A 6 mile walk taking in the Wiveton Downs as an alternative to the coastal route between Cley and Blakeney
An alternative route to the Norfolk Coast Path between Cley and Blakeney taking in the high ground across Wiveton Downs. Spectacular views of the coastline can be had from this area and the route also includes the Shell Museum at Glandford and the dominating church at Cley
Cley to Blakeney via Wiveton Downs - Essential Information
Norfolk Green - Bus Service
- Service Number
- Coasthopper - An excellent way to get around the North Norfolk Coast. This service provides a frequent and friendly means of transportation and some drivers provide local information and even poetry as you ride!
- Date of Walk
- Walk Time
- 10:30 to 14:00
- Griffmonster, Kat
- Weather Conditions
- Blue skies and sunshine
The Norfolk Coast Path is the usual method of navigation along the North Norfolk Coast for most walkers. However there are times when the path becomes inaccessible, as shown by the December 2013 Storm Surge, or when one just wants a different view. In either case this alternative route provides a worthwhile excursion from the coast and features some outstanding views as well as historic buildings and even a shell museum.
The first distinctive sight on the trail is the magnificent church of St Margaret at Cley. Back in the 16th century this faced the harbour quay which occupied the present day meadows that follow the River Glaven through to Wiveton. In those days Cley was a prosperous trading port exporting cloth woven from local wool, salt fish and agricultural products to the ports around the Bay of Biscay, the Baltic, and even Iceland. However as the 17th century ushered in, the port went into decline. A major fire in 1612 destroyed most of the port buildings around the church which resulted in rebuilding and expansion of the village to the north, away from the quay. Then in 1638 a sluice was installed across the mouth of the River Glaven preventing access to the river by merchant ships. Despite a petition against this, resulting in the sluice removal two years later, the damage had already been done and the village as a port continued in decline. The river soon silted up and eventually another sluice across the river mouth was installed in 1824.
The connection with the villages trading prosperity still lingers in the French names of many houses. Another reminder is the quayside wall which still stands alongside the Glandford Road and a rebuilt section is easily distinguishable in front of the more modern houses that line the road looking out across the former quayside. Local folklore states that the church once housed statues of the 12 apostles and these were dumped into the harbour during the 16th century. Although there is no hard evidence of such an event, one can speculate that this may well have occurred when Thomas Cromwell and his men toured East Anglia after the English Reformation, tasked with defacing and destroying religious artefacts. If this event did happen then no doubt the statues would have been carried by tidal currents and one would doubt they had remained in the meadows that have formed across the silted up estuary. Despite this numerous efforts have been made to locate the treasures. So far there has been no success.
The quiet lane away from Cley leads through to the ford across the River Glaven at Glandford. There is a footbridge at this point and one can view the former post medieval watermill to the north of the ford, now converted to a private house. To the south there is a permissive footpath to a tea room on the estate of Bayfield Hall but for this walk the enticement was declined. That will be another walk, another day and another exploration.
Glandford village consists of the typical Norfolk flint walled cottages, a church and a shell museum adjacent to the church. It is worth timing ones walk to coincide with midday to hear the church bells ring the hour. St Martins church has a carillon of 12 bells and which play a hymn tune every three hours between 6am and 9pm with a different tune each day. On the occasion we visited it performed a rather magnificent and distinctive rendition of 'Once in Royal David’s city'. Not knowing such an event was about to take place, it was something of a pleasant surprise. A surprise that stops any passer by in their footsteps to make certain that their ears are not deceiving them. A staring gaze at the church tower. A tentative listen to the music. Then admiration and almost laughter at the anarchic stance to the traditional church clock chime.
The chimes finished. The Museum beckoned. It was at this point the curator of the museum wandered past and asked if we were wanting to visit. One cant refuse a visit to a village shell museum after walking to a village with a shell museum. I cannot think of another village with such a museum. What was a shell museum anyway.
This small flint walled hall with high windows presents a light and airy interior housing a collection of shells from across the world all presented in glass cabinets. Not just shells though, but fossils and archaeological finds and even birds eggs amongst other things. The collection is from the late Sir Alfred Jodrell of Bayfield Hall with obvious additions by other donators Fascinating. There's a small entrance fee. No photos allowed. No touching. But reading the captions is allowed! A worthy hour of intrigue and something that should not be passed by. After all, where else would one find a shell museum.
Beyond Glandford a quiet lane leads in the general direction of Blakeney. A single track lane with few passing places for any vehicles that attempt to negotiate this road. Road? Well it does have a tarmacadam surface but its centre and edges have sandy heaps where vegetation attempts to survive. High hedgerows mask the views either side. Not that there is too much to see at this point as the road is in a dip in the landscape with the land rising up either side.
