Walk 4 of 'Looking at the Landscape' Walks
Ann Meakin October 2021
Walk 4 started at Martham Parish Church Car Park from where we crossed the road to look at the Sarsen Stone – a small boulder that sits at the beginning of the footpath opposite. It is likely to have been brought to Martham by the pagan Saxon settlers to be the altar of their worship site which was where our Parish Church stands today¹.
Having studied the Ordnance Survey map of 1905, scale 25 inches to one mile, we noted several features that can no longer be seen today. This included the position of the piece of land known as Paradise, where the vicars of Martham kept their horses. Continuing towards Clarkes Farm we looked at the farm workers’ cottages built in the mid nineteenth century and the site of the first Methodist Chapel adjacent to Clarkes Farm House. We noted that the farm buildings on our left were not shown on the map of 1905 as they had not yet been built. One walker with sharp eyes found one with a date – 1917.
Continuing to Thunder Hill Farm we looked at the original mid-nineteenth century farmhouse that had one room downstairs and two upstairs accessed by stairs in a cupboard. It has been renovated to become ‘Stockman’s Cottage’.
We followed the path through the ‘wongs’ – originally the path between the furlongs of the open fields. For a great many centuries the upland of Martham was cultivated in strips in the open fields. Gradually blocks of strips were enclosed into one field but some strips existed until this practice was finally phased out under the Inclosure Award of 1812 (see right).
The footpath eventually led us to Mustard Hyrn, where people originally settled on the edge of the Common. We were fortunate to meet with the owner of Hyrn End, who explained how he had been able to build his very fine eco-friendly house which is on the site of an ancient cottage.
From there, we walked towards the river along Cess Road which was constructed at the time of the Inclosure. It is shown as ‘No.14 Private’ Road on our extracts of the Inclosure Map of 1812. We were then walking across what had been part of the Martham Common.
On our left we noted the small plots of land that had been awarded to people who were already owners of other small amounts of land. Although this land must have been cultivated or used for pasture, mature trees are now growing there, indicating that it has not been used for a great many decades.
When we reached the junction with the tracks running eastwards and westwards we stopped to study the amazing intricacies of the drainage system that had been created. First a broad bank of earth 18 feet wide and four feet high had to be constructed alongside the River Thurne, with a deep drain on the south side of it. The Inclosure Commissioners had already built a wind pump where an electric pumping station exists today. That is still working to ensure that the fields are not flooded. From the windpump, a drainage ditch had to be constructed 16 feet wide, up to the river. and drains 12 and 14 feet wide connecting to it and running parallel to the river right across the Common, with tunnels under the roadways. Alongside the drains, tracks for access to the fields were created.
Our walk continued to the river so that we could inspect the pumping arrangements. We noted how high the level of the river is compared with that of the water in the drain leading to the pumping station.
Retracing our steps to where we had stopped before, we then continued our walk along the track to Ferrygate Lane. That was shown as ‘No. 15 Private' Road on our extract from the Inclosure Map. As we walked, we noticed how the plots of land had been awarded in 1812, with just ditches to mark the boundaries between them. Many of those plots are now in a single ownership but it is fascinating to see how the original boundary ditches still exist. Some of the plots have now become mature woodland and a haven for wildlife.
On reaching Ferrygate Lane we studied the new drainage ditch which was constructed because the original drain went through a culvert under the dyke from the river and under the road, and it needed to be replaced. The new drain which is far longer than the original, as it had to go in a ‘U’ course to avoid the dyke, took several months to construct, becoming a very expensive necessity to prevent flooding. It has very quickly become filled with vegetation.
Returning to the start our walk took us up Ferrygate Lane. On the way we looked over the landscape on our left where the land slopes down from Moregrove to a ditch that separates it from the field that had been part of the Common. The difference between the levels of those fields is very noticeable. We realised that every inch of our beautiful landscape has a story to tell.
Above: Inclosure Award map (from our Archive)
1 There is mention of the Sarsen stone in Martham on this unusual website in Norfolk where glacial erratics and other stones have been traced and examined.
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