Sunday, 18 November 2012

Thorpe next Haddiscoe: marsh upon marsh

thorpe again 002

THE FLAT landscape down at Thorpe Marshes plays tricks on your eyes and your ears. It’s so open that the usual rules just don’t seem to apply. Find yourself somewhere to park near the beautifully ancient round tower church in the windswept hamlet of Thorpe next Haddiscoe, then take the footpath which heads across the marshes just south of Thorpe Hall.

You walk next to a small bedraggled wood, home to a few hundred noisy rooks and crows. Then you’re out onto mile upon mile of mucky grazing marsh. The Lowestoft to Norwich railway line spans the horizon, But because the horizon is so vast you can only hear a train as it rattles alongside the New Cut at Reedham. Watch it head towards Suffolk and you suddenly realise the sound has disappeared, picked up (today at least) by a south-westerly and hurled towards Somerleyton.

At one end of the horizon Cantley belches out its sugary steam. A shotgun or two was being fired down at Thurlton and somewhere else upwind a lonely cow lowed. Then that strange almost factory-type sound as a trio of swans passed directly overheard.

Thorpe next Haddiscoe 001

Grazing marsh is of course only one step up from “natural” marsh. The OS Map shows countless dykes criss-crossing this landscape, just about keeping it dry enough to keep your wellies on. And along with these dykes there are countless gates like the one in the main photo; their characteristic panels designed to stop stupid cattle taking a bath. (Does anyone know their proper name?)

It’s not the kind of walk I’d recommend for your London friends. The only windmill was distant and derelict. And it was all too big to feel like you were even getting from A to B. But now I’ve done 20-odd years in Norfolk I think I’m starting to appreciate its bleak beauty.

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