A scenic cycle ride through Blickling’s beautiful park
The 4-mile multi-use trail at Blickling Estate provides smooth terrain whatever the weather, and takes you through ancient woodland, past striking landmarks, alongside open fields and farmland with sweeping views over the lake and back towards the hall.
Blickling is one of Norfolk’s largest estates with over 4,600 acres of parkland, woodland and farmland. The multi-use trail makes it easier to explore, taking in all the highlights of the wider estate. The trail avoids all fast roads, providing an easy, safe, circular route in a traffic free environment.
I’d been to Blickling before, had strolled through the delightful formal gardens, browsed the book shop and gift shop, and enjoyed good food in the café, but I hadn’t fully explored the estate, either on two feet or two wheels. Feeling adventurous, it was time for another visit.
We set off on a seriously sunny day just before the Easter weekend. Knowing it would be busy, we left in good time, with our bike helmets and backpacks at the ready.
Blickling was well sign posted and hard to miss, with a car park attendant directing traffic. Armed with a purse full of pound coins, we paid and displayed (£5 if you’re not a National Trust member).
We located the cycle hub next to the main visitor reception, and friendly staff provided us with two bikes, seats adjusted accordingly. Prices were very reasonable – £4 for 3 hours or £6 for a full day. They also gave us a map of the estate and explained which trail to follow. Paperwork completed and money exchanged, we were on our way.
The trail had a crushed carrstone surface, flanked by trees. We spotted squirrels scurrying along the branches and blue tits flitting from tree to tree. Ducks were quacking in the distance. It was pretty and peaceful. We stopped to admire the Tower, an imposing red-brick building once used by the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire as a grandstand.
We continued along the trail, greeting dog walkers and fellow cyclists, and eventually found ourselves in the Great Wood, surrounded by bluebells carpeting the forest floor. Though not quite in full bloom, it was still a sight to behold. A member of staff later explained the bluebell display would be spectacular in 2-3 weeks time, and suggested we return then.
The terrain seemed mostly downhill, with occasional bursts of energy required to go uphill. Although I was beginning to regret wearing a puffer jacket, it was a relaxing ride, watching out for wildlife and soaking up the sights and sounds.
We took a short detour to the Mausoleum, one of Blickling’s most iconic landmarks. The pyramid structure, a rather unusual sight in the middle of woodland, is over two centuries old. The remains of the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire John Hobart and his first and second wives are interred within. The Earl’s daughter had the Mausoleum built to commemorate him after his death in 1793.
It’s at this point we got a little lost, unsure whether to backtrack to the trail, or continue onwards. A kindly lady explained either way would take us back to where we started, but retracing our steps and rejoining the trail, though longer, would take us towards the lake.
I can’t resist a lake, so that’s where we headed. The next leg of the journey was a riot of colour – the orange carrstone trail had a field full of yellow dandelions on one side and green farmland on the other, all topped off with a blue sky. Though the trail didn’t take us as close to the lake as I would have liked, we wandered down there later and watched noisy geese chase each other across the water.
Once past the lake, we followed the green arrows and found ourselves back at the cycle hub. The route had taken a little over an hour, with regular stops to take photos – it could easily take just 45 minutes.
We had worked up an appetite, and were spoilt for choice with three cafés and a pub on site. After lunch, the afternoon was spent exploring the rest of the estate in glorious sunshine. A final stop in the gift shop for some fudge, and we drove home, exhausted, happy and a little sunkissed, wishing that we lived a lot closer to Blickling.
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