** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
This issue has no “Parish of the Month”, but instead, I hope you will find interesting a description of our recent walk based on The Paston Way in Norfolk.
Walking the Paston Way
The Heritage of Norfolk Churches
Norfolk contains the greatest density of medieval churches in the World. Of some 1000 originally built, 659 remain. They contain painted screens, frescos, intricately carved stone and woodwork, carved roofs, decorated fonts, and stained glass. In April, their churchyards are awash with primroses, celandines, daffodils, blackthorn. Their towers dominate the gently undulating Norfolk landscape. Most important of all, these churches remain a spiritual and social focus of otherwise rather isolated villages. To celebrate the value of some of these churches, and bring them to the attention of the walker, Norfolk County Council produced a booklet called The Paston Way. Its route, with digressions and alternatives, takes the traveller on a journey to up to 16 churches.
The Paston Family
The route is named after the Paston family, who took their name from a small village near Bacton, on the NE Norfolk coast. The Pastons became a dominant landowning and merchant family during the medieval and Tudor periods. They are well-known for “The Paston Letters”, consisting of correspondence between family members between 1422 and 1509. This archive provides an unparalled record of the social conditions of a colourful and hazardous age, as seen through the eyes of rural gentry and wool tradesmen, who as a class were, by and large, responsible for the construction of the fine churches.
Notes on the Walk
In April, Roger and I took a two day walk, loosely based on the Paston Way, and covering about 26 miles. We did not visit all the churches, nor did we start at the location recommended by the guide, but the route is one which can readily be amended to suit personal requirements. The well-waymarked walk took us down footpaths, bridleways, and “quiet lanes”. The latter have been designated by Norfolk County Council, and are signed as such at each end, with a little schematic drawing of walkers. In these lanes, walkers, horse-riders and cyclists have priority, and in general they were very pleasant, leafy, and without much traffic. However, one should always be attuned to the possibility of a local tradesman in a hurry!
On the first day, we started at Trunch, where the C14 – C15th St Boltolph succeeds an older Saxon building. Inside there is a magnificent oak font canopy, and a hammer-beam roof adorned with angels. Already very impressed, we set out along the route to Gimingham, and were pleased to find the paths in good order, and well-waymarked, although we soon had wet socks from the morning dew. All Saints, Gimingham is impressively plain and simple and bright, with elegant Tudor windows framing clear glass. Here we decided we had to eschew a detour to Trimingham, and its church of St John the Baptist’s Head. Down we went to the cliffs at Mundesley, and our first glimpse of the sea for six months from the churchyard of All Saints. This is a Victorian church, containing a font and other features rescued from the ruins of its C14th predecessor. We followed the route along the sandy beach to Bacton Green, under crumbling cliffs, stopping part way for a snack while perched on a section of breakwater. April is too cold for a paddle in the North Sea! (We have been warned that this route is not available at high-tide). Far above us, and largely invisible is the North Sea Gas terminal. We enjoyed a pot of tea in a café at Bacton, before taking a path, at first immaculately mown, later cultivated, inland to the church of St Andrew, with its fine tower, built 1471. This and the towers of several other churches, serve also as landmarks for sailors.
The guide-book recommends a visit to Edingthorpe, with a detour to Paston only for keen walkers. It seemed strange to us not to visit the church after which the route is named, so we turned down the lane to Paston. But, of course, this is the lane passing the front of the gas-terminal. Although relatively traffic-free, the view here was industrial rather than rural. After 500yd, we were back to the primroses and birdsong, and turned the corner onto the B1159, hugging the verge for a short way, until reaching the safety of the churchyard of St Margaret. This poor church looks sadly in need of repair, with the plaster of the walls crumbling away around the marble tombs of Katherine and Sir Edmund Paston. However, the roof was rethatched in 2000. Outside the gates, The Great Barn (built by Sir William Paston, in 1581) is in magnificent repair, newly thatched, and a nature reserve, being the home of 6 different types of bat.
