Further down, past the horrible complex of posh flats by St James’ Mill, a city of birdhouses and insect dwellings in a chestnut tree. Functional sculpture. Behind the Cathedral spire, a man in a tracksuit carefully picks blackberries from the ripe autumn hedge.
A swan hisses at a small dog in the same way as my cat, Bear.
The familiar, shambling structure of Cow Tower presides over the bend in the river. It was built in the final year of Richard II’s reign as a defence against invaders of Norwich, at a time when the realm was as ripe as ever for civil war. It’s the peg around which the river pivots, an exclave of the medieval city wall where the water does all its barrier work for it.
I cross the river and pass Lollard's Pit pub. The lawyer and Lutheran preacher Little Bilney, who appears in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, was burned here in the 1520s, right before the Reformation which would have made anyone who disagreed with him subject to a similar punishment. The edgelands of a city - and in 1527, this was very much Norwich’s edgeland, over the water - have always been a popular site for executions. In the modern day, the pub’s hanging sign with its burning heretics seems a little bit macabre.
The Red Lion has been renovated. Now it’s the RLB, apparently. The chalkboards outside use the exact same collection of fonts, sans serif and faux-handwritten, as the ones outside the Black Horse on Earlham Road, and probably a thousand other upmarket pubs.
I wonder who actually lives in Pulls Ferry? The medieval water-gate, the terminal where the limestone from Caen was delivered for the Castle and the Cathedral, back when the Yare and Wensum formed the fastest route from the North Sea. A woman in a red pre-Raphaelite dress lounges under the archway, taking her shoes off (for a photo shoot?) and then further along the bank, I spot the person who actually lives in this beautiful gatehouse, a silver-haired woman in a gilet. Pleasure boat owners from the wealthy generation moored along the riverside in their gilets.
Beyond the station I come to the sterile plaza at St Anne’s. Another ‘affordable’ development. An amphitheatre of tiered steps, concrete treads probably designed with awkward proportions so that they are fine for sitting but not for sleeping. Julian’s white weightless bridge leans to a Mammon altar: Riverside shopping precinct, with its Blairite red brick and vaguely industrial architectural flourishes, with its Wetherspoons in camouflage: The Queen of Iceni. My candidate for worst pub in the city. The footpath that runs behind it is Boudicca Way.
On the other side of Julian’s bridge is the Waterfront, by day a mere warehouse like the rest of the warehouses on this side of the river. The working side. Many of the warehouses here are pleasingly derelict, and one of them, despite being converted into a bohemian loft flat, has carefully retained its air of post-industrial gloom. A roof utterly colonised by buddleia.
Graffiti at the eastern anchor-point of the Novi Sad Bridge:
IS IT HALLOWEEN YET? CAN THE MONSTER COME OUT AND P L A Y ??
A breath of weed carried on the wind over the bridge. It always sounds like it means “new sad” but it comes from a city in Serbia, twinned with Norwich. There is a Novi Sad/Norwich friendship society, with the bridge as its most significant achievement.
How much longer will this house remain? It is completely colonised by teenage graffiti artists and probably urban explorers already, and sits in a weedy peninsula at the edge of a construction site.
The other city twinned with Norwich, Rouen, gives its name to the Rouen Road where my journey ends, as well as Normandy Tower, the drab Brutalist block of flats. Rouen is the city where Joan of Arc met her end; Rouen Road, opposite Boudicca Way. And just uphill from where I sit, St Julian of Norwich’s chapel, Julian being the first woman to write a book in English. Three formidable women, two martyrs (Joan and Boudicca), one an anchorite (Julian).
The flâneurs and their successors the Surrealists dedicated much of their wandering to the pursuit of women. Mine has been in pursuit of Julian, Joan and Boudicca.
On the side of a coach as I make my way back toward the city centre: 'Much more than just getting there ...'