Then, after a bend in the road, on the right is a way marker pointing into the vegetation. A permissive path. Unmarked on OS maps. This leads up a series of wooden steps. Climbing the steep incline to the top of this hill where one is greeted with a quite spectacular view of the coastline. For the uninitiated this is quite breathtaking. From the almost hidden lane to such an outstanding view is quite gob-smacking.
This is the Wiveton Downs, part of the Blakeney Esker, a ridge that leads from Glandford to the west of Blakeney village and is covered with gorse and fern and Beech trees with winding paths leading through it and noticeboards describing the history, the flora, the wildlife. In springtime English Bluebells are said to cover the area. Butterflies and birds populate the downs in the summer. The Esker has been used since ancient times with settlements discovered dating from Roman times and bronze age burial grounds found near Morston. Throughout the centuries the Downs have been a rich source of building materials and quarrying was conducted right up until 1990 when the area was declared a Site of special Scientific Interest and is now managed by Norfolk County Council which uses controlled fires, intense rabbit grazing and gorse cutting to keep the area from becoming general woodland. Local folklore says that the area was covered with heather until the war years when an uncontrolled fire burnt this all off leaving bare gravel on which the gorse took hold.
In all, this walk is a discovery of Norfolk wonders and highly recommended for those visiting the area. A full circular route can be made by walking the additional three miles along the coast path to link back to Cley. Alternatively one can always jump on the Coasthopper bus service back to Cley.
Quiet lanes, footpaths both public and permissive are used to negotiate this walk
Rather than use the road out of Cley, a more convenient route is the public footpath that leads down the side of Crabpot Bookshop opposite the path to Cley Windmill. This will lead onto the lane at the back of Cley that leads through to the church. Cross the churchyard and walk out onto the road by the green. Cross the green and take the Glandford road which follows the Glaven valley. Note the flint wall on the left which is said to be the medieval quay wall. Across the valley are views of the church at Wiveton. Pass over the Wiveton road and continue until it junctions with the road into Glandford. Turn right, cross the ford via the footbridge and enter the village. The Shell museum and church are on the left.
Leave the village on the same road and cross straight over at the road junction. Keep to this until there is a slow double bend. On the right is a waymarker pointing into the hedgerow. Follow this which will lead up a series of steps to the top of the ridge where outstanding views of the coast can be seen. Take the path on the left that runs parallel with the top of the ridge. Keep to the main path through to a car park. A path on the far side leads down to the road where another path continues on the opposite side. Keep to this, veering off to the left when it branches. Keep to the left until it meets a road. Take the track on the opposite side and keep to this until it meets another road. Cross straight over and follow the next track. Where this meets Kettlehill Plantation woodland, take the footpath on the left that follows the perimeter of the wood. Keep to the footpath as it leads around the wood then continue down to the main coast road. Cross over the road and take the footpath a hundred yards on up the road on the left to lead down to the Coast Path. turn right and follow the Coast Path into Blakeney.
Kings Arms, Blakeney View in OS Map | View in Google Map
- Westgate Street, Blakeney
The pub is recognisable, when approaching from the coast road heading towards the quay, by the distinct characters spelled out in black on the red pantile roofing declaring 'FH 1760'. The 1760 is a reference to when the roof was replaced, however the reason for initials 'FH' are lost in time although it is thought they may have referred to the then owner. There is also speculation that this was the date that the building first became an Inn but the name of the appears to refer back to earlier times. Many pubs obtained royal names after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 after a period of Puritan rule. This is also borne out in the royal crest which is displayed on the southern wall of the building.
The interior is decorated with memorabilia of old musical hall stars and movie posters. This highlights the career of the former pub owner, Howard Davies, who had a long career which included working with the Black and White minstrels as well as appearing in acting parts for both television and films. Additional items on display are numerous clocks which reflect Howards lifelong interest in horology. Sadly Mr Davies passed away in 2010, but the pub has been retained within the family and is now managed by his son Nic.
The pub is renowned for its fish and seafood dishes and have a specials board that changes daily. Ale from Greene King plus gravity fed barrels of ale from Woodfordes that sit under cooling jackets behind the bar.
A rewarding end to an excellent days walk with a pint of Woodfordes Nelsons Revenge straight from the barrel.
Cley ChurchView in OS Map | View in Google Map
In the middle ages the village of Cley was a wealthy port made rich from the trade with sea going vessels exporting their cargo of wools and fish. As such the village afforded a large and magnificent church which overlooked the harbour quay at the time and dominates the scenery across the Glaven valley.
