Take a stroll with us for National Walking Month

Blog post by Chloe Webb on 06 May, 2021
May marks National Walking Month, so there's never been a better time to get out exploring your local area under your own speed. Here, Chloe Webb, who is on a voluntary placement with NWT, takes us with her on her local walk, painting a picture of the nature that can be found even in the heart of Norwich.

I'm sure you already know that walking is good for you. As well as the physical benefits, such as decreased blood pressure, improved bone health and a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes, walking amidst nature has become a much-lauded approach to improving mental wellbeing. However, you don't need to live in the middle of the countryside to reap the rewards of gentle exercise in natural spaces. I live on the eastern edge of Norwich city centre, yet my daily walking route takes me through a stunningly varied landscape of heathland, ancient woods, riverside paths and wildlife-rich wetlands. I’ve written this blog to share my journey - I hope it inspires you to lace up your hiking boots and take a stroll this National Walking Month.

It's early. The morning is cool and bright, a light frost shining on the grass verges that line my suburban street in the hazy April sun. I greet the silhouette of Norwich's medieval skyline as I emerge from the alleyway into the openness of the dog exercise field servicing an estate of post-war low rises, and tread the path towards Mousehold Heath.

Muntjac by Nick Goodrum

Muntjac by Nick Goodrum

My presence disturbs a pair of young muntjacs, browsing on newly unfurled hawthorn leaves. They're unaccustomed to encountering humans at this hour and scuttle nervously back into the scrub. Though garnished with a smattering of coconut-scented yellow flowers, the gorse is not yet in the explosive full bloom of spring - the season so far has been cold and nature is exhibiting self-restraint. I pass the Victorian barracks that overlook gentle green inclines overhanging the cityscape, wood pigeons cooing from crags in the brickwork, and turn into a smart terraced street. Sparrows and goldfinches dart between the shrubs which delineate townhouse boundaries, while hungry bees scrutinise the dandelions protruding sunnily between decrepit paving slabs. Another corner turned, and another, and suddenly ancient oaks tower above me. Lion Wood. I amble, scouring the damp undergrowth. I am disappointed. No bluebells yet. Another week or so, perhaps. A jay craws in mutual despondence.

Stepping out of the wood, back into sunlight, I peer nosily into front gardens, admiring bright tulips and checkerboard bells of the snakes head fritillary as I approach the main road that leads towards the river. The overgrown hedgerow which runs alongside is carpeted with comfrey and nettles, housing clusters of seven-spotted ladybirds, roused from hibernation by the spring sunshine. I hope they find their way to my garden in a few weeks' time, when my tender broad bean tips are bound to be plagued with aphids.

Muntjac by Nick Goodrum

Swallow by John Robert Milligan

The Yare comes into view and I inhale deeply, gentle spirals of woodsmoke from the moored houseboats adding to the morning haze. Mallards and greylag geese disrupt the quietude - they are habituated in the generosity of humans and so bold to approach, but I have no titbits for their breakfast. I continue to the iron bridge and climb the stairs to view NWT Thorpe Marshes from above, St Andrew's Broad glittering in the still-low sun, before descending to follow the path around this flooded gravel pit. A few weeks ago, the path was barely passable, the overflowing tributary filling my boots when I sanguinely waded through, but now the ground is dusty and dry, signalling the warmer seasons ahead.

A squeaky chattering above raises my gaze, and my heart soars as another sure sign of summer's approach swoops above my head - dozens of swallows, returned to share my little corner of Norfolk after a winter in warmer climes. I gain a spring in my step, buoyed by the company of my favourite migrants, as I skip, marsh to my left - favourite hunting ground of the barn owl I often revere on my evening strolls - reedbeds to my right, buntings skitting between the swaying culms. Reaching a clearing, I take a moment to observe the broad, countless waterfowl bobbing in the shimmering pool. My vision fails me - once again I left my binoculars on the table by the front door - and I can identify few from this distance, but a pair of elegant grebes are close enough to admire.

