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An Eyeful of Eye

An easy walk exploring the surroundings of one of England's smallest towns.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Town streets, farm tracks, woodland paths, 10 stiles

Landscape Farmland, woodland, meadows, town

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 230 Diss & Harleston, and town trail available from dispenser in car park

Start/finish TM 144738

Dog friendliness Off lead at Town Moor and The Pennings picnic site

Parking Cross Street car park (free), Eye.

Public toilets At car park

1 Turn right out of the car park along Cross Street and right again along Magdalen Street. Turn left opposite the entrance to Grampian Country Foods on a footpath that leads to the playing fields and bear right around the community centre to reach a car park. Cross the car park and go over a footbridge to enter the Town Moor and Storm Memorial woodlands. Turn left and keep to the left-hand side of the woods, passing an 'ash dome' that is renewed every year and a pond with a carved wooden lovers' seat for two people to share. Shortly afterwards, turn left over a bridge waymarked 'Eye Country Walks' to leave the woods and join a field-edge path.

2 Turn right at a lane and walk uphill towards a farm. When you reach an old barn, cross the stile to your left and follow the line of the hedge on your right. When the field narrows, turn left to cross a footbridge and walk across the meadows. Cross a bridge over the River Dove and continue across one more meadow to arrive at a green lane. Turn left here to walk between a hedge on your left and fields on your right. The great tower of the church at Eye soon comes into view and as the path opens out you will see a group of Norman fish ponds to your left, probably attracting waterfowl such as moorhens, ducks and geese. Pass under a metal barrier and follow the track to the B1077, then cross the road and keep straight ahead on a grassy path.

3 When you reach a lane at the side of a house, take a look at the notice on the wall that threatens a fine of 40 shillings for anyone failing to shut the gate. Turn left and stay on this lane past The Pennings picnic site and nature reserve, in a tranquil setting beside the River Dove. Turn right at the end of the road and in 60yds (55m) turn left along the entrance drive to Abbey Farm, passing the remains of an 11th-century priory, half-hidden in the gardens of the farmhouse.

4 Follow this track past the farm buildings and bear left across a bridge. Turn right through a gate to join a wide uphill track. Stay on this track as it bends round to the left then opens out to reveal good views of Eye across the fields. At the end of the track, turn left through a new housing estate and continue straight ahead beyond the houses on a footpath and cycle path. Keep straight ahead to descend Ash Drive and turn right beside a garage on a narrow path that runs beside a stream and emerges on to a road opposite a 'crinkle-crankle' (zig-zag) brick wall.

5 Turn left here, passing a group of Victorian almshouses on the left and a fire station on the right. Continue along this street as far as the war memorial and the Victorian red-brick town hall. You could fork right here to return to the car park, but it would be a pity not to explore the town. Turn left along Church Street to follow the course of the old outer bailey of the Norman motte and bailey castle that once stood on the castle mound. Pass the school and the timber-framed Guildhall to reach the Church of St Peter and St Paul with its 100ft (30m) tower. Turn right along Castle Street and you will see Castle Hill on your right. Go back down to Castle Street and turn right to complete your circuit of the town. At the end of this street, turn right into The Cross, where the town's markets once took place, and left before the town hall to return to the start of the walk.

Eye was once surrounded by marshland, hence its name which derives from the Saxon word for an island. Although it is officially a town, Eye feels more like a village and this short walk will open your eyes (sorry!) to some of its delights.

These include Castle Hill, which you can climb to see the ruined castle at the top of the mound and enjoy views stretching across the border into Norfolk. The keep on the summit is actually a 19th-century folly that was destroyed in a storm in the 1960s.

Storm damage - from a different storm - also led to the creation of the Storm Memorial Woodlands, a lovely area of meadows, ponds, islands, woods and sculptures created out of the ruins of the great storm of 1987, which destroyed many trees.

Where to eat and drink

Beards Tea Room on Church Street is housed in a delightful timber-framed cottage and offers a menu of teas, coffees, sandwiches, salads, ice creams and home-made cakes. There is also a delicatessen next door where you can stock up on picnic food. Another good option is the Queen's Head, a pink-washed, half-timbered pub near the start of the walk.

While you're there

The Thornham Estate at Thornham Parva is the home of Lord and Lady Henniker, who have opened more than 12 miles (19.3km) of waymarked trails on their estate. The walks comprise areas of woodland, parkland and meadows, and there is also a short ½-mile (800m) wheelchair trail as well as a walled garden and tea room.

What to look for

Don't miss the carved figure of the angel Gabriel on a corner post of the Guildhall, that dates from the late 15th century. Another interesting little detail to look out for is the set of inscriptions above the doorways of the almshouses, exhorting their tenants to 'believe right', 'do well' and 'avoid ill for Heaven' and extolling the virtues of 'povertie', 'patience' and 'humilitie'. Charity didn't come without strings attached!


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