The next church was that of St Peter & Paul at Knapton, famed for 160 angels poised in the carved oak double hammer-beam roof, dated 1504. By now we were wilting somewhat, and happy to return to Trunch, partly along a path using a disused railway line, which is now a nature reserve.
After a very comfortable night in a bed-and-breakfast, we decided to complete the rest of our walk as a linear route, by parking in North Walsham, and taking the train to Cromer. First we made a rapid visit to St Nicholas, North Walsham, leaving ourselves inadequate time to appreciate this huge & lovely church, with its sad tumbled tower, which partly collapsed in 1724. After a train ride to Cromer, we were able to see only the outside of the centrally placed St Peter & St Paul. Like most of the churches we visited, the exterior flintwork is superb, and the 160 ft high tower designed to be seen from far out to sea. So then we had another beach walk, on a falling tide to Overstrand, under tumbling mud cliffs. Sustained by a light lunch, we tracked down the little church of St Martin, built 1911, and clearly maintained with much tender care. Now it was already well past noon, and we had a fair way to go, so sadly we bypassed the famous church of St Michael & All Angels at Sidestrand, which was moved inland, stone by stone in 1880, when threatened by the sea. We shall return to visit this some day.
A sandy, somewhat hilly path took us inland to Northrepps. The village is growing, with new houses amongst the old, and a large area set aside for further building. The big church of St Mary the Virgin has a notable rood-screen and C16th bench ends. We sat for a while in the churchyard of St James at Southrepps, resting our feet. This huge church, with its 114ft tower must have been vast before the aisles were demolished in 1791. Between here and the isolated church of St Giles at Bradfield was quite a long walk, which unfortunately contained the only awkward path along the route. One field had been recently ploughed right up to the hedge, obliterating the path, and making for very difficult progress! However, we were soon back on a “quiet lane”, then enjoying this church with another great tower, sitting alone on a hill, next to only the Old Rectory for company. Its welcoming atmosphere reminded us of the “Ramblers’ Church” at Walesby, Lincolnshire. From Bradfield, it only remained to find our way back to the car at North Walsham, and bask in the retrospective enjoyment of two wonderful days.
Comments: Paths, Churches, and more information
All the churches were open – splendid! Nearly all were immaculately maintained inside, with a range of descriptive literature, postcards etc, and better still, signs of active use. Many had an impressive set of embroidered kneelers, notice boards thick with messages, and often signs of childrens’ church. In Southrepps, while we were there, a toddlers’ group was active in a side-aisle. More soberly, we could not visit the inside of Cromer, as a funeral was in progress. We came away from our mid-week break quite inspired by these working monuments to a tradition of piety, set in very attractive and quiet countryside. There is no need to walk 26 miles as the route could easily be broken into short sections. The guidebook route starts & finishes at North Walsham, and zig-zags around the countryside, giving a quoted minimum distance of 16 miles and a maximum of 25 miles, visiting more churches. Although this countryside is not rich in public rights of way, Norfolk CC’s route, we felt, did not use all the available paths, seemingly using more lanes than was necessary. One could visit some of the churches by car – if so, please respect the philosophy of the “Quiet Lanes”, which we so much enjoyed.
More information on the Paston Way may be obtained from Norfolk County Council’s website: www.norfolk.gov.uk
Norfolk County Council’s general enquiry telephone number is 0844 800 8020
Norfolk County Council’s information Centre is at The Millennium Library, The Forum, Millennium Plain, Norwich, NR2 1AW (open Mon – Fri 9 – 5)
Ordnance Survey Explorer Sheet 252 (Norfolk Coast East) is needed. Accommodation – We would recommend Butterfly Cottage,The Green, Aldborough, NR11 7AA, tel. 01263 768198, from the RA Guide for B & B: the tourist board lists many more.
Janet & Roger Moreton
“The Heart of Southern Scotland”
Many of you will know that Roger & I have a great affection for The Highlands, undaunted by their well-deserved reputation for wet weather.
