Skip to main content

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Norfolk on wheels 3

 Felbrigg Hall and Estate

In general, we like National Trust walks and you can usually get really accurate information on their website to enable you to decide which walks are suitable. I'll start by saying that I couldn't find information on the waymarked walks at Felbrigg but we figured the lack of information probably meant that it was going to be okay.

The problem is, of course, that we are entering lockdown again and although the website says...

"We also have several waymarked walks around the estate, of varying lengths and accessibility. Just have a chat with one of the team when you arrive and they can provide you with a map and send you in the right direction."

... there was no team present. The entrance and information area was kind of deserted. So we had to get all our information from the map board, which didn't mention accessibility at all. Going on previous experience, where the shorter walks are accessible but the longer ones are a bit iffy, we decided to do two short walks, one before and one after lunch.

Victory V walk (lime arrows)

This is a 1.5 mile walk through the woods. The path was wide and apart from a few boggy bits, it was quite manageable. We passed the Ice House, which was interesting and enjoyed the beautiful autumn colours. In general the first half of the walk was a long gradual uphill, and the second half was a series of downhills with some little ups in between. In my mountain trike, it was easily manageable.

A collage of photos showing Felbrigg Hall, woodland paths, the church, reflections in the lake and me in my trike with Liggy, my black labrador.

Church and Lakes walk (blue arrows)

This is a 1.7 mile walk passing St Margaret's Church and then going down to the lake. Right from the outset, it was more challenging terrain, as it was over fields of grazing sheep, with massive piles of poo everywhere and varying lengths of grass and very uneven. However, we made it across the field to the church, which was very pretty. 

The next bit was quite a climb across another sheep field. We could see that there was a gate at the top, but usually National Trust properties have gates that work for us. So we did the climb. When we got there, we discovered a kissing gate and there was no chance of getting me through it. We almost turned back but then another couple appeared and told us they thought the gate at the bottom of the field was okay and that they would go that way and wave if it was suitable. We waited and it was wave-worthy, so we separated and Neil took Liggy the correct route, leaving me with quite a high number of sheep, to navigate a very uneven path down to the better gate. The gate was fine.

We made it through several more gates of varying difficulty and down to the lake... which was stunning in the autumn sunshine. There was a small area fenced off where a large tree had blown over and had left a gaping hole and had its roots sticking up in the air. No problem to get round. The path the other side of the lake did become increasingly narrow and there were a couple of sections where the nettles were closer than I'm really comfortable with, but I was very well dressed so I took deep breaths, prayed louder in tongues than I really intended, swore a few times and got through.

Then the path got really quite narrow, such that passing oncoming walkers would have been totally impossible... but again, it looked possible until we looked just a little further ahead. The lack of photos of what we saw is purely down to shock! Steps. Not a flight of stairs... but more mud steps with wooden edges. We stopped for a while to discuss our options. I've never attempted steps in that number before but they looked quite wide and each step was big enough to pause with my whole chair on, and faced with the possibility of retracing the entire route, I figured it was worth a try.

To our credit, we managed a few steps before I lost the plot. A higher than manageable step coincided with more nettles, which Neil decided he could push me through but I was not entirely sure of our ability to keep me and the trike upright and neither wanted to fall back down the steps or into said nettles, so I opted to get out and crawl up the remaining steps, much to the amusement of some fellow walkers.

Neil helped me back in when we were nearish to the top and we did the remaining steps with lever power and Neil pushing from behind. Liggy was baffled, distracted and less than helpful. A husky would have been more use. 

The remainder of the walk was slightly easier than the steps but still gave us some ups and downs and some more overgrown narrow paths before we eventually made it back to a concrete road. Liggy was decidedly more helpful here and between the three of us - Neil pushing, me levering and Liggy pulling, we got up a steep hill and back to the Hall and toilets. 

Several times on this walk, the thought crossed my mind... 

How difficult would it have been to mention on the map that there were kissing gates and steps? Don't get me wrong, we had some laughs on the way, and the smell of sheep/fox poo on my gloves gradually began to smell quite normal, and we all had a major sense of achievement afterwards... but some better information might have enabled us to choose a slightly more suitable walk.

East Runton

Following our walks, we had decided to visit Cromer, as we were so close. However, in the centre of Cromer was a set of temporary traffic lights, which appeared to be causing more chaos than a small town could manage and so we decided to reduce the traffic jam by one and move on.

As we continued along the coast road, Neil spotted a sign for toilets and a beach. Without even checking whether toilets were needed, he swerved in. We found a car park, toilets and an extremely steep hill down to a pretty much deserted beach... irresistible! 

I'll spare you the details of me skidding down the hill to the beach or being pushed/pulled back up... but it was a lovely quiet beach with a low tide, which gave Liggy some space to run and sniff and play in the sea. The sand was soft enough for me to sit on and relax for a while. 

Apart from being grateful for an hour on a beach, we couldn't help but notice two signs, which seemed rather ridiculous.

1. The car park was rough ground and mostly gravel or mud. At the entrance was a warning sign, telling users that it hadn't been gritted. What!?!?!?! It was made of grit. Why would anyone even think of gritting it?

