Thursday, 31 August 2017

Hip. Hip. Horatio!

Day 4 in Norfolk and a road trip was on the cards. Large picnic bag packed to bursting with supplies and we set off west along the coastal road.

Our first port of call was medieval village Cley-next-the-sea, somewhere I've wanted to visit since the early 90's when I collected Lilliput Lane miniature houses and they brought out a ridiculously expensive model of the village. Of course there was plenty of artistic licence involved, and the Cley we found bore no resemblance to that model! 

Still, the walk from the car park to the windmill was interesting, down all the little back alleyways, where I imagined smugglers brought their bounty ashore.  Cley was once one of the busiest ports in England, doing a roaring trade in grains, fish, spices, coal and fabrics, especially with Flemish towns across the North Sea.

Of course, Cley is no longer right next-the-sea, it's now around a mile away over slat flats, a great place to find samphire it seems. The locals were selling it at every corner from these little hand made, and sometimes colourful, stalls.


We soon arrived at the famous windmill, which turned out to be a B+B as well, something to look into for future visits this way. Interestingly, the mill was owned by the family of singer James Blunt until 2006 when it was sold. 

I also discovered that wartime poet Rupert Brooke was holidaying in Cley when WWI broke out.

After a cup of tea and some cake in the car, we drove eastwards again, in search of another small but interesting village.

Burnham Thorpe is the birthplace of Horatio Nelson. It is a tiny and disjointed village with old properties scattered around the lanes. The local pub, we discovered, had closed down in October 2016. Nelson often brought his crew back to the pub when they were in port. He had his favourite bench, which is still inside the pub. The pub was known as the Plough during Nelson's life but the name was changed to The Lord Nelson after his death.

Nelson was allegedly born in the parsonage, as his father was the Rector

However, the parsonage was being redecorated at the time of his birth and locals believe his family were staying at the shooting box, a house nearby.

The shooting box.

The church, All Saints, was heavily restored in the late 1800's.  Inside, due to the Nelson connection, there are several ensigns on display, all are old and off previous warships, but none are from Nelson's time 

These flags are huge and off warships from the 1st and 2nd world wars, they flank the medieval font where Nelson was baptised  

This one's seen a bit more action, the fabric was so thin, like muslin.

Nelson's father, Edmund, is listed in the column on the right of this notice.

Nelson requested that he should be buried in the churchyard at All Saints with members of his family, but when he died at the age of just 47 during the final moments of the Battle of Trafalgar, his service to the country meant his was a state funeral, with interment in the crypt at St Paul's cathedral in London.

I was utterly fascinated by the story of Horatio Nelson, and after we arrived back home, read up on his amazing life story. After thinking he died very young he appeared to have packed more into his 47 years than most of us could fit into two lifetimes. 

With the village pub shut, we sat on the deserted car park with our packed lunch, imagining the well worn wooden benches inside, where Nelson briefed his crew and enjoyed a pint or two.

Turning back towards the holiday chalet, we stopped at Creake Abbey, a free to visit English Heritage ruin nearby.

Creake Abbey was founded in the early 1200's, but a fire in 1484 meant that large parts of the abbey had to be demolished, despite donations from King Richard III.

we noticed several shrines in the walls, with money and prayers

In the early 16th century the plague struck and the abbot was left alone, he died in 1506 and at that point the church reverted to the crown

It took all of ten minutes to view the ruins, so little is left. However, it is a pleasant and tranquil spot.

Nearer to our chalet we came across Binham Priory, a sprawling ruin of a Benedictine Priory, with the church still standing. The bricked up windows below date to 1244, and the remaining window is thought to be the earliest example of decorative windows called bar tracery, in England 

The priory was founded in the late 11th century as a dependant house of St Albans abbey, by the nephew of William the Conquerer.

The grounds were quite extensive and it was surprising to see so many walls left in situ

The walls must be damp to support this beautiful deep red antirrhinum, growing happily 

Spot the OH, camouflaged in khaki.

Of course, Binham was closed down during Henry VIII's reign, but the church remained and now serves as the local parish church.

By this time we were suitably shattered and could take no more information in, such a fascinating day out, but we needed a good rest.

More tales from Norfolk soon.


  1. What a fascinating read, such a shame that Nelson's local has closed, like my own village pub. I think you should give Scavenger Hunt a go next would not be 'rubbish', you take great photos...go on I dare you! xx

  2. Another interesting travelogue, and the title is just genius! Such a pity the pub has closed down, it must be quite special to have a drink in Nelson's local. I love a ruin, so both Creake Abbey and Binham Priory appeal to me. Love the little shrines in the walls at Creake Abbey. xxx

  3. Thank you for sharing, really interesting to hear about Nelson.

  4. That flag is right up my street, I'd love to find one of those on my travels!
    What an interesting place. The samphire looks good, it's horrendously expensive when I've seen it in shops! xxx


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