People do not usually go to a city to search for wildlife but without having to look too hard it soon becomes apparent that all sorts of plants and animals can be found. The river corridor provides a green link through the heart of the city with abundant wildlife, immediately obvious in the form of the resident wild fowl exploiting people for their free hand outs! Away from the river, green spaces include parks, cemeteries, woodland and many once developed sites slowly being recolonised by both native and introduced wildlife.
Stout walking shoes are advisable, a pair binoculars would also be useful.
Please note that the sections of this walk along the Riverside and through the Rosary Cemetery are closed after dusk.
Leaving Norwich Station cross Foundry Bridge on Prince of Wales Road and turn immediately right into the pub garden to begin the riverside walk. The walk continues to Bishopgate where it resumes by the car park at the rear of the Red Lion Pub. Continue to Whitefriars Bridge, turn left here towards the cathedral and turn almost immediately left by the Church of St Martin at Palace. Follow Bishopgate over the Wensum and cross Riverside Road, turn left and at the roundabout turn right to ascend Ketts Hill. Half way up Ketts Hill on the right is the entrance to Ketts Heights. On leaving Ketts Heights continue up the hill then turn right into Quebec Road, then by the Quebec Pub turn left into Wolfe Road.
At the cross-roads adjacent to Thorpe Hamlet Middle School turn right, Lion wood is straight ahead. Two paths are visible in the wood, take the higher one to the left and continue until a flight of wooden steps is reached. Halfway down these steps take the path to the right which leads to an open grassy area which should be crossed and the path up into the wood on the other side followed. Follow the trim trail apparatus until Telegraph Lane East is reached, cross the lane and enter Rosary Cemetery by the unmarked gate in the fence on the other side. Follow the middle path down hill through the cemetery and on reaching the far side turn right to find the exit in the corner of the cemetery. Turn left onto Rosary Road then right onto Thorpe Road to return to the station.
1. Riverside Walk
Follow the bank of the River Wensum keeping your eyes and ears open for the iridescent blur or high pitched call of the Kingfisher which breed in drainage pipes in the river walls and can occasionally be seen perched on an overhanging riverside branch. Near neighbours are the colourful Grey Wagtails, more common on faster flowing rivers, which feed on small insects and larvae. Great Crested Grebes nest on floating rafts of sticks along some of the overgrown banks and can sometimes be seen carrying chicks on their backs. Plant life along the path includes Oxford Ragwort (which can be found on the walls close to the Law Courts).
Originally recorded in the Oxford University Botanic garden in the 1770's, it has spread along the railways to most urban areas in England and Wales! Other exotic escapes to look out for are Giant Hogweed (growing next to the first wooden footbridge) and Japanese Knotweed (growing next to the Law Courts) described as the most pernicious weed in Britain! Both were popular Victorian garden plants and have spread along the waterways of Britain. The riverside walls have been colonised by Ivy-Leaved Toadflax and Hairy Willow Herb more commonly found on rocky outcrops. The vigorous Buddleia attracts many butterflies during the summer.
2. Ketts Hill
Well worth the climb for the fine views of the city. Centred on the ruins of St Michael's Chapel, the abandoned garden has been turned into a wildlife area by volunteers. Many common wild flowers nave been introduced to complement Columbine and Canadian Golden-rod (another popular Victorian garden plant!).
Alexanders is plentiful here, first recorded in Norwich in 1780, introduced in Britain as a 'pot herb', a celery scented plant with shiny leaves and yellow/green flowers. Scrub birds such as Willow Warbler and Blackcap can be seen or heard. Butterflies such as Peacock, small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown and Small Skipper are attracted by the wild flowers.
3. Lion Wood
A remaining fragment of the wood recorded in the Doomsday Book which covered most of north east Norwich. A mixture of large old Beech and Oak, Holly and Hornbeam, with Norway Maple, Horse Chestnut and Sycamore in the adjacent Telegraph plantation. Where it is not too shady Bluebells, Red Campion, Climbing Corydalis, Wood Avens and Wood Sorrel can be found.
Woodland birds include Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaf. Dead trees are used by Woodpeckers and Nuthatch and breeding bats.
4. Rosary Corner
The oldest non-denominational cemetery in the country. Founded in 1821 by Thomas Drummond (a retired Presbyterian minister) on land which had been a market garden. Today it is managed to allow wild flowers to grow amongst the headstones, including Snowdrops, Primrose, Oxeye Daisy and Wild Strawberry. Sheltered by bramble are Foxglove, Wood Sorrel, Red Campion and Violets and exploiting the headstones are Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Biting and Reflexed Stonecrops. Amongst the native Oak, Beech, Birch and Holly are exotic trees such as Himalayan Cypress and Golden Sawara Cypress providing an ideal habitat for Tawny Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay.