Cakes Lane is the longer of our two Bale bridle paths, a mile or so of green lane leading to a tiny wooden footbridge over a stream and a swampy path in Bale wood, connecting to a footpath across a field and ending up in Hindringham Moor Lane. We have no footpaths, and apart from Clip Street lane, which is much shorter, and the little loke which leads from Slad road to the A148, there is no where else to walk, run, bike, or ride horses off-road, without crossing the scarily busy main Holt-Fakenham road to Sharrington and Gunthorpe. I would say it is an important human resource, for the village, and for the area as a whole – used by many dog-walkers from outside the village, who usually park at the end of Clip Street – and part of a network of ancient tracks and footpaths via which you can walk through North Norfolk. Metal detectorists have found objects from the fifteenth and sixteenth century dropped near its banks and hedgerows. A particularly sheltered walk in the winter, it is also a wonderful place to see wildlife; in spring and summer its high hedges are full of birds, many small migratory birds haunt it – chiffchaff, whitethroat, willow warbler, garden warbler, blackcap, and you may see a hobby, most certainly a buzzard or three – it is a good sheltered place for butterflies, wildflowers including cowslip and orchids grow there; and the occasional fox, deer, or badger may be spotted, especially at dawn or dusk. In the winter you can watch pink-footed geese on the sugar beet fields from behind dense cover, put up a snipe or a woodcock from the ditches, and the trees and hedges are full of redwing and blackbird, long tailed tit families, bullfinches, and the sparrow hawk that preys on them all. In spring the primroses are a delight.
Unfortunately, this year of all years, the council has decided to economise on the maintenance of footpaths and bridleways. At the end of the wettest April in memory the hogweed, cow parsley, thistles, docks and other plant life were chest high, and one needed head to foot waterproofs to walk down our green lane. I gave up the struggle, and have not walked there for five months. Apart from the physical difficulty, it is a perfect habitat for ticks, which makes it a little hazardous if you have to push through wet vegetation. For runners there is the added danger of twisting an ankle on an unseen rut.
I say this economy is a false one, and our bridleways and footpaths are too precious a resource to neglect in this way. Although recently, in desperation, part of it has been cut for access by one of the farms adjoining it, and another farm has promised to cut the rest, the upkeep of council green lanes such as this, which belong to the community, should not be dependent on the kindness or convenience of the surrounding landowners.
this is from the first OS six inch map, made in the 1840’s. You can see Cakes Lane running across the top of the map, right to left (East to West); the fields between Bale Hall and Bale Wood were made into one huge field in the sixties, with the loss of all the hedgerow trees, and the meadow adjoining the wood on the west end of Cakes Lane is now wooded, those are the major changes one can see straight away; of course there are more houses now, but otherwise, this is the essence of Bale as it is now.
I was woken last week at six in the morning by a street cleaning machine which made three passes down our lane, Sharrington Road, moving some sand and earth around, but otherwise making no discernible difference to a pretty and fairly tidy small country lane which has no kerb or footpath which could be swept, no gutters, no drains, and no litter. The same goes for the rest of the village. What possible use was this? What a waste of money!