The name Acle comes from an old Saxon word meaning oak grove, and this ancient settlement is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as having 23 villagers, 38 smallholders, 3 slaves and 40 pigs. Later, as the town continued to thrive, its occupants needed to travel further afield to sell their wares and buy other commodities, so a bridge was built in 1101 and named Weybrigg. An Augustinian cell was founded close by in 1225, and took its name from the bridge to become Weybrigg Priory. The priory fell victim to the Dissolution in 1536, and the stone from its walls was taken by locals.
Acle continued to prosper in the 13th century, when it was granted a charter to hold a market, and in Tudor times, hundreds of oaks were felled to provide timber to build Elizabeth I’s navy. In the 19th century Acle developed a lucrative boatbuilding trade, and boatyards sprang up all along the River Bure between Acle Bridge and Boat Dyke. It must have been a spectacular sight in 1890 when Acle’s first regatta was held and 150 yachts took to the water.
In 1883 the Great Eastern Railway opened a link between Acle and Great Yarmouth, and later the line was extended to Brundall to connect with the existing Norwich–Great Yarmouth line. When the Acle straight opened in 1831, it knocked 3.5 miles (5.7km) off the road journey from Acle to Great Yarmouth, cutting out the rather more circuitous route via Fleggburgh. There has been pressure in modern times to widen the road or make it a dual carriageway in order to improve traffic flow, but the stumbling block has been that the Acle straight passes through one of the most sensitive areas of the Broads.
While the town itself has seen development and expansion, it still has a traditional character at its heart, with people flocking here on Thursdays for the market. Equidistant from Norwich and Great Yarmouth, today Acle is known as the 'Gateway to the Broads', which holds true whether you happen to be a pleasure boater, tourist, angling enthusiast, cyclist or walker.
Leave the car park, turn right on to Bridewell Lane, and look for Pyebush Lane on your right. Walk down this, passing the recreation ground on your right, to the cemetery at the end. Turn left where the gravel track soon becomes a narrow path through fields. It is well signposted, but the isolated little church at Fishley is a useful landmark.
When you draw level with the church, continue along the footpath and walk through a vast field, then a smaller one. The path then becomes enclosed by hedges and trees. It jigs right and emerges onto a lane next to a large pink house. Turn right, then go left when you reach The Green.
Go right, along Boat Dyke Road, and keep right at the junction with Back Lane. When you see a 'No Through Road' sign, go left into the car park and head for Upton Staithe. Bear right and aim for the path along the right-hand side of the water. Go straight ahead, along the staithe that eventually reaches the River Bure. You can see at least five drainage mills from here: Palmer's, Tall Mill, Oby, Clippesby and Fleggburgh. At the end of Upton Dyke the path swings right along the river. This is a great place for boat-watching, which can be restful or amusing, depending on the experience and skill of the captains. Pass the Northern Rivers Sailing Club, keeping straight on along the river bank. Continue until you see Acle Bridge (once graced with an arch dating from 1830, but this was replaced by steel in 1931). When you reach the boatyard, follow the path to the right, then the left and cross the A1064 carefully (if the road is very busy, use the crossing point at the brow of the bridge, where you have maximum visibility in both directions) and aim for the Bridge Inn, which was once part of Weybrigg Priory, founded by Henry III. Make your way through the pub gardens, looking for the public footpath markers near the sign 'No Glasses Beyond this Point'. This is the Weavers' Way, and you walk along a raised grassy bank for a few steps before it becomes lined by tall reeds. It jigs inland for a short distance, but then rejoins the river until you reach Acle Dyke. At this point, the path is forced right.
Walk along the path, past boats bobbing at their moorings, until you reach a tiny gate. Go through this, cross a track and go through a second gate. This leads to a lane. The Weavers' Way heads away to the left, but you continue straight ahead until you reach the Hermitage Restaurant and Public House. Cross the road ahead, bear left, then immediately right and walk along the pavement of The Drive. At the junction bear right onto Bridewell Road, following the signs for the car park, which is on your right.
Mostly narrow paths along river banks and across fields
Windmill-studded marshes and rural marshland
Dogs should be on lead on agricultural land
AA Walker's Map 22 The Norfolk Broads
Free car park off Bridewell Lane, near library
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
The North Norfolk Coast is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and probably the finest of its kind in Europe. Here you’ll find a string of quaint villages and small towns – Holkham, Wells-next-the-Sea and Cley next the Sea are 21st-century favourites, while Sheringham and Cromer are classic examples of a good old-fashioned seaside resort where grand Victorian hotels look out to sea. Further round the coast you'll find Great Yarmouth, one of the most popular resorts in the UK and packed full of amusements, shops and seashore entertainment. And let's not forget Norwich, the region's only city.
Norfolk prides itself on its wealth of historic houses, the most famous being Sandringham, where Her Majesty the Queen and her family spend Christmas. Many of Norfolk’s towns have a particular charm and a strong sense of community. The quiet market towns of Fakenham and Swaffham are prime examples, as well as Thetford, with its popular museum focusing on the TV comedy series Dad’s Army which was filmed in the area.
Places to Stay
The Kings Arms is ideally situated in the village of Fleggburgh just a few miles from Great Yarmouth and well placed for touring the Norfolk Broads. The 19th-century, red-brick country pub has undergone a refurbishment to include individually styled...