Cycling between churches in Norfolk (1)

Catherine’s wedding on Saturday 12 September went wonderfully in the North Norfolk sunshine. On the Sunday after cricket on the beach Anne and I moved to Worthing on the mill stream of the Black Water just before it joins the River Wensum. I did try to swim in the mill stream, but the water level was too low.

Our cycle route on day one 57 Kms

The weather continued to be lovely. We spent two beautiful days cycling between Norfolk’s churches. The first ride was 57 km. We began by visiting North Elmham Church. Adjoining it is the site of the original Anglo Saxon cathedral before it moved first to Thetford and then Norwich.  A seat of the medieval Bishop of Norwich which was then fortified was built over the earlier wooden cathedral.  The medieval church is beside it. Within the parish is the largest early Anglo-Saxon cremation cemetery which it is thought to have served the “river and wold area” of the upper Wensum.

Ornamental Village Signs , this one of North Elmham, are found everywhere in East Anglia. Apparently they only date to a suggestion made by Edward VII at Sandringham

The next village and church was Brisley where there is a three decker pulpit and an uncovered medieval painting of St Christopher. There is a crypt where allegedly prisoners were kept on the way to Norwich jail.

Wall Painting of St Christopher revealed at Brisley Church

We then cycled cross country too directly to Tittleshall for Anne’s taste. Supposedly the site of the family crypt of the Cokes, Earls of Leicester, we couldn’t see as it as this was the first church we came too which in the Covid 19 crisis was locked.

Tittleshall Church

We stopped for sandwiches on a green outside the village surrounding a war memorial and then cycled on to Castle Acre, where the church stands between the ruins of the Cluniac Abbey and the fortified town and castle. Both Abbey and town were apparently established in the late 11th Century by William de Warrene 2nd Earl of Surrey.  The family’s estates in due course passed to the Earls of Leicester.

Castle Acre Medieval Wine Glass Pulpit with texts emanating from the mouths of Church Fathers

Castle Acre 15th Century Font Cover
Castle Acre Anne outside the Bailey Gate

Returning eastwards we followed the Nare Valley Way as far as East Lexham.

Swans beside the Nare Valley Way

If anywhere else but Norfolk, this isolated church might have been in Simon Jenkins’s “England’s Thousand Best Churches”. It is one of Norfolk’s many round towered churches. The church may (or may not) be Anglo Saxon.

Anne riding past East Lexham Church. Significantly its stands on a slight mound in a circular churchyard, suggesting it may be built on a previous pagan site

At Litcham again if elsewhere than in Norfolk the church might have been in the Thousand Best.

Litcham Church

We rode onto to Beeston Church which stands alone a mile from the village. It was closed.

Beeston Church standing alone in the countryside, unusually for Norfolk it has a spire
Beeston Church Flushwork Checkerboard formed by chalk alternated with dressed flint

We crossed the Black Water and cycled north on a back road to Worthing stopping at its round towered isolated church in the evening sunlight.

Worthing Church , an Anglo Saxon name, the upper section of the round tower was removed in the 18th century

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