A Norfolk Cycle Tour (Day One)

June 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Cycle Rides, Cycling | 3 Comments
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Plastic Timmy and I have returned safely from our Norfolk Cycle Tour 2012. I’m pleased to report that  there were no punctures, loose spokes or hurricanes, as in previous years. There were, however, cream teas (2), ginger beers (2), churches (10+), brasses (1 rubbed), stately homes (2) and ruined castles (1).

Norfolk is a truly beautiful county to cycle around, especially in the early summer when the May blossom is out in all of the little country lanes and the fields are full of green wheat and cornflowers. I cheated a little on my first day and took the train from Norwich to Hoveton & Wroxham so I could get straight out into the countryside. From H&W station I was perfectly placed to begin a tour of the northern part of the Norfolk Broads. I’d originally planned to first go south and climb the magnificent church tower at Ranworth but unfortunately the foot ferry at Horning has been discontinued so I decided instead to approach Horning from the north.

My first stop was the little church of Hoveton St Peter. Dating from 1624, it’s very sweet and made of red brick with Tudor/Jacobean style gables, a bell and a thatched roof. From St Peter’s it was down to Horning, a charming village by the river with cream teas, ices etc.  (too soon to stop for one of these though). Horning is the setting for Arthur Ransome’s Coot Club (1934) and The Big Six (1940) and in Arthur Mee’s travel guide (from the same year as the latter) Horning is rather poetically described thus:

‘a little Venice in the heart of Broadland, where the waterways wandering from the river into the gardens are crossed by tiny bridges. The river winds in and out until it nears the old church, which looks out on shining water through a mantle of tress and on sails like white wings among the green. Lovely lanes bring us to it, and to the charming thatched house with gables and dormers keeping it company.’

The King’s England: Norfolk

I left my bike and baggage outside of the church (St Benedict’s) so I could have a look around. The service had just finished and the congregation were dispersing but a few of them stopped to chat and to tell me about the open air service that will be happening on the first Sunday of August. This is a yearly tradition and is tied up with St Benet’s Abbey, a ruined riverside abbey a couple of miles away. This was the only abbey to escape Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and he in fact made the Abbot of St Benet’s the Bishop of Norwich too. This link continues up to the present and each year the Bishop of Norwich, who is still the Abbot of St Benet’s, arrives to hold an open air service at the abbey. The East Anglian Film Archive has a film from the 1960s of the Bishop arriving by wherry and although I’m not religious, I’m quite tempted to try and return to Horning to witness this age old tradition.

My next stop was Irstead, a cul-de-sac village next to the River Ant near Barton Broad where I popped into the dark and cool church (another thatched roof plus some lovely glass). I hadn’t realised how close I was to the water until I caught a glimpse of a white sail gliding through the trees just past the end of the churchyard. There is a little thrill in this – in Broadland you don’t always realise you’re near the water at all until you suddenly see a sail moving along nearby. I went down to the river and stopped off at the staithe where I ate my packed lunch of a cheese sandwich and a banana (thanks mum!) and mapped out the next part of my route.

Because the minor roads and lanes in this region don’t really lead anywhere they are exceptionally quiet; I hardly saw a car at all for the whole day. From Irstead I went up through Barton Turf, Dilham and Honing and then across to East Ruston, home of the magnificent Old Vicarage gardens. I had a cup of tea and a wander around before heading to my final destination of the day, the Manor Barn and Farm B&B near Happisburgh. Hostess Rosie gave me a warm welcome and a cup of tea before leaving me to unpack, explore the barn’s fine range of local interest books and have a little sit out in the suntrap courtyard before going over the the farmhouse for a glorious dinner of local crab cakes, salmon and local asparagus and home-made blueberry ice cream with biscuits. This was served up as a communal meal with the other guests and was both delicious and jolly good fun. Tired and happily full, I retired to my very comfy bed with a book of Norfolk ghosts and legends. Timmy bravely offered to stay outside to guard my bicycle and despite thoughts of Old Shuck, a very different and decidedly more diabolical black dog, I managed to fall asleep without any trouble.

Tally for the day: cream teas (0), ginger beers (0), churches (4), brasses (0 rubbed), stately homes (0), ruined castles (0).




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  1. Lovely blog – cycling, adventures and cake. Does life need any more?

    • I think those are the staples of life! Thank you for the comment!

  2. Sounds divine. x

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