2. Inside the accessible toilet was a Covid sign, telling users to queue outside the facility. But the sign was inside... so for anyone to read it, and not be at the front of the queue, they would have to be already inside the cubicle with (presumably) a total stranger on the toilet. Really!?!?!?

All week our stereotyped views of Norfolk have been challenged and changed... for the better. These two signs just undid all that good work. 

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Norfolk on wheels 2

 King's Lynn

I had no idea that King's Lynn was such an old city and that there would be so much historical architecture and stories. We needed a day where I could use my normal wheelchair, to give my arm and shoulder muscles a break and King's Lynn was the nearest city, so off we went.

I found a guided walk that the National Trust have written, so I put it on my phone and we followed it round the city, learning bits and pieces about the history of some of the buildings there. If you're interested in doing the walk, it's called the King's Lynn Heritage Walk.

Collage of photos showing a statue of George Vancouver, Neil standing under an old archway along Broad Walk, Red Mount Chapel, the Custom House and the Minster,

In terms of accessibility, King's Lynn was much like any old city - there were some cobbles, some narrow pavements and occasional piles of dog poo that someone had unhelpfully walked in and spread around. However, we found it largely a very pleasant walk, with no major obstacles and an abundance of well maintained public toilets, most of which require a RADAR key. 

One of the things that can spoil a city walk is if dropped kerbs get missed but King's Lynn was pretty good and it was easy to cross most roads. There weren't too many obstructions either, with the exception of a Highways England van, which almost totally blocked an entire pavement. You'd really think they would know better!

We particularly enjoyed 'The Walks'. a beautiful green space in the city, with wide paths, which was great for a walk and gave us somewhere to stop and have a game of frisbee with Liggy. I imagine that for those who work in the city, it provides a fantastic place to take a lunchtime walk and to destress a little.

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Norfolk on wheels 1

 I appreciate that most people prefer to take their holidays in the middle of summer, when the sun shines brightly and you can wear shorts and t-shirts and eat ice cream... well I'm just different! I love autumn and winter holidays! There is nothing to beat getting all wrapped up and going out hiking or sight seeing with all the beautiful colours of autumn and then stopping for hot chocolate and maybe some fudge.

This year, we decided to go somewhere we've never been before and so we booked a cottage in Norfolk (more about the cottage later) and had some days out exploring the area. Here, in this first post, are the first couple of day trips...

Sandringham Estate

With Covid being a serious concern, we wanted somewhere outdoors to hike but with decent facilities, including toilets and a hot drink. Maybe it's connected with family walks when the kids were little, but I just can't resist those walks where you follow coloured arrows on wooden posts, and Sandringham was great for this. We did the yellow walk - about 3.5 miles and it was perfect for us. Here's a little collage of photos from our hike.

A collage of photos showing me in my mountain trike with Liggy, my black labrador, in the woods, surrounded by orange and brown leaves and a mixture of different trees.

From an accessibility point of view, I would say two things... 

1. The toilets are great! You need a RADAR key, which generally means a clean and well maintained loo experience. It's a proper toilet block too, with good handwashing facilities.

2. The walks are technically wheelchair accessible, in that there are no steps or stiles. However, I can't imagine attempting them in anything but an off-road chair. My mountain trike handled it very well and something like a tramper would probably be fine, but there are lots of ups and downs, and things like tree roots, bogs, soft ground, grass, pebbles, etc. I don't think I would even want to try it in my normal chair with a freewheel. 


I'll start by saying that we didn't intend to visit this lovely seaside town on such a windy day! We actually set off to Holkham Hall and Estate but when we got there, it was closed, so we had a last minute change of plan. 

In terms of access, I was pretty impressed with Hunstanton. There were plenty of toilets - not perfect, but spacious and clean (you'll need a RADAR key) and somebody has clearly thought about how a wheelchair user would manage cliff paths and tricky terrain.

Collage of photos showing the cliffs, view over the Wash towards Skeggy wind farm, and the promenade

It was extremely windy, the day we visited, and it was pretty tiring fighting against the wind along the prom, though it was very pretty and so nice to hear/see the sea. Wind hypes poor Liggy up something rotten though - it's her nemesis - and so I was fighting against her a lot of the time too, which drains me a bit. It also meant we couldn't really let her off lead on the beach, which was a shame. 

At the cliffs end of the prom, there's a long ramp, taking you up to the Lookout, from where you can see right across the Wash towards Boston - you can just see the Stump on a clear day - and to Skegness and the off-shore wind farm. 

Going the other way, we walked almost all the way to Heacham. The prom is wide and well surfaced. I happened to be in my trike but my normal chair would have handled it well, especially with my Loopwheels and possibly a freewheel. We only really turned back because I needed a toilet and a passer-by was kind enough to let us know that the toilets in Heacham were all locked up.

Would we go back?

Absolutely! These were two fab days out. Loved the venues! Accessible(ish) with the right equipment. We would definitely choose a still day to go back to the beach. Out of season, there are no dog restrictions and Liggy could run for miles and have a great time. The beach is mainly sandy but with pebbles at the top and millions of mussel shells. 

Hopefully, I'll share some other Norfolk days out soon, as well as some pics and a review of the cottages.

Just a word of warning about the aforementioned hot chocolate and fudge... Her Maj is raking it in! A small bag of fudge... £7!!! You might want to remortgage the house first!