Walk: High Ash Farm and Venta Icenorum, Norfolk

Visit the farm of BBC Radio Norfolk presenter Chris Skinner, who has spent the past 10 years transforming a struggling plot of land near Norwich into a wildlife haven

Wildflowers growing at High Ash Farm
Published: August 5th, 2022 at 6:51 am

When farm owner Chris Skinner realised he was putting in all the hours under the sun only to sell his produce at a loss, he knew it was time for a change. In 2010, Chris sold his beloved combine harvester and, with the help of a Government grant, set about transforming High Ash Farm.

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Over the next decade, Chris and his family planted thousands of wildflower seeds and hundreds of trees. He also planted miles of hedgerows in the very places that he had been paid to pull them out only a couple of decades before.

Flowers growing at High Ash Farm, Norfolk
Wildflowers growing at High Ash Farm/Credit: Kevin Simmonds

Visiting High Ash Farm

Now reaching maturity, the success of this project is palpable. The farm is home to ever-increasing numbers of wildlife species, including buzzards, foxes, deer, grass snakes and a wide range of invertebrates.

In late spring, over 10,000 orchids turn the fields purple – an enticing feast for the bumblebees that feed on their nectar. By the end of summer, foxes find cover under fields of sunflowers, and the fluffy seeds of rosebay willowherb and thistledown fill the sky.

By autumn, flocks of murmuring starlings fill up on grubs and flying insects.


High Ash Farm and Venta Icenorum walk

3.4miles/5.5km | 2 hours | easy

People have lived in this area for centuries and Chris recalls finding the intricately designed coins of the Iceni tribe while harvesting sugar beet. Indeed, the starting point of this easy 3.4-mile walk is Venta Icenorum, a Roman town and disputed home of Queen Boudicca, famous leader of the Iceni. Within the farm boundary you’ll also find traces of a Saxon graveyard.

Much of the walk follows a network of permissive paths across the farm. The upkeep of these paths (and the farm itself) are only made possible thanks to donations from the public.

Venta Icenorum, Norfolk, in summer
The walk begins at Venta Icenorum/Credit: Ashley Dace, Geograph

1. Roman remains

Begin at the Venta Icenorum car park (NR14 8QL). Cross Stoke Road, pass through the gate on to the footpath, and follow it to Wash Lane.

2. Past the oak

Cross the lane and turn left along the edge of the field to Foxes Grove. Go right here, following the path past a gnarled old oak tree before turning left on the permissive path north to Caistor Lane. Turn right at the lane, continuing to High Ash Farm.

Bee on a purple flower
Pollinator plants thriving at High Ash Farm in Norfolk/Credit: James Williamson

3. Breach the ditch

Continue past the farm to French Church Farm and cross the footbridge over a drainage ditch on to Boudicca Way. Follow this roughly south-west until it emerges near Valley Farm.

4. Road return

Turn left on to Valley Farm Road, then a right at the T-junction to follow Chandler Road on the Boudicca Way.

Keep to the road as it bends to the right, then a little over 200m further on, rejoin the footpath to the left, following this back to the car park.

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High Ash Farm and Venta Icenorum map

High Ash Farm walking route and map

High Ash Farm and Venta Icenorum walking route and map

Authors

Dave Hamilton is an author, freelance writer, tutor, photographer, forager and explorer of historic sites and natural places.

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