The National Trust, Blickling, Norwich, NR116NF TehAylsham (026373)3 Ketton-Cremer. Just how permanent they have remained can be seen along the two trails laid out through the park and woodland of the hall grounds – the beautiful Lakeside and Woodland Walks.
Off B1436 half way between junction with A148 and Felbrigg village – about 2> miles south west of Cromer
Map reference: TG194
Two 11-mile trails exploring wood and parkland around 17th-century mansion owned by National Trust Open April-mid-October Mondays or Fridays)
Illustrated trail guides; car park; tea room; picnic place; garden produce shop; mansion with fine library, 18th-century furnishings and paintings
Fclbrigg Hall was partly built and the park developed by William Windham I and his grandson William Windham II. The plans for the West Wing are dated at 1675 and a fine ceiling in the drawing room at 1687. The Jacobean south part of the house predates this by some fifty years. It has a tall parapet and over the three protruding bays are carved the words The Woodland Walk explores the former deer park and old beech forest north of the hall and the Lakeside Walk looks at some of the farmland and the ornamental lake to the south – both are approximately one-and-a-half miles long. All the hall grounds are being carefully managed to preserve the wildlife and keeping to the paths is a necessary part of this.
Early parts of the woodland walk are called the Primrose Walk (the flowers will be obvious
of the greatest influences on the countryside of the 17th and 18th centuries which has left an indelible impression on today’s rural environment, was the estate management practices of the landed gentry. They preserved the shape of woodlands with their park walls, brought some rationale to commercial forestry, planted new functional and ornamental wood-lands and furthered field division. This was also the birth of the era of the fashionable landscape gardener, a breed who, with their employers, could hardly afford to ignore the fact that, however picturesque their efforts became, parks were very much a part of profitable working estates.
These influences were brought to play in the development of Felbrigg Hall, a mid-17th- and early 18th-century manor donated to the National Trust in 1969 by Robert Wyndham «”
in spring) and take you through the deer park now quite well wooded with sycamore and beech. Some of the sweet chestnuts you see may be up to 300 years old and are probably survivors from the tree cultivating nursery set up by William Windham I to provide both ornamental trees and to restock his forests. Before entering the Great Wood, the path makes a tour through a small stretch of heath-land where the sandy subsoil will support only a rough undergrowth of bracken and brambles and where the dominant trees are pine and silver birch. The heathland leads uphill to the regimented plantation of conifers, part of the woodland the National Trust has invested in, with Forestry Commission help.
Throughout the walk you may have seen uncleared wood debris, dead trunks and other superb habitats for birds, mammals and insects. Less obvious is the fact that much bramble undergrowth has also been encouraged to develop and provide nesting sites. Birds of the Felbrigg woods and gardens include the great spotted woodpecker, the redstart, the
cottages. Sea anglers along this coast can expect catches of bass, cod, dab, flounder and plaice.
Very active local conservationists have made Norfolk a county of Nature Reserves but no visit to the northern part of the county would be complete without a visit to the Broads Reserve of Hickling. nuthatch and the tiny wren. The conifers harbour the red squirrel, its population sadly diminishing in the continuing onslaught from its hardier (and less attractive) grey cousin. Rarely seen, but here in numbers, is the stoat.
Emerging from the conifers, the path enters the Great Wood, a dense remnant of what was, for thousands of years a natural beech forest. Some of the trees are over 300 years old and top 100 feet – many are pollarded above the reach of feeding cattle and deer. Fencing stakes and firewood would be cut regularly from the new growths on the trunk. Part of the Great Wood is known as Victory Wood – it was planted at the end of the Second World War with conifers. The return to the house is along a ride which has been mowed and cleared to a pattern which gives three types of plant and animal habitat. This ride brings you back into the deer park trees and a quarter-mile stroll to reach the end of the trail.
While the Lakeside Walk is named for its track around the Hall’s lake, formed from a series of stocked fish pools in the mid-18th century, it ranges far wider than that. It sets out from close to the Hall’s Orangery greenhouse through a woodland, its fringe dotted with wild cherry trees, which give way to the more mature of the old Park trees – oak and sweet chestnut. The lake, a common feature of landscaping in 18th century, was not all that the second William Windham’s plans involved. Woodland, hedges, walls and outbuildings were razed to open the view between the house and the lake – to little avail as the water can barely be seen below the Park’s rise, over the slope of Roundwood Hill.
A haunt of moorhen, coot and duck, the lake has considerable stocks of coarse fish such as eel, tench, perch and pike which can be fished on day tickets available from the Hall. Herons may be seen fishing the periphery-the bigger birds here are Canada goose and the mute swan. Past the lake, in a high corner of the Park grounds, is a small clump of oak and beech planted to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee.
St Margaret’s church, a favourite of Sir John Betjeman’s, containing monuments by Nol-lekens and Grinling Gibbons, marks the path’s western limit. At one time, Felbrigg village will certainly have been scattered around the church – it is not identified at what time the Plague forced a move to its present location over half a mile away.
While you are at Felbrigg, do not fail to visit the walled garden – produce from it is on sale at the Hall during the summer. After your glimpse of the Hall’s delights, you can take tea, browse through the library or eat in the garden area set aside for picnics.
Felbrigg is only two miles from the coast resort of Cromer, its sandy beach fringed by lofty cliffs. Famed for crabs (and with a bit of luck you may get lobster here, too) the fishing boats work from the beach alongside the pier and lifeboat house. Amusements centre around the pier but the town also has a lifeboat museum at the foot of The Gangway, a five-acre zoo (lions, leopards, bears and monkeys) and a museum in a row of small fishermen’s
and land drainage schemes, the Broads are a fascinating haven of wildlife. Members of the Norfolk Naturalists’ Trust give commentaries on boat trips of Hickling Broad, Horsey Mere and Martham Broad Reserves, or you can visit a selection of observation hides by arrange-ment with the Trust. Boats leave from the Pleasure Boat Inn, Hickling.