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Cycling in Norfolk

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The main highways of Norfolk present few difficulties to the majority of cyclists, and compared with neighbouring counties the surface of the roads is generally in good condition. This improvement has been very noticeable since the establishment of County Councils, and cyclists who remember well hair-breadth escapes when mounted on the old high bicycle, find on revisiting their former resorts that many terrors have vanished. Even now room for improvement exists, although much care is certainly expended on the difficult bits. Upon the whole, however, the roads must be considered good, and in some districts even fast. The climatic conditions which but slightly affect the roads in some counties, are more difficult to deal with effectually in Norfolk. The crown of the road rapidly cuts up when exposed to long periods of drought, consequently the months of July, August and September, when the greatest number of holiday-seekers come to the Land of the Broads, are, unfortunately, the particular months when the roads are at their worst. Under the healing influence of Spring showers and Autumn mists, Norfolk affords the cyclist some fine bits of riding, and whether pace or comfort be the aim of the traveller, it is attainable at will.

Suppose you are coming down from town for a fortnight's easy touring in Norfolk, with as much as possible of the sea-coast included. From Ipswich the road deviates towards Norfolk's border, and if you choose, you may remain in Suffolk even as far as the borders of Great Yarmouth itself, and enter Norfolk by the famous seaport.

But a pleasanter way by far is the main Norwich road which leads by some twenty-two miles of village life to the ancient White Hart at Scole, known as Scole Inn. Turning to the right here, and forsaking Norwich for a time, a pleasant undulating surface brings you to Harleston, whence a fast run leads through pretty scenery made up of river, marsh, and fenland to a protruding hill in Suffolk which juts across this route to Yarmouth, turns the river Waveney out of its course and marks the site of Roger Bigod's ancient Castle of Bungay. Once through the little town the road turns sharply eastward again by a huge malting at Ditchingham (a mile from Rider Haggard's famous Farm and the Hall and Lake) runs a straight course to Kirby Cane, then by Geldeston Hall to Gillingham again through marshy country, turns slightly here to left and right by an old ivy-covered steeple and gives scope on approaching Toft-Monks for the user of the free-wheel. A run down hill brings you to a bleak wind-swept tract of country somewhat like Holland, and should the wind be favourable a rapid pace will result over the two miles of Dam leading to St Olaves " Bell " when railway and river have been crossed. Haddiscoe Station Bridge has long been a terror. It is positively dangerous for any but experienced lady- riders to attempt, and more than one man has regretted his valour in crossing the bridge. The famous Fritton Decoy is the next object of interest, and may be seen on the right hand just after a sharp rise through the Suffolk village. When Yarmouth is full of trippers, the roads are a maze of rough dusty ruts, and if these trippers are out for the usual country drives on every description of brake and char-a-banc, the entry into the town is not an agreeable one for the cyclist; but in early Summer or Autumn the road is not so cut up, and good riding can be obtained until Southtown Road is reached. All sorts and conditions of cycles exist in Yarmouth, and a day spent there will reveal to you a truly wonderful variety of hired machines. A large and well managed Cycling Club exists here with head-quarters at "the Cromwell" on the quay, and is called the Great Yarmouth Wheelers. Both ladies and gentlemen take part in certain of the runs and picnics, notices of which are posted up regularly. If you choose Yarmouth as your headquarters for a while, many pleasant rides out and home may be made and various places of interest visited - the travelling generally being on fairly level roads. Perhaps, however, you may prefer to cycle through the famous Broad district and make for Cromer, taking at once the most favoured run in the whole county. Passing St Nicholas Church on the right, and journeying straight on to Caister (the remains of the old Castle and Manor are off the main road to the left) you soon reach the lovely villages of Ormesby, the road winding through shady avenues of trees past well-kept gardens and orchards and cutting in two the famous Broad near which is the Eel's Foot Inn. Thickly wooded Rollesby next claims attention, and then the cycle bears you on to Potter-Heigham on the river Thurne, where there are many trim yachts and pleasant, cooling breezes. Five miles of narrow winding road brings you to tiny Stalham, famous in election times for its enthusiasm, and a further stretch of winding road, through quiet but pretty villages to North Walsham, a town with some claims to attention. Before the loss of its spire, 147 feet in height, the grand church must have been a conspicuous land-mark, and what remains is still worth seeing. Worstead, a parish which in remote times was of sufficient importance to give its name to its manufactures, lies only three miles to the south-east. Beautifully shaded roads lead from North Walsham on by Gunton House and Park to the junction with the Aylsham Road to Cromer; when, due attention being paid to the N.C.U. caution board after passing the railway station, Cromer will be reached.

A run out from Cromer by Overstrand and Sidestrand to Mundesley, will reveal many of Norfolk's best features. After exploring the district round Cromer, other rides will lead you through the woodland scenery of the Sheringhams and on to Holt, where, before proceeding again seawards to Wells, detours should be made in order to visit the mansion of Lord Hastings at Melton Constable, with its park stocked with red and fallow deer; and also, notwithstanding the cross-country routes, to Walsingham in order to take a peep at the ruins of the Priory which contained the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. You will thus follow on cycle in the footsteps of many a bare-footed pilgrim of old. Walsingham Abbey grounds, if open, are also worth a visit. There is not very much to attract you in Wells itself; but do not miss Holkham Park, whose evetgreen oaks and other noble trees overshadow perfect cycling roads. The Hall, to which admission can be obtained only by special permission, contains a valuable collection of art treasures. Leaving the Park at the west lodge it will be easy for the cyclist if he desires, to ride on to Nelson's birthplace, Burnham Thorpe; and thence by Burnham Market and Docking over fairly good roads to Heacham.

