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

A 30 Days Wild Minibeast Hunt A 30 Days Wild Minibeast Hunt
by The Wildlife Trusts on 17 Jun, 2021
Secrets of the Water Vole Secrets of the Water Vole
by Kelly Hollings on 10 Jun, 2021
Wild Gardening for Small Budgets & Spaces Wild Gardening for Small Bu...
by Meg Watts on 03 Jun, 2021
Bishop's Garden May Update: A World of Wild Flowers Bishop's Garden May Update:...
by Barry Madden on 27 May, 2021
Walking the Eastern Coast Walking the Eastern Coast
by Katy Ellis on 20 May, 2021
Good for us, Good for Nature Good for us, Good for Nature
by Robert Morgan on 13 May, 2021
International Dawn Chorus Day 2021 International Dawn Chorus D...
by Robert Morgan on 29 Apr, 2021
The Humble House Sparrow The Humble House Sparrow
by Tom Hibbert on 15 Apr, 2021
Bishop's Garden March Update: A Haven for Birds Bishop's Garden March Updat...
by Barry Madden on 01 Apr, 2021
Meet our Diversity Intern Meet our Diversity Intern
by Meg Watts on 25 Mar, 2021
Growing Wild in the City Growing Wild in the City
by Sam Garland on 11 Mar, 2021
International Women's Day 2021: Women in conservation International Women's Day 2...
by Meg Watts on 08 Mar, 2021
World Book Day 2021 World Book Day 2021
by Chloe Webb on 04 Mar, 2021
Identifying diving ducks Identifying diving ducks
by The Wildlife Trusts on 11 Jan, 2021
Remembering Richard Waddingham – farmer and pond conservationist Remembering Richard Wadding...
by Helen Baczkowska on 17 Dec, 2020
Wild verges Wild verges
by Sam Brown on 08 Dec, 2020
Thwaite Common bird box project Thwaite Common bird box pro...
by John Snape on 30 Nov, 2020
Jewels of the autumn Jewels of the autumn
by Ian Senior on 20 Nov, 2020
Walking again at Thorpe Marshes Walking again at Thorpe Mar...
by Chris Durdin on 06 Nov, 2020
Living with spiders Living with spiders
by Norfolk Wildlife Trust on 24 Oct, 2020
In praise of the humble briar In praise of the humble briar
by Robert Morgan on 30 Sep, 2020
Rockpooling at West Runton Rockpooling at West Runton
by Isabelle Mudge on 28 Sep, 2020
The secret world of fungi The secret world of fungi
by Norfolk Wildlife Trust on 18 Sep, 2020
White herons: A pleasure to see – a warning to heed White herons: A pleasure to...
by Robert Morgan on 17 Sep, 2020