Early in November 2022 Cycling UK published their latest route The Rebellion Way, a loop of about 373 km that starts in Norwich and circles around Norfolk and Suffolk inland and along the coast on a mixture of hopefully quiet roads and easy gravel tracks. For logistical reasons we are starting in King’s Lynn.
The route celebrates two rebellions, Boudicca, as in “Never mess with a woman and her daughters” and much, much later, in 1549, Kett’s Rebellion against the fencing off of common lands by wealthy landowners. Neither of the rebellions ended well, so hopefully we will not be following the leaders too closely.
The route of the Rebellion Way
We set off to do a circuit of King’s Lynn down to the port through narrow streets and past old buildings. Being a Sunday and with the clocks changing last night it was very quiet and empty until we turned into the park and met a wave of mini pumpkins, devils and monsters which turned out to be the children’s Halloween Park Run.
The port at King’s Lynn
King’s Lynn centre
The park was lovely, full of large oak and chestnut trees decked in their autumn colours.
After winding around on a mix of cycle tracks we were out in the countryside and heading for Castle Rising.
Through the old village full of yet to open cafes, pubs and gift shops we arrived at the castle to find the gates firmly closed and officious notices telling us there was no admittance until 10.00. We took a few photos of the high banked defences and moat but it was disappointing not to get in to see the largest 12th century keep in the country.
As we headed toward Sandringham we were back on tracks and roads closed to traffic, again lots of big trees and autumn colour. Sandringham looked very different from our last visit when we lay on the grass in the sun eating ice-creams. Today there were just a few damp looking cyclists sitting outside the cafe. We had coffee and cake sheltering from the rain while deciding we couldn’t be bothered to go in and see the gardens. A first for me!
We actually went up a hill after leaving Sandringham, at least what passes for a hill in Norfolk! From the top of it we apparently had lovely views of The Wash. I am guessing that was the grey area below the grey sky! But there were lots of geese flying overhead.
The coast at Hunstanton
We did have a lovely ride along the sea defences into Hunstanton, we weren’t quite sure if we were allowed to ride along it but I couldn’t see a ‘No Cycling’ sign among the plethora of ‘No Everything Else’ signs as we set off. Hunstanton itself looked like my idea of a nightmare. Acres of static caravans then miles of grim looking buildings full of noisy gambling machines.
We stopped in the old part of town, typical Victorian resort area, for an early lunch and had the worst quiche I have ever attempted to eat, I wasn’t quite strong enough to cut the pastry.
Cycling up the drive to Holkham Hall
The sun came out in the afternoon so we had a pleasant cycle through Nelson’s birthplace then across the grounds of Holkham Hall once we had managed to shoehorn the bikes through their very narrow pedestrian access.
Deer in the grounds of Holkham Hall
Heading towards Wells-next-the-sea
Having sampled Holkham’s tea and cakes it was an easy roll along the seafront to Wells-next-the-sea where we are staying in a B&B.
We set off in sunshine towards Cromer the next morning which makes all the difference, and wound our way through the narrow old streets of Wells before heading up a rutted farm track.
Although we crisscrossed lots of busy roads we were on tiny rural lanes for most of the morning through pretty, varied countryside of mixed fields and woodland, and it was great to have more hills, am I alone in loving hills?
We got to the old village of Walsingham too early for anything to be open, but stopped for pictures
Walsingham is an ancient pilgrimage centre and I just managed to avoid running over a nun when rounding a sharp corner while simultaneously looking up at some interesting first floor architecture. She was very nice about it and gave me a big smile.
Lamium still flowering in November
We had some more rough tracks during the morning but all too short. We had hoped to stop in Thursford but everything was shut there too, so we made good time to Holt were there were a multitude of teashops to choose from, and were soon munching teacakes and drinking coffee.
Luckily there was a pedestrian bridge as this ford was quite deep
Lots of white and red campion was still flowering
The lovely scenery continued as we headed towards Baconthorpe where we took a small detour to see the ruins of Baconthorpe Castle. It is currently fenced off as its getting a bit precarious, but you can still see through it. We realised on the way back to the road why the cycling today has seemed so easy, we have had a tailwind all day; how it should always be.
