Take a walk on the Wildlife side...

England's Pingos melted at the end of the last Ice Age - but the craters and ponds they left behind are well worth exploring, writes Tony Kelly

ON SUNDAY 12 October, walkers across Britain will be strapping on their boots for charity as they join in the annual Walk for Wildlife to raise funds for the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). There are more than 200 routes to choose from, ranging from one to 20 miles, with some suitable for wheelchairs, others for children, riverside and woodland walks and family rambles around zoos and safari parks.

One of the walks follows the intriguingly named Great Eastern Pingo Trail, on the edge of Thetford Forest in Norfolk. A pingo is an Eskimo term for a low conical hillock formed by water freezing beneath the surface and pushing the soil upwards. When England's pingos melted at the end of the last Ice Age they left a series of shallow craters, natural ponds which act as a magnet for wildlife. A small area of Norfolk around the Thompson Common Nature Reserve contains some 300 of these pingos.

The full circular trail is 8 miles long, but I settled on a shorter five- and-a-half mile version, one of the options on 12 October. From the car park in the yard of what was once Stow Bedon railway station the path leads past a notice-board and into the reserve. Soon I was looking at my first pingo, a small pool of water in the midst of what could have been primeval forest. How wrong I was. "These trees have only been here for around 50 years," said Bev Nichols, a warden with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. "But the pond is 10,000 years old. That really freaks me out."

The Trust is busily trying to clear away some of the scrub so that the pingos can recover their natural grassland. Following waymarks to a clearing, we came to the largest pingo of all, deep in its crater surrounded by marshy plants - sedge and reed, water-mint and gypsywort. A year ago this was thick scrub, but already orchids and cowslips are starting to return. The pingos attract insects too - dragonflies, butterflies, mosquitoes. The emerald damselfly was thought to be extinct until it turned up again here. White admirals feed on the brambles in summer, and this week there were bright red ruddy darters (dragonflies) buzzing around the pond.

Look out carefully for the waymarks - several have recently been stolen, which makes navigating difficult. Don't miss the stile on the left, which leads into a small wood, from which you emerge to swing left onto a narrow road. Eventually this becomes a shady track, its hedges alive with autumn berries, with views over chalky grassland, grazed by Shetland ponies to one side and acres of farmland to the other. When the path narrows, a stile leads back into the reserve. As I walked beside a dry stream in Thompson Carr, a muntjac crossed my path and a pheasant furiously flapped its wings.

Keep following the waymarks, right onto a broad track, then left through oak woods and bracken to reach a small car park (complete with dried-up pingo) and a path to the artificial lake known as Thompson Water - a favoured spot for winter wildfowl. The main trail continues ahead, turning left when it reaches Peddars Way, an old Roman road, now a long-distance footpath.

Stern notices on your right remind you that this is an Army firing range, where war games are played most days. What effect does all that have on the wildlife? "Without it, this would be 17,000 acres of carrot fields. Without it, there wouldn't be otters and ospreys on the lake," said Ms Nichols.

The full 8-mile trail continues along Peddars Way, but for the short- cut turn left where you see the red-on-white Forestry Commission "89" marker. Go left again at the end of this forest track, then right on a country lane until you reach Crow's Farm. Here you can pick up the Pingo Trail again. Turn left onto a narrow footpath, where squirrels scuttle and birds sing, and try to imagine that just 50 years ago this was a busy railway line used by soldiers and schoolchildren. Keep going and eventually the path returns to the car park where the walk began.

l Distance: 51/2 miles. Time: 21/2 hours. Maps: OS Landranger 144 or Pathfinder 922. Stow Bedon is on the A 1075 Thetford to Watton road and the car park for the walk is situated behind a lay-by at the north end of the village. Dogs are not allowed into the Thompson Common Nature Reserve. On Sunday 12 October, there are options of 51/2 miles or 8 miles (without dogs) and 2 or 6 miles (with dogs), all starting from 10am.

l For details, ring 01953 884714. For details of walks elsewhere, ring the WWF Hotline on 01483 426269.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty

Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album