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Cycling in Norfolk

Welcome to our new series of members and supporters’ accounts of the wonderful things you can do and see on cycling trips.

To kick us off, this is Andrea Vinicombe, Bricycles’ Membership Secretary’s account of her recent hoiliday in Norfolk.

If you’d like your experience of a cycling trip to feature on our website, please get in touch.’

Norfolk is flat. Norfolk is a good place to cycle, right? Well, yes and no. Recently I spent a few days on a mini cycle-tour there, starting by train from Brighton to Cambridge. Cambridge station houses the UK’s largest multi-storey cycle store, which holds nearly 3,000 cycles – an amazing facility.

Cycling out of Cambridge was easy – high-quality, well-signed cycle paths – and our destination of Ely, 20 miles away in the fenlands, was easy to spot as the cathedral is the highest point. The routes were flat and generally off-road, but there was no getting away from the icy, easterly wind in our faces. The sunshine and the cycling kept us warm.

The Fens are basically drained marshland. The landscape is like the Netherlands, but unfortunately without the cycle lanes. The further we travelled the more we had to use small rural roads, which was far from ideal as many local drivers speed. Things were better around Kings Lynn, where part of National Cycle Network Route 1 follows the Great Ouse river. King’s Lynn was the largest port in medieval England, before the discovery of the Americas took trade to the west. It has a lovely historic waterfront with restaurants and bars in old medieval warehouses. One of the best things about cycle touring is discovering places you have vaguely heard of. And you get time to watch the landscape slowly change. In our case, very slowly.

By now we were well into Norfolk and travelling along the north Norfolk coast (Alan Partridge’s spiritual homeland), past the massed floral tributes to Prince Philip at the gates of Sandringham. This section wasn’t always pleasant as it was on small, traffic-filled rural roads. The landscape was definitely changing too – there were what appeared to be gradients. I thought Norfolk was flat? So, they might not have been West-country style hills, but it was a bit of a surprise. 

Turning the ‘corner’ of the county and heading south, we were relieved not to have the east wind in our faces any more. The route took us through the grand 18th century Holkham House estate built by the 1st Earl of Leicester, complete with deer.

Towards the end of day 3 we arrived in the stunning fishing town of Wells-next-the-Sea, with a never-ending sandy beach, multicoloured raised beach huts and beautiful Scots pines in the nature reserve behind. Wells had an arty St Ives feel, and the pace of life was gentle – by five o’clock, everything except the fish and chip shop was closed. We stayed a couple of nights and would love to go back. 

We spent our last day cycling from Wells to Norwich, which was easy with the wind behind us, and for eighteen miles we were on Marriott’s Way, a cycle/walking path on a disused railway line. An old station along the route acts as a cafe and was the perfect stopping place for a cup of tea and a scone. From Norwich, we got the train back home to Brighton.

If you’re after a sense of achievement from slogging up a hill and freewheeling down the other side, then Norfolk probably isn’t for you, and with the exception of some routes near the larger towns, you can’t always cycle safely off-road. But what Norfolk lacks in cycling infrastructure, it more than makes up for in natural beauty and a sense of peace. And it’s flat – mostly.

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