The Hereward Way heads northeastwards from Croxton, soon entering the eastern limits of Thetford Forest. The road is left behind and tracks are followed eastwards through the forest, passing the lake at Langmere before crossing East Wreatham Heath and Roudham Heath. It follows the Peddar's Way for a short distance before heading through the forest once more to reach the deserted medieval village of Roudham and the spectacular ruins of Roudham Church. A mile or two of road walk then leads eastwards to reach Harling Road station and the end of the Hereward Way.
3 hours 18 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 at TL871872 immediately to the north of the village of Croxton. Turn right down the road for a few yards, and then left along another road, immediately passing a house on the left and the village sign on the right. Initially the road heads east-northeastwards before curving to the left to take a more north-northeasterly course. Continue along this road for 1.4 miles until a T-junction with another road on the left is reached at TL882890, immediately to the east of the Devil's Punchbowl.
At the road junction turn right and follow a track that heads east-southeastwards through woodland; it slowly curves to take a more easterly course and becomes a better track before ending after nearly two miles at the A1075 road at TL911882. Carefully cross the road and continue along the track on the other side as it skirts East Wretham Heath. The track soon enters the woodland of Roudham Heath and passes between the abutments of an old railway bridge; 1.5 miles after the A1075 it joins the Peddar's Way beside a railway line at TL933874.
Turn left to start following the Peddar's Way northwards as it passes through woodland. As it emerges from the trees after half a mile and before it reaches a gas compound, turn right past a wooden electricity pole to join a path that skirts through the trees on the right. After a quarter of a mile it meets a bridleway coming in from the left; here turn right to head southeastwards for a little over half a mile. The path soon becomes a rough track through a broad gap in the trees.
The track ends at a T-junction with a better quality track at TL942881, with a field ahead. Turn left to follow the good track eastwards with some woodland on the left. As the track turns to the right continue straight on, passing an Airwave telecoms mast and heading towards a large metal firewatch tower that is covered with transmitters. Climb a little bank to reach the tower and then turn right to head south along a good track with the woodland on the right.
Follow the track as it heads through an underpass below the A11(T) and continue south along a track to reach a level crossing. Carefully cross this and continue south along the track, which becomes concrete as it curves to the left, passing a couple of houses at Shepherd's Barn on the left. The track continues on for another quarter of a mile before it ends at a bend in a road at TL955870 opposite Roudham Farm, with the ruins of Roudham Church to the left.
Turn left and follow this road as it winds eastwards for 1.6 miles before it ends at the B1111 road. Here turn left to follow the B111 northwestwards; there is a pavement on the right-hand (western) side of the road. After 300 yards the end of the Hereward Way is reached at Harling Road railway station at TL978879. Sadly there is no marker at the end of the trail, nor is there a pub at which you can have a celebratory pint.
Places of interest
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
The Devil's Punchbowl and the Breckland Meres
The Breckland Meres are a number of circular and near-circular depressions that occur in the landscape to the north of Thetford, many of which are filled with water. In some, such as the Devil's Punchbowl, the water level varies from season to season, leaving rings of differing vegetation around the sides. The features are called dolines, circular collapses in the chalk bedrock. The overlying sandy glacial till collapses as well, forming the conical depressions. Variations in the water table causes the water level in the meres to rise and fall.
The Devil's Punchbowl has another strange feature: allegedly on damp autumnal evenings a circle of mist can be seen, called the Devil's Nightcap.
The Hereward Way passes immediately to the south of Langmere and close to the Devil's Punchbowl; both are worth a short diversion off the trail.
location UID #299
Roudham Medieval Village and church
The village of Roudham is now little more than a few scattered houses and farms situated amidst farmland to the south of the A11. Although small, its history can be seen in the low bumps and hollows beyond the road - the only remaining signs of an old medieval village. This suffered under the Black Death, but it hung on until the 1700s when it was finally abandoned.
St Andrew's church survived the desertion of the medieval village, only to be destroyed by a fire in 1736, perversely during repair work. A story - possibly apocryphal - says that men repairing leadwork on the tower let sparks fall down onto the nave's thatched roof. Fortunately much of the exterior stonework has been saved and it is possible to walk around the exterior of the church, although the northern side can be a tight squeeze against a fence. Nettles dominate the interior in summer, making it difficult to descend down to examine an iron screen that bisects the nave.
location UID #300
Harling Road is a small settlement of a few houses stretching down the B1111 from a railway station on the Ely to Norwich line. The nearest village is East Harling, a mile to the southeast. The few houses are dominated by a large industrial estate; this was once the site of RAF Harling Road.
Grass runways were originally built to the south of the Roudham Road in World War One for the use of the Royal Flying Corp; amongst others the famous Sopwith Camels flew from the site. Although the airfield fell into disuse during 1920, some of the original buildings relating to the airfield are still in use in the industrial estate. The village sign has a memorial to the men who worked at the airfield, including when it was used as a base by the Black American General Service, who provided services to the many airfields in the area during the Second World War.
The hamlet is also home to the English Whisky Company, the country's only distillery which opened in 2006. What better way to celebrate finishing a trail than by having a wee drop of the Sassenach wet stuff?
location UID #301
Yet again transport is difficult on this stretch. Harling Road railway station is served by four trains a day back to Thetford (two in the morning and two in the afternoon/evening), but there are currently (2019) no buses from there to Croxton.
It may be easier to link this leg with the previous one, and to walk from Brandon to Harling Road in one day.
See the National Rail website for more information on the railway services