Exploring the Parks & Nature reserves of South Norfolk

During lockdown I explored more of my home county, Cambridgeshire, than I thought was possible. I did so many walks, and many of them multiple times, so decided in 2022 that I’d travel a little further to get out in to nature at the weekends. One of Cambridgeshire’s bordering counties is Norfolk, and we are about an hour’s drive from its forests and nature reserves in the south. They make a perfect escape from the towns and cities nearby, providing fresh air, lots of trees and most importantly peace and quiet.

Across the 2022 colder months, continuing my autumn & winter England series, we explored four walks in this beautiful area.


Thetford Forest – Lynford Stag & Arboretum

Thetford Forest is the largest man made forest in England, and is roughly the size of an entire city! It was established in the 1920s and is run by the Forestry Commission, consisting of almost 20,000 hectares of trees. Thetford Forest is not only a haven for deer, birds and other wildlife, but it also provides timber for the nation – and provides employment not only for foresters but for contractors, sawmillers, hauliers and, of course, tourism related businesses.

It’s the perfect place for woodland walks, wildlife spotting and fresh air and makes for the perfect day trip from Cambridge, Norwich, Ely or anywhere in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk or Suffolk.

If you’re looking for a peaceful walk, then Lynford Stag in the Forest is a great place to start. There is a little picnic site, and then 2 main walking trails to take in a wide range of landscapes – from dense forest to lakes and marshland. You can find the walking trails in detail HERE. We loved exploring the trails and walked a 10km route around the area. It’s also home to the Lynford Arboretum which has a nice selection of trees and wildlife to explore.

South Norfolk’s version of a beach

Lopham Fen

Across this region of England, there are many fens – these are areas of wetland, often with surface water. We have many of them in Cambridge, with Ely being the most famous city built on ‘the Fens’.

The Fens feel like home to me

They are special places that support a diverse range of plants and animals. Lopham Fen is one such nature reserve, but which goes beyond a fen as you can also explore the areas of woodland, heath and even follow the river Waveney that rises here.  Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast or just keen to get outside, the fen creates a sense peace and tranquillity as a wild open landscape.  

If you do visit the Fens, be prepared for a very wet surface – part of the fun is trying not to sink! Also be sure to stop at the incredible refreshments van in the car park as the hot chocolates are the BEST I’ve ever had.


Great Hockham and Harling Wood

Great Hockham is another picturesque area of South Norfolk, which we chose to visit for our 3rd weekend walk in the area – offering 2 scenic walking trails as well as the opportunity for horse riding.

A lovely Norfolk flint cottage in the woods near Great Hockham

This area of the Forest is also a distinctive landscape, and is home to the famous Great Eastern Pingo Trail – Pingos are an exciting word for little pools of water, like the one in my photo below, which were formed during the last Ice Age!


Thetford Forest – High Lodge

Our fourth and final walking route was at High Lodge – the main area in Thetford Forest and home to most of the attractions, so is more for activities than it is for walking and hiking albeit there are still 4 walking trails. There are also 3 cycling trails, multiple play areas and activities including Go Ape (a big forest climbing area with zip lines), Forest Segwaying and even Archery which makes it a great location for kids. We did the Segwaying and it was a lot of fun! You can read more about the things to do at High Lodge HERE.

At Go Ape


To make a weekend of it…

You could also choose to stay longer and make a weekend of it in or around the area. The wonderful Thorpe Forest log cabins within Thetford Forest itself are beautiful and for ultimate luxury you could go for a Golden Oak cabin with a log fire, huge floor to ceiling windows and a secluded hot tub.

Amazing hot tub lodges (photo courtesy of Thorpe Forest website)

If log cabins aren’t your thing, then you could stay in a local hotel outside of the nature reserve areas of South Norfolk – Tuddenham Mill is wonderful, with big free standing baths. If you would prefer to stay in a town for good restaurant options, then Newmarket, Ely, Cambridge and Norwich are also all potential bases for exploration.


