Marriott’s Way – walking and cycling from Norwich city centre
Where Barn Road meets Barker Street
Following two disused railway lines (26-miles long) between Norwich and the historic market town of Aylsham, Marriott’s way is a popular route for walkers and cyclists. Named after William Marriott who was Chief Engineer and Manager of the Midland and Great Northern Railway (M&GN) for 41 years, this is one of the great recreational and serious cycle and walking routes through the countryside from Norwich city centre.
Public art plays its part along the railway too with signs made from old track to show distances and directions to villages and towns. To mark your progress, at each mile there’s a piece of rail sculpture – each is unique with its own metal rubbing plaque with aspects of the track’s history. Under three bridges there are wind-up boxes playing past railway sounds, and there are also pieces of art inscribed with poems and verse as well as concrete sculptures about the railway’s heritage.
Marriott’s Way offers plenty of wildlife, woodland and wild meadows. Heading into summer the whole route is lush green and dense in places due to canopies of overhanging ancient trees. Butterflies and darting dragonflies are plentiful, whilst geese meander in nearby fields; look out for kestrels, owls, magpies and ducks. Orchids, cowslips and wild strawberries flourish in this habitat – make time for a bit of foraging! Autumn is spectacular with the changing colours; see stoats and weasels running through leafy pathways and tracks. Squirrels and hedgehogs prepare for winter and small birds are attracted by the seasonal berries and wild grass seeds.
The entire route of the Marriott’s Way has been designated as a Country Wildlife Site with section one and two (The Wensum River Valley) recognised at European Level as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and also a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). ThroughSection 1 (Norwich to Drayton, 5 miles) the route crosses the Wensum over a high A framebridge providing cyclists with wonderful views. It is in this area that nature lovers can expect to find over 100 species of plants, insects, fish, birds and rare sights such as otters, voles and kingfishers.
In section 2 – Drayton to Whitwell, 9.5 miles (still in the Wensum Valley) – make time to visit the old station for railway history and a museum as well as places to eat and drink.
The wildest part of the route is section 3 – The Themelthorpe Loop, 5 miles. Make your way through open farmland expecting to see red-legged partridges, rooks, yellowhammers and flocks of woodpigeons and, maybe if you’re lucky, hares and roe deer.
The final leg (Section 4) is a distance of 6 miles and runs between Reepham and Aylsham through more open farmland with a mostly firm surface following the old Great Eastern Line. Again, it’s great for wildlife and the perfect place to experience the big open skies of Norfolk. In spring and early summer if you’re very lucky you may hear the beautiful song of the skylark. You may also see the barn owl known also in Norfolk as the hushwing, Billy Wix or White Owl – it’s not as nocturnal as you may imagine. In summer you can spot the barn owl hunting for voles and mice to feed its young. With their distinctive heart shaped face and pure white under parts, the barn owl is surprising easy to see even though numbers have been declining for years.
On reaching Aylsham, cyclists have 3 choices; head home the way you came or two further cycle routes take you to the coast or into the Broads.
Visit this online guide to Marriott’s Way for more details.