South Norfolk walk with three interesting churches on the way

PUBLISHED: 16:03 08 July 2019

The collapsed tower at St Margaret's (photo: Peter James)

The collapsed tower at St Margaret's (photo: Peter James)

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There's a triple threat for church lovers on this walk with Peter James and the Norfolk Ramblers

Crown copyright 2019 Ordnance Survey. Media 013/19Crown copyright 2019 Ordnance Survey. Media 013/19

Ordnance Survey maps are available from all good booksellers and outdoor stores or visit our online shop www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/al

1) With the phone box on your right and the village sign on your left walk along the road alongside the common heading for Long Stratton. At the road junction turn left to another junction. Cross the road, bearing a little to the left, and through a gap with a fingerpost then cross a field to a post just visible on the far side. Go ahead in a corner, across another smaller field, over a stile, then cross a footbridge. Keep ahead, aiming into the narrow part of the field, over a stile in the corner. Continue ahead along a narrow path, soon bearing right and then left to go through a rectangular clearing.

At the end the footpath goes right then follows a waymark to the left. Go up a slope to a stile and into a field. Follow the left edge to a corner, then turn right and soon left, keeping to the edge. Go over a footbridge and a stile hiding behind a large oak tree. Keep to the field edge then over another stile and a bridge, out to a road and turn left.

2) Just before a house on the right turn right on a signed path over a footbridge. Keep ahead passing chicken sheds on your right to another road with a large white house, The Firs, on your right. Turn right, then left at a junction and soon turn right along a hedged track. Go over a bridge, then bear right along a field edge, following it to the left at a corner.

At the far end turn left around the far side of chicken pens. Bear right past the front of a house and continue along the driveway to a T-junction. (To visit Hardwick church, turn left and go across Common Road to St Margaret's church, which lost its tower in a storm in 1770). Return to where you turned left to visit the church.

3) Otherwise turn right, leaving the driveway, to follow a tree-lined track, then go over a footbridge and a stile into a field. Go ahead through a gateway; the definitive path goes ahead across the field and then through a hedge via a footbridge with a stile at both ends - which may be difficult if you have a large dog, in which case you may find it easier to take the clearer path forking leftwards from the gate towards another gateway. The definitive route continues ahead along a field edge to another stile which leads to a road, but do not cross this; turn left across the field to go over a stile between two posts close together. Keep ahead following field edges, to a school. A short diversion along the road to the left will enable a visit to the St Mary's church. Otherwise go straight across and continue with the school on the left, following field edges to meet a green lane. Enter this by first turning left over a culvert then turn right over another culvert through a small wood into the lane.

4) For a short route back to the start turn right, otherwise turn left. Emerge from the trees and continue across Morningthorpe Green to a road, go straight across to follow right edges into a corner and then turn right through a gap. The path should zig-zag, first left then right, to a stile, but usage seems to have straightened it out - aim for the stile. Turn right on to Mayfield farm access track and continue straight on to a road.Cross the road and walk inside the edge of the wood. About 100 yards beyond the end of the wood, turn right along a field edge towards poultry sheds, turning right at the hedge in the corner of the field. Turn left through a gap, continue to a road and turn left. At Morningthorpe church turn right through the churchyard, go through a gap at the back and turn left, then soon right. Keep along the right edge of the field then with a garden in front of you go right through a gate and soon left over a stile and through to the road. Turn left along the road, to return to the start.

There are three interesting churches close to this walk

(A) St Margaret, Hardwick Church

St Mary's Church, Shelton, was built in the 1480s of red brick with dark diapering. Apart from the tower which is earlier than the rest of the church it is in the pure Perpendicular style. The stained-glass windows include large figures of donors in 15th-century dress. Features of interest include the monument of Sir Robert Houghton, 1623, and the carved royal arms of King William III. There are also tombs of the Shelton family of Shelton Hall. The church is Grade I listed.

(B) St Mary, Shelton

Sir Ralph Shelton, High Sheriff of Norfolk in the mid-15th century, paid for all this, and even in its unfinished state it is superb. Shelton wanted our prayers for his soul in perpetuity, but he must make do with the fact that this building is still filled with his emblem and that it will be hard ever to forget what he built here.

(C) St John the Baptist, Morningthorpe

The first impression is of an overwhelming 19th century restoration, and this is pretty accurate. Even the round tower has been tidied up and could easily be mistaken for the lower part of a windmill. But this church is part of the delightful Hempnall group of parishes, all of them open every day, all of them welcoming, well-kept and lovingly used. To step into it is to enter a living building. u

Get rambling

Norfolk Ramblers welcomes new members. If you are interested in walking in the company of like-minded people, visit norfolkra.org.uk or call 07505 426750. For queries about this walk, phone 07905 565740.

Norfolk Ramblers has established a footpath working group to do some path cutting and general maintenance. We try to make sure that all the paths in these walks are fit to walk, but if you encounter a problem please tell us.

Contact Peter James at pdjames.ramb@ntlworld.com; 07905 565740

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