Norfolk Broads : How Hill and St Benets Abbey

Somewhere out in the middle of the Norfolk countryside.

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Tim : Where is everybody?   Me : Still in bed?   Tim: What?   Me : (shouting) Christmas shopping?  Tim : Mad   Me : Yep

Sometimes our conversations are gripping……..

Sunday 10th December 2016

This December morning we are up and out (sleep?) walking by 9:15.

Camera batteries don’t charge themselves (oops I forgot) but I desperately wanted to record our walk for this blog so Tim said I could borrow his SLR.  This heavy lump of a camera has been slightly neglected in favour of my new compact but today it was out for another airing albeit in my backpack which, according to Tim, would be good weight training for future treks/walks….hmmm.

In the heart of the Norfolk Broads are two places that are photographed by professional and hobby photographs alike throughout the year. How Hill and St Benets Abbey.  From the village of Ludham, which is about 10 miles east of Norwich, our route of about 8 1/2 miles would allow us to get to both.

We headed north out of the village, on pavements at first, then crossed fields on footpaths and a quiet lane to reach How Hill.  How Hill comprises a large thatched house with garden and grounds that look down onto the Ant valley – the River Ant and surrounding reserve.  School children stay here on educational trips learning about the Norfolk Broads, it’s history, wildlife and conservation.  It’s a wonderful place – it makes you breathe.

Walk just past the house and this is the view.

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A track leads down to the river.  Here is a small thatched house, now a small museum.  Inside gives an impression of how marsh men would have lived in Victorian times.  I try to photograph this every visit and I’m never quite happy that I’ve captured the feel of the place.  Still, here it is. Toad Hole Cottage.  The name makes me think of Wind in the Willows ….though of course that would be Toad Hall which this certainly isn’t.

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There are a couple of wooden framed mills on the river bank to the right of a boathouse and I wanted to photograph them so off we set.  As you can see the sun was out (can’t complain) but it was in totally the wrong place!  Hey, never mind, I quite liked the silhouette and Tim (who is my photography guru) said it was the best shot of the day so I had to show it off.

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We retraced our steps then continued along the footpath by the river passing the mill that must be photographed hundreds of times every year by boaters or walkers.  The photo I took is copied in black and white at the top – I wonder which is best, I can’t decide….

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For two miles we continued along this twisting grassy path, towards Ludham Bridge, the low sun in the sky in our faces.

The road bridge crosses the river here, we turn left then up the road a bit taking the first right turn at the Dog Inn.  About five minutes along this very quiet road we turned right onto a lane that soon turns into a farm track.  It’s wide enough for two cars to pass and goes ever so slightly downhill. We were heading back out onto the marsh.

This was new walking territory and sometimes a mile seems like a long way.  At the very end the track was really rough, just before a small car park. Here, at last, right next to the river Bure, are the first glimpses of St Benets.

Thankfully the one and only bench here was free so we could enjoy a bit of comfort for lunch – but not before I ran about taking a few photos while the sun shone.

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The main ruin that you see here is the old gatehouse which later had a mill built inside it (18th century).  There is also a small section of the wall that used to circle the whole site – on the far left. This is the gatehouse for what was the grounds surrounding St Benets Abbey and is the only structure left on the whole site.

There’s a small section of ruin – part of the actual abbey – protected by a wooden stake fence.  I didn’t like the look of the fence so didn’t bother photographing it.  I’m such an ancient monument snob!

A tiny bit of history

On the site was one of the wealthiest Benedictine buildings in the country.  There were several properties and a church as well as an abbey here.  Apparently King Henry VIII  didn’t include the monastery in the dissolution – instead the Bishop of Norwich took on all the properties.  However, this didn’t stop it being plundered and the buildings all disappeared (about 1545).  Phew – google helped me out here – sorry for any historical errors!

I was completely shocked by the amount of graffiti.  Shocked but interested.

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Couldn’t resist another artistic shot – below.

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We retraced our steps back up the farm track then took a footpath to the edge of the village.

By 3pm the sun was sinking and clouds starting to roll in.  We reached the car and stood for a moment against the wall surrounding the church.  Cars with their passengers were travelling along heading home from their shopping trips…..

This walk can be and almost always in shortened by us – missing St Benets.  It’s a peaceful walk and, if you dress warmly, is really enjoyable in the winter.

 

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