OS Explorer map 229, Thetford Forest in the Brecks: Thetford & Brandon – I own this map, and had not visited it before starting this blog. Visited for the first time 22nd September 2019.
Active Pumpkin and Insightful Celery were in my year during my MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic (2017-18). All three of us still live in Cambridge (the two of them both started their PhDs straight after MPhil), and kept intending to meet regularly since our course ended, but in the end that’s only happened a handful of times so far. Something we’d been intending for a while was to go out of Cambridge for a walk one weekend day, and, by scheduling it two months in advance, we finally got around to it in September 2019!
I collected Insightful Celery and Active Pumpkin in central Cambridge around 10am one Sunday, and we drove off north-east, generally catching up on each other’s news as we drove, and were soon in the town of Brandon, in the middle of the Thetford Forest. We parked up, looked at the map (which I’d acquired the day before), decided exactly what route to take – I’d thought up some options before leaving – and were soon off. The route we planned was a round trip from Brandon, through the forest to the village of Santon Downham, from where we’d return by the path alongside the river Little Ouse.
We first walked through the center of Brandon itself, remarking on the mixture of very pretty cute villagey houses and somewhat dingy shops and amenities, before moving onto a track past cows and horses, and soon entering the forest itself. We enjoyed ourselves there. It, or at least the part of it we were in, is a very sort of open, flat-floored wood, with a variety of tree types; it was very nice!
About an hour of walking later, we arrived in Santon Downham. Thunderstorms had been a possibility on the weather forecast, but when we emerged from the tree cover, there was bright sunshine, and it was really rather a warm day. We sat down on a bench in front of a fun little log-built bus-shelter-type thing for some snacks and a rest, before having a quick explore of the church opposite. It was very pleasant, with something funky going on in the rood screen department, and we were soon on our way down to the river, stopping at a little tourist centre for a bit to use the toilets, look at information boards, and in my case enjoy getting tangled in the lead of one of four dogs that a chap walked by with.
Crossing the river Little Ouse, we soon entered Norfolk (the boundary between it and Suffolk more or less following the river in this region), and began our walk back, on a path that was surprisingly tropical, with grasses taller than me around the narrow route, and a giant fallen tree across our way. We also stopped to admire some cows with large horns before reaching our destination of Brandon once again.
There we settled into the Royal Oak pub/hotel for some lunch. I assembled mine from a starter and two sides, namely creamy garlic mushrooms, mixed vegetables and cheesy chips – this turned out to be a mistake as not only was there far too much food, but the garlic mushrooms were more like a few mushrooms floating in a giant bowl of extremely salty garlic cream sauce. In any case, we had a pleasant lunch overall, the others’ sandwiches going down well.
After walking back to the car, we set off a short way northwards to the neighbouring village of Weeting, to see Weeting Castle. It was an enjoyable little stop; the substantial ruins of a Norman manor house, with a moat (disappointly only ever ornamental). As we drove in, we passed some youths on bicycles, one of whom was unfortunately struggling with a spraying/leaking coke can.
Weeting Castle having been our final activity of a leisurely day out, we departed for the drive back to Cambridge, finding the forecast rain en route. All in all, a pleasant day out!