A walk along quiet rural Norfolk lanes and paths, crossing a Local Nature Reserve and finishing in the conservation village of Litcham
The starting point for this section is Castle Acre’s 13th-century Bailey Gate, now in the care of English Heritage, which has the village’s main street running through it. Castle Acre was originally constructed as a fortified town and the Bailey Gate is the surviving north gate of the old defensive wall. A little way down Bailey Street and to the left you will find the ruins of the Norman castle that gives the village its name.
This impressive 12th century motte and bailey castle was founded soon after the Norman Conquest by William de Warenne, the first Earl of Surrey, and the site was chosen because of its strategic position where the ancient Peddars Way crosses the River Nar.
Leaving Castle Acre to the north east, the route crosses the River Nar by a bridge at Newton Mill, which has had a mill on the same site since the time of the Domesday Book. Continuing east to meet the river once more just south of East Lexham, Lexham Hall can be seen to the north a little further on. This fine, grade 1 listed, 17th/18th century hall enjoys extensive views over parkland. The hall may not be visited but its gardens are sometimes open for special events. As well as formal gardens with terraces, rose borders, yew hedges, and a traditional kitchen garden, there is also a 3 acre woodland garden of fine trees with snowdrops lining the ground as you walk and an extensive collection of scented, winter flowering shrubs.
Near the end of the route is Litcham Common, a Local Nature Reserve of 28 hectares. This stretch offers an enjoyable walk through heath and mixed woodland. Dartmoor ponies have been introduced to graze the reserve and keep its distinctive habitat in good condition. Litcham Common is home to a wide range of wildlife, including three types of heather, several species of butterfly in summer and birds that include greater and lesser spotted woodpecker, barn owl and woodcock. Adders are also sometimes seen.