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Visiting the Tiffey Valley at Wymondham: peaceful, rural scenes in Norfolk, England

Updated on September 30, 2015
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Wymondham Abbey from the Tiffey Valley
Wymondham Abbey from the Tiffey Valley | Source
 A small bridge on Church Lane, Wymondham. The river is the Tiffey
A small bridge on Church Lane, Wymondham. The river is the Tiffey | Source
A sign showing the Tiffey Valley
A sign showing the Tiffey Valley | Source

The peace of centuries

I once saw a book which was entitled 'The Valley That Time Forgot'. Well, I think that the Tiffey Valley at Wymondham epitomizes peaceful, rural Norfolk, where life seems hardly to have changed for centuries.

The bridge at Church Lane, near Wymondham Abbey, a twin arched structure executed in brick, is a feature which I recall negotiating by car when another vehicle was approaching from the other direction: but the chief impression is surely the novelty of squeezing along this narrow passage across the Tiffey, rather than that of frustration, as experienced on Washington DC Beltway or the 401 in Greater Toronto (about both of which I could tell some anecdotes).

Dedicated walks exist, which in places run on one or other of the banks of the Tiffey (1), and are particularly suitable for the observation of local flora and fauna. Kingfishers, dragonflies and colourful varieties of butterfly are especially noted.

The Tiffey is a river which rises near Hethel. Its confluence with the Yare occurs at Swan's Harbour, Norfolk. Between Wymondham Abbey and Wymondham Station occurs the confluence of the Bays River with the Tiffey. A few hundred metres from this confluence is Toll's Meadow, where a wildflower meadow is being created under the Town Council's direction, accessible from London Road (B1172).

Seeing the Tiffey at Wymondham, with its lush green, well watered meadows, one can well imagine that Medieval monks would have wanted to create an establishment at which gardens could be cultivated and fish stocks raised. This is indeed what happened in the 12th century when Benedictine monks formed Wymondham Abbey, under the patronage of William d'Albini Senior. The private Abbey Meadows are today managed by the Reverend William Papillon's Charity.

Close to the Liffey, near the bridge at Church Lane, is Wymondham Abbey Station, part of a heritage railroad service linking Wymonham with East Dereham. (This is not to be confused with Wymondham Station, linking to Norwich, Peterborough and Cambridge.)

The somewhat idyllic appearance of the Liffey at Wymondham should not obscure the fact that, historically it has on occasion threatened, as well as benefited, the locality: in 1912, because of its susceptibility to flooding, the Damgate Bridge in the town, and some nearby buildings, were swept away by its waters.

In the far past, prior to the Norman Conquest, a Saxon church is known to have stood near the Liffey, at the site of the existing Abbey. The local soil consisted of boulder clay and over the centuries the Tiffey cut through the heavy clay and caused a more fertile, sandier soil to be formed in this area which is historically of a strongly agricultural character (2).

History indeed weighs heavily in the natural environment around this South Norfolk town.

August 5, 2015


(1) South Norfolk Council has published an annotated map depicting the course of dedicated walks along the banks of the Tifffey; see:


Map location of Norfolk
Map location of Norfolk | Source

Also worth seeing

In Wymondham itself, Wymondham Abbey is a partly ruined structure, founded by William d'Albini Senior in 1107. Becket Chapel in the town was founded by William d'Albini Junior in 1174; the town's Market Cross dates from the 17th century and is well preserved.

Norwich (distance: 15 kilometres) has numerous visitor attractions, including Norwich Castle, Norwich Cathedral, with its conspicuous spire, Norwich Guildhall, Pull's Ferry, Elm Hill, and many others.


How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. Wymondham 's rail links to London include those to Liverpool Street Station, via Cambridge. Wymondham is 206 kilometers from Heathrow Airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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