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Exploring Norfolk – climbing the church tower at Ranworth

September 25, 2012

Exploring Norfolk – climbing the church tower at Ranworth

The Broads from Ranworth church tower

I can remember when it was often possible to climb church towers across England. These days it is a rare privilege. So it was a great treat on the recent visit to Norfolk, to be able to climb the tower of St Helen’s church at Ranworth – the Cathedral of the Broads.

Better still, it was on a beautiful clear morning with distant views across the Broads and surrounding countryside. Patches of blue water and boats making their lazy way across Ranworth Broad and the River Bure.

First came 89 winding, tight and uneven stone steps, then a metal ladder and a wooden ladder past the bells, a push-up of a trapdoor and out on to top of the tower, some 96 feet above the ground.  As the church guide book says, “the View! Like the ascent, the panorama is breathtaking.”  It certainly is! I am always full of admiration for the masons that built this. My grandfather worked as a steeplejack. I envied him his work this day.

Ranworth – climbing the church tower

The church is well worth a visit even if you don’t climb the tower. The 15th century painted medieval screen is the best example in England, with clear portrayals of saints and apostles. There is a beautifully coloured Antiphoner – a real work of art and both new and old misericords.

I like exploring these old churches, so much a direct link with the people of the past. Ranworth’s church is one of the best, their guidebook one of the most comprehensive I have encountered.

Across the churchyard is a splendid tearoom run by parish volunteers, welcome after the climb up the tower.

Ranworth Church – the screen

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Kathryn Marsh permalink
    September 25, 2012 10:46 am

    This one took me back fifty years or more – though it looks as though the screen is in better condition than it was back then – and there are a lot more boats on the Broads these days. Back then we climbed three towers in three days – Boston Stump, Kings Lynn and Ranworth. Particularly exciting because we actually drove to Boston and Ranworth from our holiday base in Wells Next the Sea. The Ranworth trip we had canoes on the roof to spend the day exploring – our usual territory was the creeks along the north Norfolk coast. Long before the family had a car of our own.
    No walking here in ireland today – it would take waders to get from hour house to the rest of the world as the local river has moved into the garden in the night 🙂

  2. September 25, 2012 4:12 pm

    Sounds great fun climbing the tower… I climbed some sort of tower at Tighnabruaich but not sure if it was the church tower – was a great view though…

  3. Kate Ashbrook permalink
    September 26, 2012 5:00 pm

    I went up the tower in 2010 and took the same photo. My facebook picture is of me emerging on the tower up those steep steps.

  4. September 27, 2012 6:57 am

    I recommend a visit to this church if you are in the area.

  5. coastcard permalink
    September 27, 2012 11:19 am

    And this took me back 25+ years. Such a wonderful church in its landscape. And a wonderful broad, too.

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