Read about how one determined Norfolk woman, inspired by the sad loss of a friend, took on an adventure to ‘Navigate Norfolk’ and walk and cycle around the whole perimeter of our county……
Pictured: End of a days cycling at Great Yarmouth
So that is it I thought. I am crossing the finish line. I have covered approximately 205 miles and raised £548 (So far). I have talked with an American soldier about his time in Iraq. Met a collective of artists creating work for themselves. Seen thriving independent businesses doing their best for their communities. Ate birthday cake with a woman who had just turned 100. Met and stayed with some of the most generous people in Norfolk. Camped in pub gardens and on front lawns. Learnt so much about a county I thought I knew. Most importantly I have learnt that I had under-estimated myself in nearly every way.
Rewind to a few months before that and you would see a very different person sitting at a desk suddenly feeling very stupid. Thinking to herself that it was a ridiculous idea to walk/cycle around the perimeter of Norfolk. (Disclaimer: I still think it’s a ridiculous idea but one infinitely worth pursuing) I had wanted to do a charity challenge since the 27th of January 2014 when a good friend of mine, Gary Higgs, passed away because of Cystic Fibrosis. However I could not come up with anything that seemed… big enough. Gary was an incredible person and is missed by so many. I wanted to raise as much money as possible for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and I wanted to do it in a way that would have made Gary think I was ridiculous. The idea for Navigate Norfolk came from my Nan whilst we were out enjoying a coffee together. Nanny Demmen and one of her friends had walked the perimeter of Norfolk bit by bit over time using the Norfolk Trails. As she was talking the idea of doing it in one go was already at the forefront of my mind. From that moment it was decided. I was going to do it. That’s how I ended up sitting at a desk not knowing where to start.
At the end of my adventure my sister congratulated me over facebook by saying
“…Despite having no real sense of direction, minimal map reading skills and only a vague fondness for the outdoors she has completed a monstrous challenge…”
Pictured: Start of the last day, at an appropriately named pub!
No sense of direction, minimal map reading skills and only a vague fondness for the outdoors. All are true – Except I really love the outdoors, I just happened to think it looked better through a window so I could enjoy it whilst playing computer games. I hope that this explains my nerves when I announced an idea that would require me to essentially spend at least a whole week outside. Imagine my relief when I went to the Norfolk Trails website and saw the wealth of information. Through the use of that website I quickly sorted out my route. I knew where I was going and they even had printable maps of the whole lot. I then saw that for certain parts of my route they also had a list of the best places to stop off to get food, or to sleep. Using that information a quick google search led me to the tourist information numbers and my search to find places to stay begun.
Pictured: Camping at Park Hill Hotel
That was a far easier process than I had first anticipated. I had my phone glued to my ear for a few hours and hey presto! I had places to pitch my tent. I even had a room for the night in the Saracen’s Head in Diss. The generosity of those places were incredible. (A full list of these generous places will be at the bottom of the article. They are all brilliant places that you can stop for a bite to eat whilst on your Norfolk Trails adventure.) A lot of them didn’t stop at giving me a home for the night, also offering me food or a place to cook the food I had bought with me. Each one of them greeting me with a smile and a place to recuperate.
As a member of the tech generation who spends most of her time in the internet world it was very useful to begin this adventure on the Norfolk Trails website and to prepare digitally for what was going to be an incredibly “back-to-basics” experience. It meant that when I was out and just had the maps in front of me and the items on my bike/back I was prepared. I was never going to be completely on my own as I knew the routes would eventually bring me into a village, where there would be at least a corner shop and someone to ask for directions. The one thing it couldn’t prepare me for was just how wonderful the experience would be. It was glorious to unplug for those 10 days and get out and explore the county that I grew up in. There was not an inch of the countryside that disappointed. When you are cycling along in the sunshine and there is nothing on the horizon but the road or path or another beautiful vista… Well… there is nothing quite like it. The routes allowed me to take in the very best that Norfolk has to offer and I appreciated every second of it. Each town I went through had the same charm and sense of timelessness. I learnt so much about the history, about what was happening now and suddenly the surroundings took on a deeper meaning. Suddenly Thetford became the royal home of Boudica. Harleston became part of the Harleston and Waveney Art Collective. Diss became the place I took a midnight stroll and saw the moonlit mere. The landscapes in between them full of the same rich history and varied beauty.
Pictured: Diss Mere at night
From inside dweller to outside enjoyer in just 10 days. Navigate Norfolk was a far bigger adventure than I ever could have imagined. Especially on that day enjoying a coffee with my Nan when the idea came into being. With the help of the people I met, those that sponsored me, the businesses that helped and Norfolk Trails it turned out to be my first big adventure…..and I didn’t have to go far from home.
Generous local businesses that supported me –
The Jolly Farmers in Southery
The Black Horse in Thetford
The Saracen’s Head in Diss
The Park Hill Hotel in Lowestoft
Also would like to use this opportunity to say thank you to the family/friends/lovely couple in Harleston who also gave me a place to stay.
Thanks for reading.
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If you’ve been inspired by Becky’s adventure, you can still donate to her collection in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust – please take a look at her Just Giving page.