.
The first couple of miles followed field boundaries again – quiet and peaceful with just the birdsong for company.
Dixie found lots of good sniffs along the way.
A while later we joined a road for a couple of miles. Rather neatly though, I thought, the actual trail had been sited along the inside of the hedges next to the tarmac, so it was still fairly pleasant going.
On reaching the tiny village of Little Cressingham, we branched off onto a quiet, single-track road.
This was to lead us over a low ridge and into the village of South Pickenham.
We were quietly meandering along this road, lost in thought, when I suddenly realised that Dixie was lagging behind and getting slower and slower. I gave her a tickle and a kiss and tried to chivvy her along. She took a few more steps and then just stopped and looked at me. It was becoming clear that although her arthritis wasn’t giving her any problems, she was just generally suffering from aged-Boxer tiredness. Yesterday’s 15 miles had obviously worn her out.
Very slowly, we managed to potter to a bit of verge where there was some grass we could sit on for a rest. It was about lunchtime anyway. I gave her her lunch – a meaty pouch – which she gobbled down like she hadn’t seen food for a fortnight, and she then proceeded to curl up half on my knee and doze. We stayed like that for an hour.
I rang Geoff and told him that I didn’t think we’d make the pre-arranged rendezvous point that afternoon, but I would keep him informed about our whereabouts.
Much to my surprise, after some food and a decent doze she seemed to get a bit of a second wind. We set off again, and wandered into South Pickenham.
I decided to stick to the roads for this bit, as I didn’t fancy trying to carry 22kg of Boxer out of a field if she decided she wasn’t moving again. She pottered along quite happily though and we managed another couple of miles to the village of North Pickenham.
By this time, we’d managed to do 7 miles and I didn’t want to push Dixie any further this day, so I rang Geoff to tell him where we were and we found a handy village bench to sit on and wait for him.
The next day, Dixie was going to have to have a rest and I was going to have to walk on my own.