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@NorfolkChurchesTrust a very welcome excuse to for a leisurely cycle tour around Norfolk’s past and present

September 9, 2012

Living in Norfolk carries many bonuses, but the richness and abundance of it’s historic churches is, to me at least, the best of them all. The Norfolk Churches Trust’s annual Cycle Ride is one of the best ways to explore them. It was with this is mind that I set out with my son on a sunny Saturday in early September.

Starting from Brampton we meandered our way north. After a number of years of participation, “meandering” has become our favoured method of finding a route. No rigid route plan, just a simple decision of where to go next at each stop. Some churches are manned, some are not. Most have been stocked with a packet of biscuits and some cordial, which was appreciated on such a hot day.

We renew acquaintances. Various individual Churchwardens, PCC members and members of the various congregations extend their welcomes and sign our logbooks. The church buildings themselves with their medieval wall paintings, carved pew ends and stained glass, their tapestries, kneelers, hour-glasses and flowers exude their air of timelessness and humanity. A declining number of volunteers administer and maintain these wonderful buildings.

Around the churches the rural year ticks on. Field beans are being harvested as was the last of the wheat. The sweet smell of freshly baled straw drifted over the hedges, which themselves were garlanded with the scattering of early Hawthorn berries. Flocks of goldfinches descended on the villages. Aldborough, a veritable metropolis compared to most we travelled through, seemed at ease with itself; snippets of conversation came from the gardens of each of the pubs, a smell of baking from the Tea Cozy cafe and dogs with elaborate curls rolled around the green. A children’s playground, part of which seem to have been built by a zany carpenter without a spirit level, graces the southern end of the large green. A cricket square sits manicured within the green, as it should.

After the poetry of Aldborough and Erpingham, Calthorpe and Ingworth, we descended to Aylsham. Descended that is, until the hilly (by Norfolk standards) approach from the north. Up to St Michael’s Church and to the Quaker Meeting House, the Emmanuel Chapels, the Methodists and the Catholic chapel of Our Lady and St John of the Cross. A rich and varied collection is a thriving market town.

For our twentieth and last church we set off homeward via Oxnead. A Paston church hidden in woodland in the shadow of Oxnead Hall. Deserted, quiet and peaceful after the bustle of the town and downhill all the way home.

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