I begin to stroll back towards the bridge and come to the point in which the river opens up into a vast, still expanse. I always think of this spot, so tranquil and still in the early mornings, to be the perfect place to spot an otter - just blind optimism, I have never been so lucky. Instead, today, a lone kayaker is rowing slowly through the water, imbibing the serene ambience. For a moment I am envious, but then I remember the meditative satisfaction of putting one foot in front of the other, and I continue my walk in the direction of home.

Chloe Webb is a UEA student on a voluntary placement with NWT. You can follow Chloe's walking Instagram account at @chloegoeswalking.

Header image: Chloe Webb
Share this

Latest Blog Posts

The Western Link: What would happen to our wildlife? The Western Link: What woul...
by Mike Jones, NWT Conservation Officer (Planning)  on 08 Aug, 2022
Claylands Meadow Management Claylands Meadow Management
by Helaina Parkinson on 03 Aug, 2022
10 years of the NWT Gallery 10 years of the NWT Gallery
by NWT on 22 Jul, 2022
Tips for birdwatching with your dog Tips for birdwatching with ...
by Izzy Williamson on 09 Jul, 2022
All’s welcome: celebrating LGBTQ+ pride at Norfolk Wildlife Trust All’s welcome: celebrating ...
by Meg Watts on 22 Jun, 2022
Celebrating our patron, Her Majesty The Queen, on her Platinum Jubilee Celebrating our patron, Her...
by Josie Collins on 01 Jun, 2022
Norfolk's Seals: Past, Present and Future Norfolk's Seals: Past, Pres...
by Katy Ellis on 19 May, 2022
Bishop’s Garden Wild project – how did it go? Bishop’s Garden Wild projec...
by Susannah Armstrong on 05 May, 2022
Put your garden to the test! Put your garden to the test!
by The Wildlife Trusts on 21 Apr, 2022
NWT Young People's Photography Competition - See the winners! NWT Young People's Photogra...
by Rachael Murray on 07 Apr, 2022
Getting Wild About Gardens Getting Wild About Gardens
by The Wildlife Trusts on 24 Mar, 2022
A tribute to Peter Lambley MBE, 1946-2022 A tribute to Peter Lambley ...
by Helen Baczkowska on 10 Mar, 2022
Wooing in the Wild Wooing in the Wild
by The Wildlife Trusts on 24 Feb, 2022
Mammal Mysteries Mammal Mysteries
by Darren Tansley on 10 Feb, 2022
A Conservation Work Party at Upton Fen A Conservation Work Party a...
by Jerry Simpson on 27 Jan, 2022
How to Identify Owls How to Identify Owls
by The Wildlife Trusts on 13 Jan, 2022
NWT Recommends: Holiday Reads NWT Recommends: Holiday Reads
by Emily Mildren & Susannah Armstrong (with contributions from several NWT staff!) on 17 Dec, 2021
Broadland Group's Return to Work at Upton Fen Broadland Group's Return to...
by Jerry Simpson on 09 Dec, 2021
The Queerness of Nature: In conversation with James McDermott The Queerness of Nature: In...
by Meg Watts & Molly Bernardin on 02 Dec, 2021
COP26: What's it all about and what do we want to achieve? COP26: What's it all about ...
by Kathryn Brown on 04 Nov, 2021
A New Direction: Starting Small by Creating Norfolk Wetlands A New Direction: Starting S...
by William Walker on 21 Oct, 2021
Broadland Group Moth Night Broadland Group Moth Night
by Jerry Simpson on 07 Oct, 2021
Moth and butterfly survival strategies Moth and butterfly survival...
by The Wildlife Trusts on 23 Sep, 2021
Out for Nature: Reflections on Pride with The Wildlife Trusts LGBTQ+ Employee Network Out for Nature: Reflections...
by Meg Watts on 14 Sep, 2021