A diverse walk through the countryside of the Fens and Brecks, visiting Setchey, Pentney Abbey, Shoudlham Warren and Wormegay along the way
From Setchey Bridge (just south of Setchey village) the walk heads east, following the north bank of the River Nar through open fenland for about 4 miles before arriving at Abbey Farm. Pentney Abbey, an Augustinian priory, was founded here around 1130 by Robert de Vaux. The priory, which went into decline in the 15th century, was eventually dissolved by King Henry VIII during the Reformation in 1537. Its abandoned and decaying buildings were later looted for building materials and used for target practice by Oliver Cromwell's troops. The ruins of the impressive flint and Barnack stone gatehouse, which dates from the 14th century, still remain next to the farm house. A wide range of interesting archaeological objects, which include swords, human remains, coins, metalwork, a harness pendant and a medieval weight, have been found on the site. From Abbey Farm the route leads southwest away from the river towards Shouldham Warren, a fascinating environment where the Brecks and Fens merge and the landscape changes quite abruptly. Although now heavily forested with conifers, Shouldham Warren was once an area of open heath. It was a designated warren between the 17th and 19th centuries and a place where rabbits were bred, nurtured, protected and trapped for meat and fur. Skins were taken to Brandon and Thetford where they could be processed into felt for hats or exported. The huge earthworks and ruined buildings to the east of the car park are far more recent, probably dating to World War Two, and may be the remnants of a shooting range or temporary camp. From Shouldham Warren the route heads north and west towards the small village of Wormegay where the earthworks of a medieval motte and bailey castle are still visible. Beyond Wormegay the route continues past the site of Wormegay Priory, another 12thcentury Augustinian institution, before returning to the River Nar. From here you follow the river’s south bank to walk a short way west to return to Setchey Bridge and the route’s starting point.