King's Lynn to Thetford
Traverse flat fields and discover the Fens’ cathedral city
Follow the route - King's Lynn to Thetford
> From King’s Lynn take the A47 to Wisbech, entering via the B198.
Wisbech is at the centre of a rich flower- and fruit-growing area. It was once only 4 miles (6km) from the sea, but due to land reclamation is now 11 miles (17km) inland. The Wisbech and Fenland Museum illustrates local history. Nearby is the Aviation Museum, containing an interesting but rather morbid exhibition of aircraft equipment recovered from crashes in the area. The church has two naves, and a Braille Plan for blind visitors in the garden. The Brinks, two rows of houses along the River Nene, are among the finest examples of Georgian architecture in England, and Peckover House contains fine panelling and furniture; in its garden is the ginkgo, or maidenhair tree – the tallest in the land until a storm took away the top.
Places to stay in Wisbech
> Follow the A1101, then the A1122 to Downham Market.
Visiting Downham Market
There has been a settlement in this area since Roman times. Denver Sluice, 2 miles (3km) away, is where the River Great Ouse and the Old and New Bedford Rivers are regulated in order to prevent flooding. The most interesting building in the town is the Church of St Edmund, with its Early English tower.
Places to stay near Downham Market
> Leave Downham Market eastwards to join the A10 then turn south and follow to Ely.
Ely (‘Eel Island’) refers to the staple diet of the Saxons who once lived here. The Fens’ cathedral city is still a small market centre with ancient buildings and medieval gateways but has a busy quayside. It was founded as a religious community in the 7th century, and during the Norman Invasion was the centre of Anglo-Saxon resistance under Hereward the Wake. Ely also has a parish church, St Mary’s, and the vicarage was the home of Oliver Cromwell for 11 years. 900-year-old Ely Cathedral’s greatest glory is its unique octagon, designed by Alan de Walsingham after the earlier tower collapsed in 1322.
Places to stay in Ely
> Leave Ely on the B1382 through Prickwillow, then take the A1101 to Kennyhill, turning left on to an unclassified road to Lakenheath. Pick up the B1112 north as far as Hockwold cum Wilton, and finally another unclassified road to Weeting.
Weeting is a good centre for exploring Breckland, a region of heathland that straddles the Suffolk and Norfolk border. Grime’s Graves are found here and Thetford Forest Park is at Santon Downham. There are deer and red squirrels in the forest, and a rich variety of trees. Weeting Heath is the place to see the classic Breckland bird, the stone curlew.
> Follow an unclassified road and the A1065 south to Brandon, then the B1107 to Thetford.
Formerly the capital of the region, Thetford is a cathedral city and contained as many as five monasteries. Some of the oldest fragments are the remains of the 12th-century Cluniac priory, Castle Hill, the site of Iron Age earthworks, and a Norman castle mound. You should find time to visit Euston Hall, the 18th-century home of the Duke and Duchess of Grafton, which has some fine paintings by Stubbs, Van Dyck and Lely. The 15th-century timber-framed Ancient House Museum has beautifully carved beamed ceilings and exhibits on local history.