Stout walking shoes are advisable, a pair of binoculars would also be useful. Some of this walk includes country roads. Please be careful of traffic when walking on roads.
Leave the station following the signs for the Bure Valley Railway, over the footbridge towards the narrow gauge railway station. Follow this route along the Bure Valley Walk, following the narrow gauge railway, climbing slightly out of the village before levelling off to give uninterrupted views across the surrounding countryside. Stay on this route, crossing a road at a keeper's cottage, then you will go under a red brick railway bridge. Turn up the steps on the left and you come to a road. Turn right onto the road, leaving the bridge behind you. Walk down this country lane. At a small, wooded green, fork right towards a large, white house. Where the road bends sharp to the right, go left onto the bridleway and immediately left onto a footpath. This path is flanked by hedges on both sides and comes out in Coltishall village opposite the village shop. Cross the road and turn left past the King's Head pub. Turn right into the pub car park, passing the Rising Sun car park over a small footbridge on the left beside the river, taking you onto Coltishall Lower Common, a popular mooring point for Broads cruisers.
At the end of the common, take the small road running parallel with the river heading towards a brick and flint wall, past the Old Rectory House, and a Dead End sign. This is Anchor Street, once famous for its boat building. At the end of this street, climb over the stile into the field, and at the second gate and stile you come to, take the right waymarked path. Stay on this, through some riverside meadows, crossing another stile into a small loke, which passes between a converted barn on the left and a brick and flint house on the right. Fork right through the kissing gate across a small field, and then out over the field over another stile, joining a small road which turns right towards the church and buildings of Belaugh.
Climb the hill towards St Peter's Church until you reach a t-junction. Turn left and follow this road until it joins the B1354. Turn right towards Wroxham and Hoveton down this country lane, keeping a watchful eye on the traffic. You will pass a house on the right called The Gables. About 50 metres on the left after this is a public footpath sigh pointing through the hedge. This path follows the line of a hedgerow bisecting two fields. At the end of the field cut through the gap and turn right, following the edge of the next field. At the top of the field, turn left and head towards the railway embankment. Climb the wooden steps and you are back on the Bure Valley Walk. Turn right and walk the short distance back to Hoveton and Wroxham station.
1. Bure Valley Walk
This walk follows the route of the former Great Eastern Railway line running between Wroxham and Aylsham, a distance of about nine miles. There are halts on the route at Coltishall, Buxton and Brampton, allowing walkers to let the train take the strain for part of the route. The Bure Valley Walk is one of the Broadland Country Walks series, published by Broadland District Council with assistance from the Bure Valley Railway Company. The leaflet is available from local TIC's and Broadland District Council.
The original railway had a relatively short working life as a passenger line. Work started in 1878, the contract being awarded at a price of £43,971. Contractor William Waddell employed 187 men, 22 horses and 46 wagons, and despite bad weather and a shortage of manpower, the line was finished ten days before the promised completion date.
It opened for freight and passengers on January 1st 1880, but was destined to failure in the 1880's, typical trains had anything between 4 and 25 passengers on board. Saturdays were slightly better - sometimes as many as 47 passengers - coming back from market at Norwich.
Buses proved the next nail in the coffin. The first 'boneshaker' bus started to run from Norwich to Aylsham and Cromer in 1881 and was soon found to be more efficient than the trains. Despite a little flurry of activity during the war when RAF stations generated more custom, there was a rapid decline, and the line closed for passengers in 1952.
The closure did not go without local political comment. At Buxton station the flag flew at half mast and in Aylsham the station was decorated with black and white crepe and Chopin's Funeral March was played.
When the last train stopped, detonators were exploded and the driver and fireman were presented with cigars and bottled beer. A dahlia wreath was hung on the engine and the card read: "To the memory of another limb of private enterprise which was amputated during the scourge of nationalisation 1881 - 1952".
How life comes full circle!
No walk in the broads would be complete without pausing for a moment to reflect on the most majestic craft of the rivers - the wherries. These black sailed trading craft are inextricably linked with the Broads navigational history. It takes something of a leap of imagination to recall that these waterways were once a vital network for communication. In an underdeveloped landscape - marshy, boggy and with unbridged rivers - they were essential arteries of trade.
Commercial traffic was at its height in the 19 century with as many as 300 trading wherries carrying everything from ice, to cement, reeds for thatching, timber, coal, food, produce, hay and litter, and even sand to cover the floors of Norwich pubs.
3. Allens Yard
Coltishall is reputed to have been the birthplace of the wherry which were once the main cargo - carrying craft on the Broads.
John Allen bought a boatyard in Anchor Street for £400, and in the second half of the 19th century it emerged as a major wherry building centre.
After the first world war the yard maintained the wherries which still sailed the waterways, and later built and hired out Broads cruisers. The end came in 1974 when the yard was sold, the boat sheds demolished to make way for a residential development.