Cycling The Marriott's Way
Reflections of our very enjoyable and adventurous days out cycling the Marriott's way

Cycle Ride Three
Approximately 33 miles
The Marriott's Way
Reepham to Norwich and return

On Wednesday 12th August 1998 Benjamin and I set out to full-fill a desire we had since we enjoyed our first cycle ride in May last year, that was to cycle "The Marriott's Way" from Reepham to Norwich, On that occasion, we explored the route as far as Attlebridge where we left "The Marriott's Way" on our return via Cawston to Reepham completing our 16 mile circular ride. This ride was to be the longest and most ambitious so far attempted by us, and like all our circular rides we had to return to the car which we had parked at Reepham station as usual, anyway we were up for it so here we go.
We left Reepham station at 10.10 am with the usual essentials on board and decided to cycle the short distance to Whitwell & Reepham station by road, where we then joined "The Marriott's Way". A description of the route from Whitwell & Reepham to Attlebridge I've described previously in cycle ride No.1 so this account really begins as we depart Attlebridge on the 9 mile dash to Norwich. The surface was the best we had yet encountered on any part of the Marriott Way, very easy going even though it was a long steady incline up through Felthorpe woods, We hadn't traveled very far before we came across an original M&GN concrete mile post which has miraculously survived the years since the closure of the line, it stands a quarter of a mile Norwich side of Attlebridge station and reads 44/l, which means it stands 44 ¼ miles from Kings Lynn and a quarter of a mile from Attlebridge station. There are a number of these mileposts on the North Norfolk still in their original locations at Weybourne Kelling heath and Sheringham. I wonder how many more of these posts have survived.
From 1916 a start was made replacing wooden posts with concrete ones, which were triangular in section with the mileage shown in a rectangular recess on two faces. ‘M&GN’ or N&S’ or the quarters in Roman numerals were cast below the mileage. Mileposts were generally sited on
the down side of the line.

Route Map
Reepham to Attlebridge

Route Map
Attlebridge to Norwich

The view to the right across the Wensum toward Morton and Weston Longville were very pleasant, wooden benches were observed along this section so that wary travelers could rest and at the same time take in the view, also observed were gas main markers which probably explains why the surface was so smooth. The decision to use of old track bed as a route for laying the gas main was obviously taken with a view to avoid the disruption that occurs with such schemes and at the same time providing a very acceptable cycling surface. We crossed the road known as 'fur covert road' where originally the single track crossed by means of an over bridge, long since demolished. As we head for Drayton the surface is still very good, a pleasant surprise was in store when we arrived at Thorpe Marriott, a new housing development, thoughtfully named after William Marriott.
Thorpe Marriott covers an area between the Norwich-Fakenham and Norwich-Reepham roads, I don't know why but we expected to find the path of the old railway swallowed up by this recent development but instead it continued like a green corridor through to Drayton, the only interruption was a single road crossing where road traffic actually has to give way to walker's and cyclist's using the path, at this point there is also a decorative sign marking the Marriott's Way. This has restored my faith in planners who all to often devastate such area's, I MUST CONGRATULATE THEM.

As we approach Drayton, we first cross the A1067 Norwich to Fakenham road, at this point the railway originally passed under the road but the bridge has long since been demolished, we crossed the road on foot and continued toward the site of Drayton station, after a short distance we came across the point where the railway passed under the brick arched bridge carrying the Taverham road, we had to take a detour round what use to be Drayton station which is now occupied by several modern industrial buildings, nothing resembling the previous occupancy of this site ‘the railway’ exists today.

Whitwell & Reepham
Bridge 276
Whitwell & Reepham
Girder Bridge 261
'A' frame bridge 249
at Hellesdon
'A' frame bridge 249
at Hellesdon
Thorpe Marriott

