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Exploring Norfolk, via Marriott’s Way

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 9 November 2018
Related property: Barnham Broom
Exploring Norfolk, via Marriott’s Way

With two 18-hole Championship-standard golf courses, myriad other sports and leisure facilities, an on-site à-la-carte restaurant (the Brasserie), an informal and fun bar-cum-eatery (the Sports Bar) and much, much more, some visitors to Barnham Broom are content to spend their entire holidays at the Norfolk hotel and country club. And fair enough; the Norfolk Broads, the county’s glorious coastline, the charms of Norwich will still be there for subsequent visits (because you’re sure to come back!)

But if you do decide to venture further afield, and you’re after a rewarding (and not-too-taxing) walk or cycle ride, check out Marriott’s Way.

Norwich, Norfolk’s capital city, is still well served by rail links to the rest of the country, with local and national services departing from and terminating at Norwich Thorpe Station. But at one time the city boasted no less than three termini: in addition to Norwich Thorpe, services to and from towns and villages to the south of the city arrived at and departed from Norwich Victoria; while trains to and from the mid and North Norfolk hinterlands (and beyond) used Norwich City Station.

Never really viable, Norwich Victoria is long gone. As for Norwich City, the station was largely destroyed during WWII. Passenger services continued, somehow, until 1959, and freight transport for a decade after that; but a growing shift towards road transport plus Dr Beeching’s swingeing cuts did for many local rail networks, and Norfolk was no exception. Norwich Thorpe survived (obviously), but Norwich City Station – what was left of it – was demolished, and the tracks (eventually) pulled up.

Which left a 26-mile pathway, running through beautiful countryside, all the way from Norwich to the historic market town of Aylsham.

And that’s Marriott’s Way.

Named in memory of William Marriott, manager and chief engineer of the Midland & Great Northern Railway (M&GN) for 41 years, Marriott’s Way has something for everyone: from families and casual walkers to ramblers, joggers, cyclists and horse-riders. It’s accessible at various points along its length (you don’t have to do the full 26 miles!), and is open all year round. As a former railway track, pretty much all of it is flat (as is Norfolk as a whole, according to Noël Coward) – so folk with limited mobility can enjoy it too. Though you’d best wait for a fine day: some of Marriott’s Way is surfaced, but the bits that aren’t can get a mite soft in wet weather – not so good for wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

What all can look forward to is wonderful countryside – especially (a personal view) as you pass through the Wensum river valley – a profusion of wildlife, and lots of public art referencing the route’s history. Train tracks, sleepers and carriage wheels turned into artworks.

I cycled half of Marriott’s Way (just over 14 miles), from Norwich to Whitwell Station, adjoining the Georgian market town of Reepham, in September 2015. Neither in the first flush of youth nor fitness, I nonetheless found it both easy and most enjoyable. The route out of Norwich allows you to see the city from a whole new, and different, angle – and the subsequent stretch, two or three miles along the Wensum valley, is sublime.

Marriott’s Way intersects with the road network at various points. It feels rather as though ‘real life’ is intruding – but it does mean you can stop at the shops for refreshments, or find a pub for lunch, without going far out of your way.

Whitwell, when you get to it, is charming – now disused, but with station buildings and platform all intact and in good order. As well they might be; I said disused, but in fact Whitwell Station is now a vibrant railway museum, all steam locomotives and vintage diesels; and the atmospheric tea room on the platform does a roaring trade.

From Whitwell I could have pressed on towards Aylsham; or retraced my steps (wheeltracks) back to Norwich – which is what I did. But the second half of the trip remains to be done.

And I can’t wait.

The Norwich end of Marriott’s Way starts at the roundabout linking Barn Road to St Crispins Road – the A147 ‘Inner Link Road’. To get there by car, take the B1108, which will take you all the way there. Street parking is relatively easy to find. The start of Marriott’s Way is not obvious; but there is an ‘industrial’ sculpture made of old railway track that marks the entrance.

For further information about Marriott’s Way, click here.

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Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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