This flint walled edifice was constructed in the 14th and 15h centuries and consists of a large nave with an offset tower and transepts to the north and south, the north one being nothing more than a ruin whilst the southern one is roofless. The first rector of the church was Hubert de Stanham who was instituted in 1319 during a period when the church was still under construction. Unfortunately during this period the bubonic plague struck the area resulting in the loss of the master mason William Ramsey and his son. This resulted in the building work being halted for half a century until both trade and population had recovered from this pestilence.
The English Reformation of the 16th century brought more change and all building work on the church was then stopped. It is during this period that local folklore states that statues of the 12 stone apostles and Jesus Christ were stripped from the church were dumped into the harbour. A geophysical survey of the harbour took place in 2004 in attempt to locate these without success. Another search using laser technology was conducted in 2014 with out result.
Glandford WatermillView in OS Map | View in Google Map
The River Glaven passes to the east of Glandford, and down river from the lane that leads into the village is a Watermill. Commonly known as Glandford Watermill, the present building is a three storey red brick and flint construction with a loft and a mill pond to the south. It was built in 1907 although records show that a mill was located on this site many centuries before this with Fadens map of 1797 distinctively depicting its location.
An earlier map of Norfolk by Christoper Saxton dating from 1575 has recently been discovered in an Oxfam shop in Norwich and this depicts the River Glaven as a major watercourse with no barriers to the open sea. Although there are records of a sluice being installed at the mouth of the river in 1638 this was short-lived after a public outcry from the villagers of Cley who complained that it prevented sea going vessels from accessing Cley harbour which, in those days, was located at the mouth of the river. Without the sluice, the river was tidal, a fact that is attested by an extract from 'The Report of the Commissioners' published in 1845, which clearly states on page 83:
However this tidal power was short lived as in 1824 a new sluice was inserted across the mouth of the River Glaven which resulted in the silting up the river and ended the use of Cley as a port and no doubt drastically reduced the amount of power offered to the mill from the tidal flows. Even so, the mill continued in use through to the 20th century when Sir Alfred Jodrell of Bayfield Hall built the present building in 1907.
It is thought the mill finally ceased operation some time around the second world war. Since then the building has served as several different uses including a farm store and part of a fish farming business. It has since been converted into a private residence.
Glandford Shell museumView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Sited by the village church on the east side of the village is a purpose built flint and brick museum. This was constructed in 1914-15 by Sir Alfred Jodrell of Bayfield Hall as a location to house his shell collection which he had built up over 60 years and which was previously stored in boxes at Bayfield Hall. The building is a single room with high level windows that presents an airy and well lit accommodation for this unique collection.
The collection is arranged in a series of glass topped cases and wall cabinets that display examples of shells from across the globe, both in their natural state and others exquisitely carved. Besides the shells are other unique artefacts including jewellery, fragments of old pottery and other archaeological finds from the vicinity of Glandford and birds eggs. Also included is a fine tapestry created by John Craske, a local fisherman, which depicts the North Norfolk Coast.
Glandford ChurchView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Although the village of Glandford is recorded in the Domesday book of 1086, it had been reduced to just one farmhouse and a cottage by the end of the 19th century when Sir Alfred Jodrell inherited the estate. The church of St Martin, which dated from the 13th century, at this time was nothing more than a ruin, having been in such a state since the early 18th century. Various descriptions of the church offer an insight into its state at the time with James Grigor describing it as '...a steeple mantled with ivy whilst a clear rippling trout-stream flows at its foot' in his 1841 publication of The eastern Arboretum whilst the History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk of 1836 does attest that 'the tower is nearly entire'.
At the start of the 20th century Sir Alfred Jodrell set about rebuilding the village including restoration of the church. The only elements that survived from the original building was the arcade with some original masonry being included in the walls of the new nave chancel and tower.
The new build includes some interesting items including woodcarving on Sir Alfred's personal pew which is a depiction of Landseers painting of The Shepherd's Chief Mourner. Stained glass windows were also installed, the work being undertaken by Kempe and Bryans, the renowned stained glass artists of the time.
Probably the most unique and interesting item of the church is its carillon of twelve bells which are used as a clock strike to peel a hymn tune every three hours from 6am until 9pm. A different hymn each played each day with a seven day rotation of 'Once in Royal David’s city', 'Jerusalem on high', 'On the Resurrection morning', 'The Saints of God', 'On the happy Easter morn', 'Every morning the red sun' and 'There is a fountain filled with blood'. This presents a captivating enticement to the village for any passing visitor.
Although Sir Alfred's generosity in rebuilding the village and church was without bounds, he requested that there should be no memorial or monument made to him once he died. He passed away on 15th March 1929 and was buried at Letheringsett and a simple memorial card hangs in a frame at the west end of the nave to mark his achievements.
Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information
Summary of Document Changes
Last Updated: ... 2016-01-15