A frame bridge 254

We rejoin the route in Costessey Lane at the site where the track passed over this road, earth steps have been provided to aid access to the top of the embankment from the small car park. From there only a few yards away we could see the
‘A frame’ bridge No.254, which spanned the river Wensum here, we paused for refreshment and a photo, as we tried to imagine what it might have looked like in its heyday as a train bound for Norwich would emerge from quite a deep cutting after passing under the A l067 and Taverham road before coming to a halt at the down platform, the locomotive coming to rest almost opposite the signal box situated at the Norwich end of the platform. On departure the train would pass over Costessey road and after only 200 yd's return to the single track just before it crossed the river continuing its journey toward Norwich.
Well, back to the present day, we press on wondering what our next stop, 'Hellesdon' might look like, our reference book records the remains of the platform and cattle dock still in existence, I have to say, the two and a quarter miles from Drayton to Hellesdon was really hard work after what we had been use to,
As we arrived at Hellesdon, (unaware at first that we had done so), we found it completely overgrown, part
of the platform is still there but only just visible, the cattle dock was completely covered in brambles, investigation impossible.A rough car park occupies the area where the station building and the station approach once were. there was also evidence of where the road bridge No. 250 (now demolished) which carried Marl pit lane over the line once stood, represented by a large mound in the middle of the track bed,
I was disappointed to discover the loss of this bridge, after seeing photographs of it, I was quite looking forward to seeing it in the flesh as it were with its decorative cast spandrels, I wonder what happened to them ?. Marl pit lane has at some stage been rerouted to improve the road system, It now crosses a few yards further on.

As we cross the road to continue our journey toward Norwich, we find that the old track bed now forms part of the Norwich cycle path complex, and has a tarmac surface, almost immediately we came across the second 'A frame' bridge (No. 249) where the railway crossed the river Wensum. As we continued toward the city we were surprised by the amount of people that were using the path. ‘A Frame’ bridge No 249 spans the river Wensum at Hellesdon as it has done for 120 years, its great to see it still serving its purpose although the traffic it now carries is somewhat lighter than that for which it was originally constructed. What a splendid sight it must have been to stand at this point when the M&GN was in its heyday, as a train departing Hellesdon crossed this bridge on route to Norwich. I often wish I could travel back in time (and take my camcorder and SLR). After a short distance we passed under the A140 Norwich ring road, (Sweet Briar Road), followed shortly by Mile Cross Road bridge, which we passed under, to find ourselves in a park like area. As we cross the Wensum again we realised that this was the point where the approach to the old city station began, the railway crossed the river at this point by another ‘A frame’ bridge,
(No. 247) which sadly has been replaced by a wooden pedestrian bridge, built on the foundations of the original. The path continued to follow the original taken by the railway (behind MFI) which terminated at a point now occupied by a roundabout at the junction of Barn Rd and St Crispians Rd on the Norwich inner ring road. The city station site occupied the area between Heigham Street and the river Wensum, but like Drayton, is now redeveloped and supports numerous Industrial and retail Warehouses. One thing I was amazed by as we cycled toward the city on this path, was that it was like traveling through a green corridor, looking nothing like city or suburbs until we emerged at the end of the path by the Inner ring road and Halfords superstore.

Nothing at all remains today of the railway at the old City station site to be photographed.
I found this short paragraph in the introduction of one of Ronald H. Clark’s books ‘An illustrated History of M&GN Locomotives’.
I thought it summed up the passion that people associated with the M&GN had for their railway and never really accepted the need for its closure, both he and his father before him were M&GN men.

“The M&GN (save for a few hundred chains in North Norfolk) has gone forever and lately one of the three ‘A framed’ bridges
nigh onto Norwich was wantonly destroyed by an authority which should have known better.
I hope therefore this volume will help the younger readers who never knew the “joint”
to appreciate how efficiently it was run and what a “matey” kind of delightful
railway it really was.”

Ronald H. Clark

By this time we were quite hungry and as there was a bench close by which overlooked the river, we decided to stop for some lunch. Unfortunately it wasn't the most idyllic relaxing lunch break we had both deserved, because I was aware that all was not well, my trusty stead had let me down, 'MY BACK TYRE WAS FLAT and all attempts to repair it failed, a shopping trip to Halfords to purchase a new Inner tube was the only remedy, luckily Halfords was only a stones through away, really it couldn't have happened in a better place, it would really have spoilt our day if it had happened at some remote location along the way.

Anyway with that little crisis behind us we set off on our return Journey, we had enjoyed the route so much that we decided to follow it back, a majority of it was quite easy to cycle. We paused at a couple of places again on our return, when we reached Whitwell and Reepham we stopped for a rest and finished off the remainder of our refreshments while deciding whether to leave the Marriott Way here and cycle back by road to Reepham (some one and a half miles), or to continue and complete the whole route taking us round the Themblethorpe curve and back to Reepham (a further five and a half miles), determined not to brand ourselves defeatists we soldered on enjoying every minute.

We arrived back at Reepham at 4.15 PM, approximately 6 hours and 33 miles since leaving, that did include an hour and a half stop at Norwich for lunch and essential maintenance to my bike, so all in all we did exceptionally well. After patting each other on the back, we loaded our cycles into the car and enjoyed a well earned fizzy drink before driving home.

Can’t wait