Turning northward again, you may reach the beautiful red and white cliffs of Hunstanton, beloved of geologists. Then come Sandringham, Castle Rising, and Kings Lynn, and this is a route which takes you through delightful pine woods and a charming undulating country. At Lynn you come in touch with the former days of cycle road records. Many an old rider, such as G. P. Mills and Holbein, has dashed under the old South Gate, only to obtain the necessary check, a signature of some London club official, and then away, faster than ever, to regain the Great North Road by Wisbech and Peterborough. From Lynn, good roads lead to East Winch; but from there the road narrows in the curves before Narborough, widening again over the chalk hills by the railway cutting to Swaffham, which town will be readily known by its welcome appearance after a tedious bit of straight road. If time is no object, a visit to Castle Acre priory, leaving the main road at Narborough for this purpose, will well repay you.' By Necton and Fran- sham the scenery is more attractive, but still somewhat commonplace. As the road winds round into East Dereham, however, the country improves, and the sixteen miles to Norwich are over undulating surface, for the greater part well-wooded, especially after leaving Tuddenham. The entrance into Norwich is by a capital wide road, and if you have had a day's hard riding you will better appreciate its downward slope.

Of Norwich, from a cycling point of view, perhaps the least said the better. The streets are mostly narrow and the paving has been so much interfered with for sewage schemes and tram-line laying that it must be some time before all the unpleasantness of riding in the city is removed. On a fine Tuesday in summer no more delightful route than the following can be chosen: Aylsham Road, St Faith's Stratton Strawless (a lovely avenue of woods) Hevingham, Aylsham, and Blickling Gardens, which on this day in summer are free to the public. Here you may pass a very pleasant hour, lying upon the greensward and admiring the wealth of colour afforded by the old garden; or indulging in a stroll in the maze of gravel walks. The rest over, ride by way of North Walsham from Aylsham, and then turn towards Norwich again; noting on the journey the beauties of Westwick and the glimpse of river at Coltis-hall which should tempt you to visit also Wroxham Broad.

Another plan is to start out on the Yarmouth road through Thorpe and Whitlingham, pass Blofield, and pull up at prettily situated Acle. For the purpose of puzzling out a road that delights some minds turn here for Free- thorpe and Reedham, which some folk say was a seaport in the times of the Vikings. Crossing the Yare at Reedham Ferry is a novel experience. After that is over make for tiny Loddon. From Loddon a fine road leads by Langley Park and Thurton, through Framingham and Bixley to Trowse Bridge, where Colman's Works and Carrow House adjoin Bracondale Hill.

Still another interesting ride from Norwich is by Newmarket Road to Hethersett and Wymondham (a favourite resort for Norwich cyclists) over the fast level road to Attleborough, and so to Thetford. The return journey will be by the narrow roads between the numerous fern-covered rabbit warrens to Watton, near which is Merton Hall. This road leads through wooded country to Hingham, skirting Kimberley Park, mounting the heights of Colney and so back to the City once more. When at Thetford the return may be made, if preferred, through more rabbit country to East Harling, which is not far from Quidenham Park, the seat of the Earl of Albemarle who as Viscount Bury was President of the N.C.U. The road winds and descends rapidly to Lopham and then becomes more level and leads through a pretty district to Roydon and Diss. The main street turns at the base of a steep hill and leads on to Scole Inn, and if desirous of reaching London you can leave Norfolk straightaway.

Another peep at Norfolk can be obtained by following through Dickleburgh the up and down road to Long Stratton and Newton Flotman, which leads by Harford Bridge to Norwich. From here another route for London is by way of Poringland and Brooke (a very pretty spot), by Woodton and Ditchingham Hall to Bungay, where the Suffolk route to Ipswich is by way of Halesworth.

In conclusion, a word about the Eastern Counties Centre of the N.C.U., which was founded in Norwich and thanks to admirable management, has developed into a most useful organisation. In 1897 the Earlham Road Track was the scene of some of the N.C.U. Championships, and few who were present will ever forget the sternly contested events. Cromer and Great Yarmouth also possess tracks worthy of the name, but most local sports are held on grass courses.

A list of places where the cyclist may find suitable accommodation and refreshment, and, if necessary, seek out the repair shops, follows:

Acle, Attleborough, Aylsham, Blofield, Brooke, Burnham Market, Cley, near the Sea, Coltishall, Cromer, Dereham, Dersingham, Diss, Ditchingham, Docking, Downham, Drayton, Fakenham, Harleston, Hingham, Holt, Hunstanton, Loddon, Lynn, Mundesley, Norwich, Do. North Walsham, Reepham, Scole, Sheringham, Stalham, Stratton, Swaffham, Tacolnestone, Queen's Head Hotel. Angel Hotel. Dog Hotel. Globe Hotel. King's Head Inn. Thomas Temp. Hotel. George Hotel. White Horse Inn. Imperial Hotel. King's Arms Hotel. Coach and Horses Inn. King's Head Hotel. The Falcon Inn. The Hare Hotel. Castle Hotel. The Cock Hotel. Lion Hotel. Magpie Hotel. The White Hart Hotel. The Feathers Hotel. Robert's Temp. Hotel. Swan Hotel. Duke's Head Hotel. Royal Hotel. Maid's Head Hotel. Gt. Eastern Hotel. Angel Hotel. King's Arms Inn. White Hart Inn. Sheringham Hotel. Railway Hotel. Swan Inn. Walker's Temp. Hotel. Pelican Inn. Thetford, Toft Monks, Walsingham, Watton, Wells, Wymondham, Great Yarmouth, Anchor Hotel. Cyclists' Rest. Black Lion Hotel. The Railway Hotel. The Crown Hotel. King's Head Hotel. The Cromwell Temp. Hotel.

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