Cycling Route : The Broadland Churches Trail
This can be a ride of up to 35 miles for the enthusiastic cyclist but it uses sections on more main roads and so is not suitable for less confident cyclists. Along the route there are 15 of Norfolk’s famous medieval churches.
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Sadly, the ferry service is no longer available on this route so it is not possible to cross the river in Horning. However, the route can be completed by riding out through Hoveton and Wroxham and coming back the same way.
(Note: The total distance on this route is 35 miles, but optional shorter rides of 20 and also of 10 miles are detailed.)
Along the waterways of Norfolk and north-east Suffolk there are many round towered churches which are said to date from before the Norman Conquest. In a few cases this is so – perhaps twenty of them are of Saxon origin, but most date from after 1066, the period of ‘Norman’ architecture that had gradually changed to a more ‘English’ style by 1200.
Thatch, rare on churches in the rest of England, is common here. A good Norfolk reed thatch should last at least 60 years, often 80, although the sedge on the ridge will have to be renewed more often. This is also an area of superb woodwork: screens, often painted, benches and roofs.
Norfolk’s churches are almost always of flint, either knapped or used as coursed or random rubble.
Expensive dressed limestone was used for the arches of arcades and the sides of doorways and windows. Norfolk was a rich county and the patrons of these churches could afford to be lavish, hoping to gain salvation by their generosity.
Hemblington All Saints
The church attached to the Norman round tower is substantially 14th century with a later porch. In 1937 the large St Christopher wall painting was discovered and is a fine example.
The folk of Hemblington in the Middle Ages would glance into the church in the morning and consider that, having gazed on the image of the saint, they would be kept safe from untimely death that day. Some of the pews have poppy head ends, and fine figures on their ends and traceried backs.
Hoveton St Peter
A charming chapel of 1624 – a rare date for a church being erected in England. The church is thatched, like so many churches in the Broads.
A feature is the series of hatchments which depict the coats of arms of local families. Painted on board in the 17th/18th century, they were hung outside the house of the deceased for a year before being taken to the church.
Ranworth St Helens
A very famous Broads church with a wonderful view from the top of the 93ft tower. The Chancel appears to date from the 14th century with a 15th century nave. There is a fabulous rood screen, probably from the 15th century, painted by itinerant Spanish painters.
The Cantor’s desk, an early lectern, is double-sided, beautifully painted and unique. It was probably used for the Sarum Antiphonal which can be seen in the glass case by the South Door. The Antiphonal is a real treasure and was probably produced at Langley Abbey (near Loddon) on the River Yare.
South Walsham St Mary and St Lawrence
Two churches on one site – unusual but not unique in Norfolk. They originally belonged to adjoining manors and each served their own community. St Mary’s is now the parish church and St Lawrence’s has been well restored as an arts centre, though it is still consecrated for worship. St Mary’s has a two storey porch which, like the church, is 14th century. The screen has the name of its donor, John Galt, inscribed on it. He was a serf who, when freed in 1437, paid for the building in gratitude. There are some interesting stained glass windows in the chancel.