City to County
James and family enjoy a day of unfiltered Norfolk-ness
James enjoys a classic Norfolk family day out
I THINK I’ve just experienced our most ‘Norfolk’ day ever.
Granted, my wife and I did decide to take our son for a mooch around the village of Ranworth on the Norfolk Broads so I was asking for it, but it was only when I got home and reflected on our wonderful afternoon that I realised just how, well, Norfolk it had been.
Ten minutes into our journey to the Broads we turned off the main road and onto a country lane to be met by the back of a rather large and rather slow tractor. Bouncing atop, the farmer seemed to be taking a very laid-back approach to his Sunday drive. When I first moved to our fine county I used to find being stuck behind a variety of agricultural machinery delightfully annoying – a sign of the rural life I’d need to embrace. Now I spend the painful minutes praying that the next dirt track will be the turn off that leads to the driver’s destination. Alas, on this occasion we, along with a cavalcade of other motorists, followed our farmer friend all the way to Ranworth.
We began our exploration of Ranworth by following the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s suspended boardwalk into the grasslands on the edge of the village’s vast, open broad, stopping to read information about the wildlife hiding in the reedbeds around us.
Having failed to spot a Norfolk Hawker dragonfly or Swallowtail butterfly (or in fact any of the other native wildlife we’d studied) we strolled up to St Helen’s church. Not only is it an archetypal mediaeval Norfolk church, its affectionately known as the ‘Cathedral of the Broads’ since it forms a part of most views from the Northern waterways. And if you can face climbing the steep stone steps and rickety ladders of its 100ft bell tower you can see that wonderful view in reverse.
After a cautious climb back down the church bell tower we headed to the village green and sat on the grass outside old malt houses that once stored the malt transported by the wherry boats of the Broads. And right on cue, as we watched pleasure boats motoring back and forth, an old Norfolk wherry sailed into view and began traversing the broad in front of us.
I took it as a sign I should swap my cup of tea for something a little more fitting for our location. We retreated a few yards to the front garden of the appropriately named Maltsters pub to enjoy a pint of Wherry ale. Satisfied that the shape of the Wherry boat etched on my glass matched the genuine article in the distance, we decided the day couldn’t possibly get any more Norfolk and we should be on our way.
As we walked out of the pub and across the road three horses trotted past. The riders dismounted and tied them up in front of the green to complete the near-perfect Norfolk picture in front of us.
We were met by the same three horses trotting up the road as we turned out of the car park. The riders pulled over and waved us by with a smile. Relieved it hadn’t been a tractor we headed home.
The most Norfolk day ever? I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do better.
Above: Norfolk Wherry Trust’s Albion arriving at Ranworth Staithe
Left: Ranworth. Norfolk Wildlife Trust Ranworth Broad nature reserve.