The Hereward Way follows track east out of the town of Brandon, soon entering Thetford Forest. It passes the small settlement of Santon Downham before crossing the Little Ouse and continuing eastwards. It skirts a main road for a while before continuing along tracks to reach a road immediately to the north of the village of Croxton. This is an easy and enjoyable stroll, the only negative being the walk alongside the main road.
2 hours 19 minutes
Map of the leg
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.
This leg starts on the A1065 in the centre of Brandon at TL783866. Facing north, turn right and head east along White Hart Lane. This soon ends and Gashouse Drove continues on, running eastwards behind houses and gardens on the right and paddocks on the left. When the surfacing ends a good track continues on. A walls starts on the right, protecting gardens behind. The houses and walls end three-quarters of a mile after leaving Brandon, but a path continues straight on between fences. The fence on the right ends and is replaced by woodland.
When the path ends at a track at TL800869 turn right to follow it southwards. After a hundred yards turn left past a metal vehicle barrier to continue along another path through the trees. This immediately becomes a broad track; it soon crosses a track guarded by two metal vehicle barriers with some power lines above and to the right. As the track starts to curve to the right, turn right up a path through the trees. This soon curves to the left and emerges out onto the end of a surfaced road in Santon Downham, with a wooden social club off to the right.
Follow the road ahead, passing a red phone box on the right. When the road soon ends cross a patch of grass to reach another road. This heads in a rough easterly direction, slowly curving to the right through the hamlet for a third of a mile and passing the flint-walled church on the left. At TL817874 turn left down a track, immediately passing a vehicle barrier. Follow the track as it heads in a rough easterly direction through the woodland with some paddocks on the left. When the track forks after nearly half a mile, take the larger left-hand fork that heads north between paddocks; this soon reaches a footbridge over the Little Ouse; cross this and continue on for a short distance until a T-junction with a surfaced track is reached at TL825873.
Turn right and follow this track as it heads eastwards for nearly a third of a mile; shortly after it passes Santon Church on the right the track curves to the left past a vehicle barrier; after a short distance it heads through a low bridge under a railway line before reaching a vehicle barrier guarding a T-junction with a track. Turn right and follow this track eastwards for a little over a mile through the forest until it goes through another vehicle barrier to meet the A134(T) at TL848874.
Turn right and follow the A134(T) southeastwards for half a mile until a track leads off to the left at TL854868. This is not the best walk; a safer route may be to take a path that soon starts running through the trees on the right; when a road is reached with a level crossing on the right, turn left up this to rejoin the main road.
At TL854868 carefully cross the road and join a track; as this curves to the right continue straight on past a metal vehicle barrier. Follow the track eastwards; it passes a house at Field Barn on the left before emerging out of the trees and past fields. A little over a mile after leaving the A134(T) the track ends at a road at TL871872 immediately to the north of Croxton.
Places of interest
Brandon and Brandon Country Park
Brandon is a small town situated mostly on the Suffolk side of the Norfolk/Suffolk border, which follows the Little Ouse to the north of the town. The town sits at the eastern end of a tongue of Fenland that protrudes into the surrounding higher Brecklands.
It is well stocked with shops, including a couple of supermarkets and several pubs and hotels; a railway station on the Ely to Norwich line is conveniently sited right to the north of the town.
Brandon Country Park lies immediately to the south of the town, in a clearing within Thetford Forest. This is very popular, especially during the summer months and at weekends throughout the year. Several long-distance paths pass through the town; the Hereward Way heads through it on its way to Harling Road, whilst both the Little Ouse Path and St Edmund's Way start in the town on their way to Thetford and Bury St Edmunds respectively.
location UID #294
Thetford Forest is a massive area of mainly coniferous woodlands that spans the Norfolk / Suffolk border between Brandon and Thetford. It is Britain's largest lowland pine forest, planted after World War One to provide wood for the war effort. There is a large visitor's centre at High Lodge, and a network of paths and tracks runs through the woodland.
location UID #295
Think of mining and you will possibly think of dust-blackened men with lights on their helmets, chasing coal through narrow tunnels deep underground. Push your mind further into history and you may think of the simple bell-pits that were used to extract copper, tin or iron ores.
The chances are you will not think of mining for flint, especially deep underground in ancient times. Yet that is exactly what occurred at Grimes Graves, which is situated deep in the heart of Thetford Forest. Mining started at around 2-3,000 BC and continued for well over a thousand years, the men digging deep shafts into the chalk by hand before cutting horizontal galleries to retrieve the desired stone. Some of the pits are 40 feet deep, an amazing achievement with nothing more than bone tools. Although the pits were later infilled, many have now been excavated and visitors can descend down into one to explore the interior.
location UID #296
Santon Downham is a small village to the east of Brandon, situated right in the heart of Thetford Forest. The forest surrounds the western, southern and eastern sides, with the northern being bounded by the Ely to Norwich railway line and the Little Ouse river.
The original settlement was based around Santon Downham Hall, which was demolished in the 1920s. Many of the current buildings and houses are related to the Forestry Commission. Perhaps the most spectacular building is the church, which is often open to the public.
St Helen's Oratory is situated a little over a mile to the east. A Saxon church was built near a Holy Well; a church remained on the site until the 1600s and nothing now remains.
Between 1665 and 1670 the village was bedevilled by sandstorms that nearly buried the village and destroyed many tenements. The full story is quite amazing, with the sand having been blow a few miles from the dunes near the Lakenheath air base. It is possible that vegetation was lost at the Lakenheath site due to overgrazing by sheep, and instabilities caused by rabbit burrows and climactic conditions combined to allow the wind to be blown by the sand. It is unlikely to happen again as the dunes are now covered by forestry.
location UID #297
Croxton and Croxton Heath
Croxton is a small village about three miles north to Thetford. The village has a small post office that is open for three mornings a week. The village church, All Saints, is one of the small number of round-tower churches in the UK.
location UID #298
Croxton currently (2019) has one bus a day to Norwich. See Traveline East Anglia for details of the bus services.
My favoured route would be to extend this leg by walking the two and a half miles south along roads from Croxton to Thetford railway station, from where hourly trains run back to Brandon during the week. See the National Rail website for more information on the railway services.