Saracen's Head is a lovely 19th-century Inn situated in a rural location surrounded by open…
Deep in the lovely valley of the River Bure, which winds its way through fertile agricultural land on its way to the Broads, lie a pair of stately homes. These are Mannington Hall and Wolterton Hall, both owned by Lord and Lady Walpole. The grounds are run with a view to conservation and ecologically safe management, so they are a haven for wildlife.
Mannington Hall is the older of the two houses. Licence to crenellate – to beef up the defences – was granted in 1451 to a man named William Lumner, and by 1460 a house was under construction. It was improved and partly rebuilt in the 1860s, and restored again in the 1960s. The house is a glorious sight, with a moat surrounding it on all sides. Inside the hall, there are some curious inscriptions on a door. These are a tirade against women, and warn the readers that 'A tiger is something worse than a snake, a demon than a tiger, a woman than a demon, and nothing worse than a woman'. These are thought to have been inscribed by the 4th Earl of Oxford.
The gardens of Mannington Hall are a joy to walk around, whether you prefer the ordered neatness of a formal rose garden or the jumbled confusion of wild flowers nodding in the breeze. The grounds also contain the ruins of 14th-century St Mary's Church, surrounded by fragments of statues and works of art collected by the 4th Earl. Inside the church is the plain sarcophagus he designed – his inscription tells us he was the only one he trusted to provide something suitably grand to hold his remains. However, he is not inside it. His successors buried him at nearby Itteringham.
Wolterton Hall is a complete contrast. It was built by Thomas Ripley in the 1720s for Horatio Walpole, younger brother of Britain's first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole. It has been in the same family ever since. The building was abandoned in 1858 when the family moved to Mannington, but was restored in 1905 when they returned.
The two houses offer more than 20 miles (32km) of waymarked walks, linking to the Weavers' Way long distance trail and the Holt Circular Walk. This walk takes you on some of these permissive paths and footpaths around the estates.
From the car park head north past the information centre, following a marked trail through trees to reach a boardwalk across a wet flower meadow. This soon veers left to reach a bird hide overlooking a small lake. Turn right to follow the field edge, to reach a junction with a track that is a public footpath (green circular sign). Turn right, where the way is marked by old oaks. Cross a stile, with Hall Farm to your left. At the end of the field go left through a gate, cross a stile at the corner of a farm building, and go right onto the driveway. Go straight across the road ahead, ascending and descending a gentle hill until you reach a second crossroads. Go left, towards Wolterton. When you reach Park Farm, turn right.
Follow this lane for about 1.5 miles (2.4km), passing the Saracen's Head on your left. The road is called Wall Lane and it is obvious why, with flint cobble giving way to brick wall, keeping the grounds of Wolterton safe from invaders. Wolterton Hall and the ruin of a round tower church are visible over the wall to the right. When the lane bends left, look for the footpath sign on your right. This follows the edge of two huge fields, with Calthorpe Plantation off to the right. Reaching a farm track, follow it sharp left before emerging onto a lane.
Turn right, then sharp right again at the next set of farm buildings. Go left after a few paces and follow the lane around the edge of Fring Wood. When you see White House Farm, just after another small wood to the right, take the public footpath along the private drive, going through its yard and continuing ahead until you reach a stile and a farm track. Cross to the track opposite and walk through a meadow to reach Itteringham, emerging at Manor House by a junction.
Turn right (not sharp right) to walk uphill past the church. Continue a little further to reach a road to the left opposite a house.
Take the footpath that leads diagonally left across a field towards the corner of a wood. Go through a gap in the hedge and over a stile to follow the edge of the wood. Cross another stile at the road, then turn left to walk a short distance before turning right into the car park.
Public footpaths, farm tracks and quiet lanes
Rolling fertile valley, conservation areas and woodland
Not allowed in gardens of Mannington Hall; permitted on lead in grounds of both houses
AA Walker's Map 21 North Norfolk Coast
Visitor centre at Mannington Hall (pay at reception or honesty box if closed)
Visitor centre at Mannington Hall
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.
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