Five of East Anglia’s best hacking routes
- Credit: Sgt Rupert Frere
Tired of the same old hacking routes - why not sample what else East Anglia has to offer? Sheena Grant looks at five of the best riding trails.
East Anglia has some spectacular countryside and wild places and there’s no better way to explore them than on horseback.
From coasts to forests, ancient tracks and leafy lanes, there’s something for everyone, whether you want to go at a relaxed walk, up the pace with a canter or blow away the cobwebs with a beach gallop.
Box up your own horse and try somewhere different to the routes you’re used to in your home range or check out the local stables and see what hacks they have to offer.
If you wanted to be really adventurous you could even sign up for the British Horse Society’s 70km Challenge, which is running throughout 2018 to celebrate its 70th anniversary.
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Riders set themselves the goal to hack 70km and raise £70 for the society’s Paths for Communities Fund to provide safe, off-road riding. Those who complete the challenge receive a platinum rosette and certificate to say thank you. Register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll receive a card to record your rides on as well as a sponsorship form to get you started.
Here are five of the best hacking routes in Norfolk and Suffolk and Essex to give you some inspiration.
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There’s no shortage of off-road trails and routes around Thetford Forest. These include the King’s Forest Rides, two circuits of approximately 12 miles each in and around the forest beside West Stow Country Park. The King’s Forest was named to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary and offers acres of trees, sweeping heathland, wide open skies and plenty of peace. There are miles of horse riding opportunities on circular routes through forest, heathland and farmland. All of the off-road routes are on public bridleways or byways and can be used by walkers, cyclists or horse riders. There are also excellent riding opportunities in Rendlesham, Dunwich and Tunstall forests. To find out more about riding in Forestry Commission woods visit www.forestry.gov.uk.
The Munnings Trail
This is a circular 26-mile route on the Suffolk-Norfolk border close to Harleston in Norfolk and is named after the artist Sir Alfred Munnings, who was born at Mendham, which is part of the route. It can be ridden as a whole or in shorter sections. The ride passes through villages with ancient churches, green lanes and quiet roads. You may want to dismount to explore the ruined Minster of South Elmham, hidden in woodland and barely visible from the road. It is thought to date back to the 680s.
The Icknield Way Trail and Peddars Way
The ancient 170-mile Icknield Trail crosses six counties, including Essex and Suffolk, and links up with the Peddars Way National Trail in Norfolk. Forming part of a national trail, the Peddars Way follows the route of a Roman road and cuts through diverse landscapes all the way from Knettishall Heath through to the north Norfolk coast at Holme-next-the-Sea.
The beach at Holkham is one of the most unspoilt and beautiful stretches of sand in the country. The actress Gwyneth Paltrow walked across its golden sands at low tide during the closing scenes of Shakespeare in Love and the beach is popular with families and walkers. But perhaps the best thing about it, as far as horsey types are concerned, is that you can also ride on it. It’s actually one of the favourite spots for the Household Cavalry to unwind. Find out more at visit: www.holkham.co.uk.
These three circular trails cover more than 30 miles around Stanton, just off the A143 between Diss and Bury St Edmunds. Riders can enjoy off-road riding on ancient tracks, many marking the boundaries of parishes and dating back to the Norman conquest. A leaflet produced by Suffolk County Council lists many horse-friendly pubs and accommodation in the area, some offering horsebox parking.
For detailed information and directions for many of these trails visit www.discoversuffolk.org.uk and www.bhs.org.uk.