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A Walk in Brandon

Join Brian Miller on his route around his home town.

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

So, why not join me on this virtual walk.

Out of my front door, down the drive, across the grass. Past the bungalow of a West Ham fan. Carry on down St Nicholas Walk past a bungalow (yes this is Bungalow land) whose garden is in perpetual rebuild. Past a lovely lady who wants to know the whys and wherefores of everyone and who calls this area God’s waiting room! At the bottom of the road is a bungalow we looked at first, but dismissed as the two either side have gardens full of cars and parking is a nightmare. It, incidentally, smelt of wee and we were never sure whether it was the cat or the old lady!

Cross the road and, through the walkway, you find yourself in Gas House Drove. Turn right and you can walk to Santon Downham and back along the river to Brandon. But beware the path is overgrown, and I picked a tick bite up along there.

We turn left to Brandon, a pleasant, tree lined, virtually traffic free walk. With fields of horses leading down to the river. Further on, is the old Gas House and next to that the site of Brandon’s Gasworks when gas was produced from coal, before North Sea Gas arrived. They want to build houses on it, but access is difficult.

After here the road widens and there is a path. Again, past some nice houses and bungalows, two with suspiciously green grass after the heat wave. On your left is a big house being extended into an even bigger house with huge windows overlooking the old farm opposite and down the fields to the river.

Follow Gas House to the end, past the oddly named Monkey Style Lane, and the farm on the right which has sheep and alpacas in the fields. Here you can walk into Aldi or walk straight ahead to the High Street down White Hart Lane. We will turn left up Lode Street, named possibly after the fen word for inlet or waterway that links to a river. Here, possibly, was where freight was unloaded from the river in days gone by.

At the top, past the Royal Mail sorting office, turn right onto the Wedge: an area Brandon in Bloom volunteers keep, with their amazing flower displays and designs, the last one being for our late Queen’s Jubilee.

In the Wedge, are two wooden benches. One is inscribed Charlie Wharf, a true Brandonian. The other, to Wavy Man John Gentry. If you drive out of Brandon to Thetford, opposite the pizza place you may see a man in his garden waving at you, he may even blow you a kiss! That is him.

At the end of the Wedge and after the fairy door, there is a chainsaw carving of a flintknapper, appropriately opposite the Flintknappers pub. It was behind the pub they knapped flint. Breaking off small pieces for use in flintlock muskets etc. apparently, it was such good quality, the British Army used it in the Napoleonic wars.

Cross the road at the lights and pass St Nicholas Hospice shop and, yet another, Turkish barbers. There is an odd-looking white building which, over the years, has been a fire station, public convenience and is now a holiday let! Carry on down London Road past the site of the old cinema, now waiting for more houses. There is the Church Institute run by the Reverend Dennis Coburn who does good work: food banks, a bring and repair shop, and men’s breakfast once a month, plus other good causes.

Take the path to the right of the old Flower Pot pub, now a Chinese takeaway, making four in the town and, on your right, you will see an asphalt path going back. Our esteemed councillor decided to mark that as a cycle path. Unfortunately for him, the local paper took a photo of him and his bike under the No Cycling sign; it is still just a footpath!

Follow on down tree-lined Victoria Avenue with its arched lights that leads to the Leisure Centre. But we turn right, through the gate, to the Brandon Remembrance playing fields. Walk straight on past the football field and look ahead. You will see a raised rough area of grass; this is the site of the original church of Brandon. It is also the site of the beacon lit for Her Majesty’s Jubilee, erected by the good Reverend Coburn and the town keepers.

Walk straight across the field, keeping the Leisure Centre on your left and the fishing lake on your right, cross the track and take the little wooden bridge in front of you. This leads to a secluded mooring and a favourite place for me to sit and think.

Retrace your steps and cross the bridge over the Staunch. Look down to your right and you will see the fish slide. I have never seen anything slide up or down it, let alone fish!

Over the bridge, you can turn left for Hockwold or right back towards Brandon. The path twists and turns past the lock and, again, you will come to a wooden mooring. This is the end of navigation for boats. Further on, is another favourite place to sit and look at the river and, one day, a dragonfly gave me my very own air show.

Follow the path out towards the Ram and enjoy the river and the fields coming down to the water’s edge. You will see swans and ducks and, if you’re very lucky, an otter or kingfisher flashing by in a blur of colour. Past a moored narrowboat and, sadly, a collapsed boathouse, you come to the Ram. Turn right and cross the bridge and enjoy the view. I wonder how many car drivers, stuck in a queue, realise beneath them runs a beautiful river?

Cross the road and again enjoy the river as it runs towards Thetford. Years ago, a thriving waterway carrying all sorts of freight, now just a peaceful idling river. Keep up the High Street past the big white house, taking a peek in the gate at their garden going down to the river. Past the MG Garage and three, tired looking, old cottages and you’re back in Aldi and back out to Gas House Drove and retrace your footsteps home.

We must remember, Brandon has always been a crossing point and, sadly, the river doesn’t figure much now. Although, over the years, the course of it was changed, as has the road. The original route is now the Ram’s front car park. It is still a nice river walk though that lots of people enjoy.

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