If I had to choose only one month to spend in England, then it would most certainly be May when the fields and gardens are filled with lush foliage. It’s an ideal time of year to walk so we set off again along the Icknield Way. As we walked through villages, the bunting was already up for the Diamond Jubilee next week and old fashioned signs announced the dates for funfairs and village picnics and fetes. The path stretched out ahead of us, edged with a froth of cow parsley, through fields of green wheat to the horizon of hedges and trees encompassing every shade of green. Around Newmarket we skirted racing studs with their neat grass paddocks and immaculate fencing separated from the path by precision trimmed hedges.
In the afternoon, after eating our lunch in the shade of a tree outside Dalham church, we left the path to reach the railway station, only to discover the next train was not due for almost two hours. With a bus due in ten minutes we trudged along the road to find a bus stop but couldn’t find one and nobody we asked knew where it was. We walked back to the main road and saw a stop a little further down the road, so quickly crossed over to it while the bus waited behind to turn out from the side road. We reached the stop and breathed a sigh of relief as the bus was still waiting to turn. Then we watched the bus go straight across the main road and disappear down another side road. Dejected, we re-crossed the road to the pub and drowned our sorrows in glasses of orange juice and lemonade while the publican called a cab.
The next day the landscape changed to the gorse and heathland of Breckland with irrigators in the fields and crops of carrots, onions and potatoes as we walked towards Thetford. Before entering Kings Forest, we looked at Map 28 in the guide book and read “Map 29 continues after 3 miles of straight track”. My heart sank just a little. I was expecting a dark wood full of overbearing pine trees but in fact we walked along a broad fairly open track through a mixture of pine trees and broadleaved trees with the resinous smell of the pine trees brought out by the heat of the day. The path leading in was so sandy that we could have been walking to the beach and in the heart of the forest, a cuckoo called so loudly and for so long that it almost seemed unreal. The beech trees of Queen Mary’s Avenue heralded the welcome end to the wooded section of the walk and we soon left the Icknield Way on the Old Barnham Slip and crossed from Suffolk into Norfolk.
We walked down to Nuns’Bridge in Thetford, where a plaque marks the old Icknield Way and followed the river into Thetford past people relaxing in the sunshine. A group were crowded around a tree on the river bank, watching a grass snake that kept popping up and quickly disappearing; further along a man sat on the bank his feet dangling in the water, a small child in his arms. By the bridge, a man on a mobility scooter asked if we’d seen a Jack Russell Terrier as his had slipped away and then twenty yards later a man in socks, but no shoes, appeared with a dog asking if anyone had lost one. It was like something out of a farce.