A late September heatwave was forecast, so as it seemed impossible to contemplate spending it stuck indoors on a computer then regretting that all winter, I decided to do swim cycles every day while it lasted. This is the first trip, a solo impulse outing along delightful lanes to the lovely river Nar at Castle Acre.
It was warming up nicely on 3 September 2023, with glorious nonstop sunshine for a solitary ride. I started from a quiet lane near the lost village of Bittering, along roads that seemed unusually empty, to the beautiful village of Litcham. I looked in its welcoming church, then cycled the leafy lanes of the Lexhams that overlook parkland, and stopped at East Lexham’s Saxon round towered church with its unusual paintings, http://www.norfolkchurches.co.uk/eastlexham/eastlexham.htm.
Cycling through Lexham avenues; one of the paintings in South Lexham church
I took an ancient byway, now part of the Nar Valley long distance path, through Newton. This should have led to the mill where I hoped there might be swimming, but annoyingly it seemed that a householder had got the historic path diverted, through what looked to me like a misuse of the CROW legislation. I was pleased to read a couple of months later that locals have been challenging this with the help of national Ramblers. Norfolk County Council agreed to register the long used route but the path-blocking resident appealed, there was a public appeal, and it is currently with the planning inspectorate, https://www.itv.com/news/anglia/2023-11-21/village-frustrated-over-blocking-of-countryside-footpath-used-for-centuries.
The ancient lane through Newton; the common – diversion around blocked path, blue fleabane flowers and close up insert
The diverted path went through the common which was a treat with mysterious bumps and hollows, abundant flowers I’d never seen before (blue fleabane, I found out later). The mill pool looked quite tempting, but overlooked by houses and after the unwelcoming path closure it somehow wasn’t. Had it been as hot as the week that followed it might have been irresistible.
I continued along the lanes to Castle Acre, and downhill to the ford. A little way upstream there are pools just deep enough to immerse, and I got into the crystal clear water quickly before I changed my mind. The expression on my face in the selfies I took show what a cold shock it was, only 14 degrees, not yet heated by the glorious sunshine.
The river Nar at Castle Acre; the crystal clear water with rope swing
After a picnic I cycled on, and soon was warmed up by the surprising number of Norfolk hills – an elevation of 230 feet is quite a lot in this county. I stopped for a snack at Beeston church, and photographed the view from the hill in the low evening sun, before returning to my starting point.
Map showing route taken, 19.3 miles in 8 hours, one swim