A Return Visit To The Plantation Garden In Norwich (And Another Wow Moment).

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Surrounded by busy roads in the heart of Norwich, walking into The Plantation Garden feels like how I imagine finding an oasis in the desert would be.

The first time I visited in the autumn I was left speechless, which, as Mark will tell you, doesn’t happen very often. I didn’t think that wow moment could be repeated after the first time but then I went back yesterday… and wow. Just, wow.

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There was colour everywhere and it’s was so vivid, even on a dull, cloudy day – my photos really don’t do the garden justice. If you’re anywhere near Norwich please go and enjoy it while it lasts.

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My parents came with Freya and I for their first visit yesterday (after I saw some beautiful photos on Instagram and suggested we go) and they were amazed too.

It’s nice visiting with them because they are gardeners and can tell me the names of various plants. Freya also enjoys it because you can climb to the top and then walk around the outside along dark paths which she thinks is a bit like being in the jungle.

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I’ve included this final one because I think it’s funny. I was supposed to be taking a photo of my parents and Freya for the family album but then I realised how lovely the tulips were and got distracted.

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It’s that sort of place.

 

Things To Do In Norfolk: St Mary’s Church Ruins, East Somerton.

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Some think of it as the witch’s finger while others know it as her wooden leg.

Whatever you believe (or don’t believe) about the oak tree growing within St Mary’s Church in East Somerton, there is no doubt the ruins are the perfect setting for all sorts of tales.

I’d heard of the crumbling church in the woods before but I was reminded of it recently by a story in one of the newspapers I used to write for. This time it captured my imagination and I knew I needed to visit.

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Not that easy to spot from the road, even going really slowly.

Dating from the 15th century, it is thought the grade II perpendicular-style church was in use up until the last part of the 17th century, although latterly as a private chapel for the inhabitants of nearby Burnley Hall.

Only the roofless nave and tower remain but it’s easy to imagine how impressive it once was. Nature is very much reclaiming it now, in a rather beautiful way, with the oak tree at its heart.

According to one, rather gruesome, version, a witch with a wooden leg was caught near the church and buried alive underneath the nave. From her leg, the mighty tree grew, destroying the church as retribution for her death.

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It’s said if you walk around the tree times, her spirit is released. I wish I hadn’t told Mark that because, not one to believe in “such rubbish”, he just had to give it a go. Rather him than me.

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There are other spooky tales attributed to the site, and it’s clear from graffiti carved into the stone that many people have come across it over the years, but as I wandered about I felt nothing but peace.

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Remains of the bell tower.

Surrounded by lush new spring growth, and with the sounds of gentle bird song (and the odd jackdaw) I’d go as far to say I felt serene. I certainly wasn’t in any hurry to leave.

Top tip: We were parked almost next to it and, despite its size, still didn’t spot it. Rather helpfully, there is a sign at the end of the road pointing you in the right direction.

* I’ve added this post to the wonderful #MySundayPhoto linky. Please click on the camera below to find out what other people have captured this week.

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Things To Do In Norfolk: St Benet’s Abbey.

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It is a sight that has inspired generations of artists – and it’s not hard to see why.

While there’s not much left of St Benet’s Abbey, I found it easy to imagine it as once was – a thriving monastery that would have dominated this now tranquil area of the Norfolk Broads.

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On a beautiful, if a little cold, spring day, I loaded Freya and my parents into the car and we set off to visit the remains of the site, which is now under the care of the Norfolk Archeological Trust.

As you can see, the Benedictine monastery has mostly been destroyed but the ruins of the 14th century gatehouse and a later addition of a mill are still more than worth the visit.

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While it is not known exactly when the monastery was created, according to the Domesday Book, the abbey was already “well endowed” by the time of the Norman conquest and was once “one of the richest in England”.

Apparently it was the only “religious house not closed down by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries”. You can find out more about its history here and here, if you’re interested (at the time of writing the dedicated website is down). There are also great information boards at the site which really bring the history to life.  On certain days between May and September guided tours are offered.

St Benet’s was abandoned in the 1530s and demolition was complete by 1579 but the Bishop of Norwich remains Abbot, even though there have been no monks on site for many hundreds of years, and conducts an annual open air service there.

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These two were worried about spiders!

It’s in such a beautiful area, close to the meeting point of the rivers Bure and Ant, although I imagine for the monks who called it home, winter would have been particularly harsh.

IMG_6683And while it felt peaceful and calm during our visit, there is apparently the chance of seeing a ghostly monk rowing along the Broad with his faithful dog. While that doesn’t sound too frightening, on the night of May 25th each year it is alleged you can also hear the terrified screams of a traitorous monk killed at the site. I think I’ll pass on that one.

You can reach St Benet’s on foot, by car or by boat, which is said to be the best way – although I think I would have walked from Ludham if there wasn’t a pair of three-year-old legs along for the journey.

While Freya and my parents enjoyed the visit it was very much for my benefit so on the way home we stopped off at Wroxham Barns for some lunch, shopping, playtime and even some lamb feeding too.

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