This ride is perfect for those wanting a relaxing hack, with plenty of opportunities for some fast work. This route takes roughly two and a half hours if you’re doing a bit at speed, although using the Marriot’s Way allows you to lengthen or shorten the ride to suit whatever you fancy that day.
Arriving at Attlebridge, you will see the signs for the Marriot’s way where you can park up and leave your box. When ready to set off, ride out of the car park, back along the gravel track and cross the road where you will see a similar looking dirt track up a slight incline. Ride along here for a few hundred metres and you will be linked straight on to the Marriots way, which you can recognise immediately by the distinctive orange stone of the track.
Named after William Marriot, once Chief engineer of the Midland and Great Northern railway, Marriots way provides a route from the heart of Norwich into the countryside along a disused railway. This traffic-free and flat route is perfect for horse riders, although it is a very popular path with dog-walkers and cyclists alike, so your horse should be happy to meet both.
Once on the Marriots way you are heading towards Norwich, which boasts a great view of the local wildlife and its habitat – on a good day green woodpeckers and wrens can be seen. There’s also a wide variety of plant life for the green-fingered rider, including wild strawberries and primroses.
One hour in
After a mile you will start to hear traffic from the Reepham road. After riding under a bridge, which some horses find daunting, you need to start looking for a gateway to the left. On riding up to this gateway you will see a traffic sign, marked Swannington and Cawston. Crossing straight over this busy road, you will then see a public footpath sign to the right within woodland.
This grassy track within the woods is brilliantly springy and perfect for a canter, so keep going straight past the wood store until the track naturally bends round to the left. This is a well-used track, but it is important to mention that whilst the described route through the woodland is allowed, straying from the path is not. This route is usually lovely and quiet, however at times of the year during tree felling there can be quite a lot of activity so it is advisable to make sure that your horse is used to vehicles and trailers if riding this route during the tree felling season.
Half way through
After sweeping round to the left, you will come to another crossing over the Felthorpe road. The entrance is opposite and usually this road is fairly quiet. Again, the path is straight and lends itself to a brilliant canter particularly if your horse can cope with a bit of a down hill incline. As this is an established route, you will see where to go, and after going down a slight hill you will be brought out in Swannington Upgate. A short section on the road, signposted for Swannington, will bring you out in the village centre, where you need to be looking for another footpath sign to the right, which will take you into another woodland area. Through here you can continue at speed if you are flexible enough to get out of the way of overhanging branches. You will see your route easily, which bends around to a stream that you need to cross. The perfect time of year for this route is Autumn, as any rain or snow causes the water to get rather high, whilst in summer you can be plagued by insects. After paddling in the water, which is very slow moving and a great place to play with young horses, you continue to follow the footpath signs, which will bring you onto another straight path perfect for a blast.
When you reach the end of this path you will reach a five bar gate, which you need to open and close unless you are brave enough to jump it! From here you will ride through Woodlands Farm, home to Farm to Fork – if you time your ride carefully you can stop for an ice-cream from their shop. Although the farm is well suited to riders, depending on the time of year your horse may have to pass sheep or pigs, so this may not be the route for any animal phobic equines.
After your pit stop, you follow the road out from Farm to Fork which will eventually take you in to Swannington. When you reach the church you need to turn right and look for a left turn down Ketts Lane. These are lovely quiet lanes that are used to horse-riders and there are plenty of passing places. Riding along Ketts Lane will eventually bring you out on the Reepham Road. Taking the first left will bring you to Little Witchingham, a beautifully quiet village which will take you directly back on to the Marriots Way.
Once back on the Marriots Way, you are almost home. From here you can meander back at your own pace for a few miles to where you parked your box. This part of the Marriots Way is particularly pleasant, with your ride taking you over several bridges and past some luscious water meadows. The bridges are high however, so although most will be tired out by this point take care on anything that is still frisky!