The Brancaster Staithe walk is a contrast of saltmarsh and sailing regattas, wind and woodland. The views from the highpoint at Barrow Common are breathtaking. From here it is easy to picture traders visiting Branodunum, the Roman fort built near the shore to defend the coastline.
The Bronze Age, the Roman occupation, and the Saxon and Norman periods all left their mark on the landscape around Brancaster Staithe. Each chapter in the village’s history has left us with a fascinating archaeological record that has helped enhance our understanding of north-west Norfolk’s history.
One mile to the south of the village lies Barrow Common, the site of a small hill presumed to be a round barrow. These mounds of earth were raised over places of burial during the Bronze Age, mostly between 2200 BC and 1100 BC. Middle to Late Bronze Age pottery has also been found on the site.
The Roman fort of Branodunum sits between Brancaster and Brancaster Staithe, and is accessible from this route. The fort was one of the Saxon Shore forts constructed along the south and east coasts of England. They were built to prevent seaborne invasion by the Frisians, Angles and Saxons from across the North Sea. The fort developed in several phases from around 200 AD but was abandoned around 400 AD as Roman rule in Britain came to an end. The walls were eventually dismantled in the 1700s, with stone being incorporated into several buildings around the parish.
Fragments of Saxon pottery, a brooch and a comb have been found in Brancaster Staithe, and the round-towered St Mary’s Church at Burnham Deepdale is believed to have Saxon origins. The church’s nave houses a beautifully designed Norman font which details the ‘Twelve Labours of the Months’, with depictions of seasonal activities such as digging in March, mowing hay in July and feasting in December.
The route of Brancaster Staithe Circular Walk crosses Barrow Common as well as passing the sites of the Roman settlements and fort. St. Mary’s (Burnham Deepdale) is also within a few steps of the trail.