Our company of walkers – surprisingly bright-eyed for Sunday morning students – gathered at Cambridge railway station to catch the train to Thetford. Having mustered the energy to venture from our beds into the grey, misty morning, we were hopeful that the forecast of brighter conditions would come true. With the flatness of our destination in mind, conversation turned to naming our day’s activity: wandering, strolling, sauntering? The proposal of “r*mbling” was quickly suppressed with hushed whispers.
Tickets purchased, we boarded the pride of British Rail’s fleet for a half-hour journey that flew by as we occupied ourselves with card games and enjoyed the names of landmarks on Mary’s printed maps of our destination. “High Wrong Corner” was a particular favourite, if one to be avoided. The mist was already lifting to reveal a bright if overcast morning, and, as we sped between the trees, thoughts of Cambridge’s brick and concrete became ever more distant.
Alighting at Thetford station we made for the Little River Ouse, which would be our arterial route-marker for the day’s walk through the forest. Following the river bank east towards Brandon, we quickly left the town behind and found ourselves ambling through pleasant meadows and stretches of birch and pine woodland. Within half an hour, the dog-walkers and ducks made way for deer and the unmistakable blue flash of a kingfisher.
Conversation soon turned to what would become a theme of the day: the ranking and rating of various seats based on factors such as comfort, quality of view and bragging rights, to fit the form of top trumps categories. With the whole group involved at some stage throughout the day, it was clear that us walkers appreciate a quality perch. Sites such as benches and logs were thoroughly sampled, with Oliver leading the way on the less accessible options, including a thankfully (if slightly disappointingly) uneventful ascent of a rotting tree trunk.
We reached Brandon with rumbling stomachs, and in our haste to find an acceptably scenic lunch spot, stumbled down an underwhelming dead-end track adjacent to a budget German supermarket. This was to be the dramatic culmination of our outbound route. We quickly retraced our steps and had lunch in a peaceful forest clearing. Our log benches scored a solid 5/10 across the board if I remember correctly.
Our return route took us back along the opposite bank of the Little River Ouse, now enjoying the full sunshine and warmth of the afternoon. Our party evolved into a reluctant-dictatorship system of government, led by the bearer of an unwieldy branch, itself evolving to more ridiculous proportions as the afternoon went on. After several iterations, Oliver settled on a staff worthy of taking back on the train to Cambridge – to more than a few strange looks. We returned to Cambridge in the early evening and, while lacking in hills, Thetford had provided a lovely day of fresh air, bird song, dappled sunlight and forest-fuelled frivolity.
Trip List: Andrew W, Eva C, Franz M, Mary M, Oliver N, Susannah P, Vladislav I, Zijing L