But it was the end of the day that made this a brilliant cycle tour for me. After leaving Sheringham we headed uphill and along a rough track that eventually lead to a single track through the woods. It was covered in golden chestnut leaves and was quite beautiful if not a little slippery as it was so steep.
Once at the top the track took us to a view point looking over Sheringham and out to sea.
Then we back tracked and had a lovely time on the single track splashing our way around the woods and sliding on the mud. This bit would be tricky after a lot of rain. Leaving the tracks and back on the road we headed down a hill into the National Trust Lions Mouth. And it was like dropping into a lions mouth. We plunged down the hill through truly ancient woodland, past enormous oaks, beech and chestnut trees and over a golden carpet of fallen leaves. I saw some of the best trees ever, and I have looked at a lot of trees. It was amazing.
At the bottom we turned into the drive of Felbrigg Hall and cycled past the old Hall and around the grounds.
The next day we had a long way to go, 120 km, and it now gets dark so early we decided to leave at 6.30 just as it gets light. The night duty manager at the hotel kindly got up early so we could get our bikes out. Luckily the heavy rain overnight had literally just stopped leaving a clear blue sky and a blinding rising sun, but it was blowing a gale and promised a strong headwind as far as Norwich.
an unusual old church with a thatched roof
We had a couple of miles climb out of Cromer to get back on our route then mixed off-road tracks and small rural lanes.
Interesting fungi at the base of an old oak tree
Rushing into waterproofs as the rain added itself to the gale force wind
Narrow gauge trains next to the Bure Valley rail trail
Our track was fairly unpleasant to cycle. Bernie’s handlebars are fairly wide and only just fitted on the narrow path, frequently clipping the wire railway fence, and on the bridge scraping both sides. After a few miles the cycleway was blocked by building works so we had to backtrack to the last exit and it took us about 5 miles on the road to find our way back.
After a long battle against wind the clouds arrived with rain just before we got to The Broads. I had always assumed that The Broads would be a bit like the Somerset Levels, with lots of water everywhere. But we only glimpsed water a couple of times where lots of boats were moored up and that was it. I was a bit disappointed really.
After 71 km we made it to Norwich in time for an early lunch. Leaving Norwich was grim cycling for about 27 km. There must be another way to take the route rather than this dull and busy road. It was only livened up by the thunderstorm and torrential rain which turned the roads to rivers.
But all bad things come to an end and we turned off onto a muddy forest track
which lead to Wacton Common where we struggled across two large, rutted fields, dodging cowpats and cows. Tiring stuff.
We were now on Boudicca Way and the low sun in the now clear sky meant we could no longer see were we were going as we slithered and splashed along the wet muddy tracks.
Just before Diss, it was now pretty dark, we were confronted by a wide and deep looking ford crossing.
Luckily, after back tracking a bit we did eventually find a bridge around the corner
On our forth and final day we had another 6.30 start. Again a lovely clear sky but thankfully today the rising sun was behind us, so less blinding.
Also better today was the wind, still there but not so strong as we rolled along the small lanes across the wide and flat agricultural landscape.
Before long we turned off-road through the beautiful woodland on Hurling Common. As this area is sandy it had drained off better than the boggy tracks yesterday. We were in Thetford by 9 so stopped off for some breakfast.
A Fly Agaric. There were a lot of these about in the forest
After Thetford we were riding through mainly conifer forest for miles, either on roads or on sandy forest tracks which were fun.
At one point, while skirting military land, we found ourselves riding along the Desert Rat’s Trail.
Our route took us through Lynford Arboretum and some lovely trees. It would have been nice to have more time to spend there.
We stopped off in Swaffham for lunch just as the day started to get colder and the wind got stronger again. There were some really good tracks after lunch. Rough full width farm tracks through open countryside which were fun to ride
The bailey in Castle Acre with a portcullis
The priory ruins in Castle Acre
Castle Acre ruins
The tracks were interspersed with lanes and got sandier as we got nearer King’s Lyn.
Trying to avoid a very deep puddle
The last section into King’s Lynn was a great ride along Sandy Lane up past the ruins of St James’s Church. Despite going 120 km again we were back in King’ Lynn by 4 and not nearly as tired as yesterday. Just shows what a difference a head wind makes.
To see our previous bike-packing trip on the Dorset 330 see below:-