As regular readers of my blog will know, I am a great fan of the books of Ronald Blythe - particularly The Wormingford Trilogy. If I have difficulty sleeping I get up, make myself a cup of tea and pick up any one of the three for a read. Just before we went on holiday I did this with 'Out of the Valley' and came across a mention of the beauty of Blakeney Church and as we were staying in Blakeney I put it on my list of places to visit.
Even the church gate, covered as it was with almond blossom, was beautiful. Sadly I never thought of taking photographs of the interior but sufficient to say that it was indeed beautiful. The stained glass, the pew end carving and the carving of the pulpit were exceptional. It gave us the taste for visiting more.
These Norfolk churches (I suspect many were built with the proceeds of wool sales) sit squat on the flat ground for the most part and have towers rather than spires. You enter the church expecting it to be low but you couldn't be more wrong - every church we visited was cathedral-like inside with great vaulted ceilings. Enormous empty buildings yet each one had such charm.
Marston - the next village along the coast from Blakeney - sits on a slight rise and is interesting because its tower appears to be built of part stone and part red brick. Parts of the church are Saxon - there is the most exquisite rood screen dating back to the 15th century. It has been very well restored about twenty years ago. The saddest thing is a tomb in the floor (just a slab) noting the death of Suzanne in the 17th century. She died in childbirth at the age of 23 and her baby girl died eight days later. Apparently her husband, John, was Lord of the Manor and he did marry again and have two sons. Ominously Suzanne's tomb also holds the remains of one of his sons, aged 15. What horrors childbirth held in those days - and how easily death came to young people. How lucky we are.
We visited Stiffkey church which has the ruins of an even earlier church in the churchyard. And we also visited Binham Priory where the atmosphere was so sublime that we just sat and soaked it up.
A visit to the shrine and the gardens of Walsingham Abbey completed our churches tour - it was a beautiful day when we went there and again the peace and serenity made it easy to just sit and relax. And to complete the day we found a restaurant in a converted Barn about a mile away which sold the most delicious cake imaginable. Did we need cake after a full English breakfast and the promise of a three course meal in the evening? Of course not, but I did tell you that we had both gained weight.