Stage 11

Stage 11 – Great Cressingham to Castle Acre (22.1 km)

The 11th stage of the Camino de Pheasant was undertaken on 2nd March 2024 by pluckers Tommy and Mark C after the late withdrawal of Adrian due to a case of the sniffles. Not to let the pheasants down, Adrian contributed to the day by being on hand to drive the walkers back from Castle Acre to the start line for 9am.

Ready to tackle the first Camino of 2024 and with signs of reasonable weather on the horizon, the duo set off on this 22km stage in confident mood. Once again walking poles and the Stick of Doom were in action along with newly purchased waterproofs, just in case.

The first part of the trek flew by as the pheasants discussed the merits and finer points of the hedgerows lining the way, repeating a tiny section of the route that was walked earlier in January. They soon found themselves at the first waypoint of St Mary’s church, hidden away at the top of a nearby hill. With seating available, snacks were taken and the grounds explored before continuing on their way, with access to the church denied to them due to it being locked.

Chat continued and, as has become custom, the navigator failed to pay sufficient attention. This resulted in the first unintended error, with a cruel extra distance forced onto slowly blistering feet. Luckily spirits remained high and entertainment was provided by an exceptionally well endowed urinating pig. Spurred on with phallic jealousy, the duo retraced their steps and were soon back on track and nearly ankle deep in water as they navigated Houghton Springs & Ford. Ingenious use of sticks was employed to fend off vicious flora, and the much maligned pheasant skill of gate riding made a timely appearance in order to avoid a muddy bath. Later on this type of prowess would be put to the ultimate test.

After visiting the church in North Pickenham the duo were soon back on the exceptionally straight Peddars Way towards the A47 and the much anticipated McDonalds stop. Once Mark tackled a tricky fence with gymnastic finesse, Big Macs were procured and adorning their table during a well deserved rest.

All that remained was the last slog along the Processional and Peddars Way into South Acre for yet another church. It was then finally time to proceed into Castle Acre itself, but unfortunately recent rains had turned the required footpath into part of the adjacent river. This forced the team to attempt to reach the town by going across a bordering field (three parts water, one part field). But it’s from such adversity that pheasant folklore is born, at least in the minds of the duo (since unfortunately no footage exists), as they faced their greatest challenge.

On entering this final field, the wanderers found the ford nay impassable and after some initial scrambling and false dawns, discovered themselves facing not one but two bodies of deep water. These were eventually only traversed by means of fallen trees which had been placed there by some thoughtful locals. With deep breaths and a confidence boarding on recklessness, the pheasants balanced, wobbled and inched their way across these flimsy bridges without mishap, much to their surprise.

Spirits raised and almost giddy with relief, it was a short trek to the finish where hopes of a refreshing pint were cruelly dashed by the fact that the local pub had closed down at New Year. Left with no other option, the team headed back to Ely, eager to regale all and sundry of their heroic deeds.