Thank you so much for reading. It’s been great to explore some of the less well known regions of England and go for some lovely walks out in nature. I hope you enjoyed following along – stay safe and happy travelling!

39 Comments

  1. Such beautiful landscape scenery to enjoy in Cambridgeshire and surrounding counties! Love your water photos, the Golden Oak cabin, and especially the wild horses! Thanks for sharing your neck of the woods with us, Hannah 🙂

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  2. What gorgeous places to hike, Hannah! Pingo is going to be my word of the day, as I had not heard it before and I’m glad to know what it is. I had heard of fens, but I don’t think I had ever seen one, so thank you for posting pictures. Great post!

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    1. Hehe I totally thought the same about the word Pingo as I’d never heard it either until I walked the trail. The fens are a wonderful area, and I actually have a post about them coming soon as I live in an area of England known as ‘Fenland’ so am going to show a bit more of it to you all 🙂

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    1. Oh definitely, it’s such a nice place to get out in to nature. I’m glad to introduce you to a few new terms – and lots more Fens coming soon as I’ve written a post dedicated to them for later in the year 🙂 Oh and I totally agree about the log cabin!

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  3. So much of this appeals Hannah, right up our street. Such idyllic countryside that already has us looking back on (and missing) our time in Staffordshire last year. Wonderful photography as usual, particularly your shot of that pensive wild horse. The area around High Lodge looks like the kind of place that is good for the soul.

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    1. I always miss the English countryside too when I’ve not been in it for a bit too long. I loved exploring more of Norfolk last year and hopefully will be able to see more of it this year too. Thank you so much for reading and commenting Leighton, hope you’ve had a good weekend.

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  4. I went to Norfolk for the first time last year, albeit north Norfolk, and fell in love with it. It’s so beautiful and I couldn’t get over how much wildlife there was to see. It’s great to read about parts of the county I didn’t get chance to visit. It makes me want to go back to Norfolk and keep exploring the parts I haven’t yet seen. Thanks Hannah 🙂

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    1. It’s such a great county isn’t it, I love the north Norfolk coast and there’s so much to see (especially those seals 🙂 ) So glad to show you a bit more of the area, I absolutely love all of East Anglia though I am biased as I live there! Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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  5. The English countryside is so lush, beautiful and inviting; how fortunate for you to have all this in your home county. And to get to see wild horses – just wow! I would love to stay in the log cabin, it looks so peaceful and welcoming. Great post Hannah, and stunning photography too.

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  6. England has so many beautiful but lesser known places, I love seeing them showcased via posts like this. The wild horses are beautiful, it would make my day to spot them.

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  7. A bit different from your strolls in the countryside with a stately manor or charming town in the backdrop– this is PURE nature. Very woodsy and the true definition of bucolic, even in colder months! Glad you made the most of it in south Norfolk!

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    1. You’re so right, it is a change for me – just walking in nature and not actually aiming to see a building or something. It was very peaceful though and a nice calm feeling to have a huge area of woodland all to yourself and not see any other people. My husband jokes that I am a ‘warbling rambler’ because I talk so much as we walk he can’t enjoy the peace and quiet, hehe!

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  8. That was such a great and informative post! That little cottage and the log cabins look so peaceful, and it seems like all of those walking trails are perfect to get your nature fix! I also had no ideas what pingos and fens were, so I’m glad I learnt that today too!

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  9. It’s pretty impressive to hear that Thetford Forest is man made. It certainly looks like a great spot to go for a stroll and enjoy the scenery and fresh air. And I’m such a fan of fens so the Lopham Fen definitely piqued my interest (as did that hot chocolate)!

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  10. Our suburb here in East London is also called Cambridge … but looks nothing like your beautiful Cambridge(shire)! The Fens are lovely – but walking through it sounds a bit challenging … but then again, with a hot chocolate like that, I would be up for it any day! Pure nature – I loved this post!

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