Norfolk Cycle Tour (Day Two)

June 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Cycle Rides, Cycling, Travel | 1 Comment
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I got up early for a pre-breakfast cycle to the beach which was a mile or so from where I was staying. When I left the barn a little after 7 there was a thick mist hanging in the air and this got even thicker as I got closer to the sea. The previous day I’d been able to see the Happisburgh lighthouse, with its distinctive bright red and white stripes, from many miles away but this morning it was completely invisible. Happisburgh suffers from extreme coastal erosion and as I went down the cliff path, the one remaining house on the edge of the cliff looked very lonely, bereft and run down.

I left my bike and Timmy behind and went down to the beach. It was a bit like the beginning of of A Matter of a Life and Death when airman David Niven gets washed up on a beach which looks very other worldly. There may have been other people down there but as I could only see a few metres in any direction it felt like I had the whole place completely to myself. Gradually the sun began to break through, the mist started to roll back from the land, and the lighthouse slowly revealed itself. After a little wander around the churchyard (which, it turns out, did actually feature in an M R James adapatation – eek) I cycled back to the farmhouse for a hearty breakfast of poached fruits with yoghurt followed by scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (Rosie definitely knows how to feed her guests).

This set me up nicely for the long morning’s (hot and sunny) cycle to Felbrigg where I planned to rub one of the church brasses. I decided to set myself an additional challenge: to visit 20 churches over the course of my four day trip. I’d already looked around four the previous day, plus Happisburgh that morning, so I was well on track. Or so I thought.

From Happisburgh I picked up National Cycle Route 1 which took me down lots of quiet lanes. For the most part the national and regional cycle routes are well signposted but occasionally either they are not, or I get distracted by looking at other things and miss crucial turnings. Happily I didn’t go too far wrong and soon after Ridlington followed the route up past Witton Bridge to St Margaret’s. The church has a round tower and from the end of the churchyard a glorious view over to the coast (you can see Happisburgh lighthouse and church, plus several other churches dotted across the landscape). As on the previous day I trustingly left my bike and luggage outside while I went in to look around. I was pleased that all of the churches that I went to, no matter how remote they were, were all unlocked and accessible. However, all had notices about ‘smart water’ and anti-theft deterrents and it’s very sad to think of people robbing these beautiful old buildings. Church tally for the day: 2 and counting.

I mounted up and continued down to Paston, best known for its association with the Paston Letters. These span the 15th and 16th centuries and give an incredible insight into the life of a private, socially rising family, during this time. William Paston’s magnificient thatched Tithe Barn, built around 1580, is still there, as is the church (yes, another St Margaret’s   – she’s a popular saint in Norfolk) in which numerous members of the family are commemorated. It also has good wall paintings of St Christopher which are well worth seeing.

From Paston I temporarily left national cycle route 1 and headed for Knapton, partly because it was a shortcut but mostly because I wanted to see Knapton church which is famed for its glorious ceiling of carved angels. I’m afraid my photograph doesn’t really capture its full glory but it really is stunning. From Knapton, to Trunch, via ‘quiet lanes’. The ‘quiet lanes’ concept is a nice one that has been implemented by Norfolk County Council over the past ten years or so in an attempt to make these small roads more people and cycle friendly and to encourage cars to drive considerately and/or use alternative routes.

After pausing at Trunch church (good font, churches so far: 5) my hopes of getting to Felbrigg by lunchtime were rapidly waning. I grabbed a quick and refreshing ginger beer before leaving the cycle route to cut across country via some less pleasant B roads. Finally arriving at Felbrigg around 2 I locked up my bike, left my luggage in the National Trust lockers and took my brass rubbing kit down to, yes, you’ve guessed it, St Margaret’s church. My 1970s Shire Guide to brass rubbing advised writing to the current incumbent to get permission beforehand which I duly did. The internet is a glorious thing so I didn’t have to go the local library to consult Crockford’s Clerical Library as the Shire guide suggests, but was instead able to Google the vicar and send him an email (to which he replied quickly and in the affirmative).

All of the brasses in the church are covered in mats to protect them so I spent a little while rolling these back to look at the brasses and decide which one to rub. I finally opted for Jane Coningsby, who had a nice Tudor ruff but who was inconveniently positioned half under the an altar table near the front of the church. It was quite hard work but very enjoyable, and had novelty value for people coming in to look at the church. One advantage of being situated under the altar meant I didn’t have people stepping over me all the time. After a cup of tea at the National Trust tea room I had time for a quick look around the hall before it shut. Picking up the cycle route that runs through Felbrigg estate and out the other side I then headed off to Holt for a shower and good rest followed by a trip by car (yes!) to the Wiveton Bell for dinner (local crab) with a friend who drove up from Norwich. Lovely.

Tally so far: cream teas (0), ginger beers (1), churches (10), brasses (1 rubbed), stately homes (1), ruined castles (0).


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