However, we have also spent time (once a whole week, but generally a few days on the way North) exploring both Dumfries & Galloway, and the Upper Clyde Valley, staying in Moffat (just over the county border in South Lanarkshire).
We find Moffat charming, and a good centre for hillwalking. OS Landranger Sheets 72, 78 and 79 are a good start. Then contact Dumfries & Galloway Tourist Board (tel 01387 253862), who can supply not only accommodation advice, but also a number of free walking booklets, covering short walks based on a number of attractive small towns in the locality. We have those for Moffat itself, also Locherbie & Lochmaben, Langholm, and Thornhill. Each booklet contains maps, illustrations and adequate route descriptions for some 5 or 6 walks, generally of a modest 2 to 6 miles. We found that, by putting two or three walks together, one such guide provided a good introduction to the landscape in and around an individual town.
Our particular interest in this area is in the hills around Moffat, which are mostly steep sided with rounded grass tops.There are no Munros, but a number of Corbetts. We had some good days in one Spring climbing Hart Fell (OS Sheet 78, 808m), White Coomb (Sheet 79, 822m), Broad Law (Sheet 72, 840m), and The Lowther Hills. Tinto (707m) and Culter Fell (748m) don’t reach Corbett status (762m, 2500ft) but make a pleasant short day’s expedition, combined with a visit to the nearest small town.
White Coomb was probably the steepest and boggiest climb. It lies near the centre of the east side of the highly dissected upland area between Moffat and Peebles. The route onto the hill starts from the National Trust for Scotland’s carpark below the Grey Mares’ Tail Waterfall on the A708. After visiting the information centre, we climbed hundreds of rocky steps past the waterfall, admired the peregrin falcons nesting, and with relief found the slope ahead moderated. We followed the guidebook instructions to ford the stream, and aim across the peat for the shoulder of White Coomb itself, the last section ascending in a series of sharp rises, surprising in such soft ground! The summit was flat, dry and mossy, and being visited by two charming very elderly Scottish ladies and their equally aged male escort. They descended slowly behind us, we noted surreptitiously, by slithering down gently in the 5 point position, in voluminous overtrousers!
After walking the path to the summit of the easy peak, Tinto, we drove to nearby Biggar, which has not only some pleasant waymarked walks by the river and golf course, but no fewer than 6 museums.
Similarly, the Lowther Hills, stretch SE from the old lead mining village of Wanlockhead, which at 468m, claims to be the highest village in Scotland. Having climbed the hills, admired the views (no, it wasn’t raining!), we came down and visited the mining museum, took tea and Selkirk bannock in the cafe, and admired the conversions of the old mining cottages into increasingly smart dwellings.
We note the improved availability of signposted and waymarked trails, following Scotland’s recent access legislation. Yet to be mentioned is the Long Distance Trail, The Southern Upland Way, (SUW) which starts in Stranraer, finishes in Cockburnspath, and has its approximate mid-point in Moffat. We have not done this trail, only sampled bits of it. Indeed, I would suggest that anyone contemplating the whole route, would at first do well to try a few local circuits e.g. from Wanlockhead, where it is easy to do a 10 mile walk based on the main SUW, a local alternative, and taking in one of the Lowther summits. Try also some of the SUW route to the west, perhaps based on Newton Stewart, before making a commitment to 212 miles of heather hill, bog, forest, streams, and, of course wide open spaces, scenery, and Scottish hospitality. (The Southern Upland Way official guide by Roger Smith was published in paperback, June 2005 by Mercat Press).
Cantab Rambler by E-Mail & Post: Issue 31.
Cantab usually appears every two months. A large number of you now receive Cantab by e-mail. By hand, 10p is appreciated towards the cost of paper and ink. If you would like to receive an issue by post, please send a large SAE, and a 10p stamp.
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This is a privately produced magazine, and the views expressed are solely those of the editor, or of the author of an individual item. Janet Moreton 01223 356889
Issue 31; Price 10 pence where sold
© Janet Moreton, 2005.