Upon the heath

Mousehold heath

Me and a tree in the woodland. (Photo by Ed.)

Heathland can conjure up strong imagery and associations. You may think of a wild, remote area devoid of tress and possibly inhabited by witches. It may also remind you of Heathcliff and his doomed romance in Wuthering Heights.

Mousehold heath, which is north of Norwich, may lack the remoteness of a heath born of Shakespeare’s imagination, but it retains a wildness accentuated by its interesting, sometimes violent, history.

If you’re near Norwich, Mousehold is well-worth a visit. It is covered with several rambling paths that weave you through the woodland and across the heather-strewn heath. Old gravel and sand pits have left huge craters that you can clamber around (or even venture up or down if you’re feeling adventurous and wearing good hiking boots). If you’re a fan of off-road running, the heath is also a great place to get a good workout – fallen trees make fun obstacles and the uneven paths will test your sure-footedness.

I’ve wandered around Mousehold heath many times while I have lived in Norwich. Autumn turns the woodland surrounding the heath into a gorgeous array of colours; burnt orange, gold and rusty red. Spring is also great for obvious reasons, and late summer sees the heather bloom.

Last weekend I made a spur of the moment trip with some friends to Mousehold on a cold, rather blustery day. If you are planning a walk across the heath, I recommend proper clothing. For this visit I was wearing a short dress, jacket and 20 quid boots from New Look that have seen better days. To be fair, I was dressed for brunch in the city rather than a hike around the heath, but I certainly did not cope well with the steeper, more challenging aspects of the terrain. So, with only one of us really dressed for scrambling about the heath, we kept the walk short and avoided running up and down the craters (although some tree climbing did take place).

If you want to get a good view of Norwich city, you can take a walk from the heath down to St James’ hill viewpoint. From here you can look over the whole of the city and Wensum Valley, and it is easy to spot the cathedral and tower of City Hall. Sadly, we didn’t end up with enough time to go there on this trip, but the last time I went we got a pretty amazing view.

Several artists have visited Mousehold and captured it on canvas. You can see one of John Crome’s pieces here.

Anyone else fallen for the charms of heathland? If so, please share below!

(Thank you to Ed for acting as my photographer for the day.)



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