An 11 mile walk along Norfolk's Paston Way between North Walsham and Mundesley
The Paston Way is a veritable Trail around some of East Norfolk's medieval churches. This section includes the delights of North Walsham, Edingthorpe, Knapton, Paston and Bacton. Although all are impressive, it it the small church at Edingthorpe which must not be missed, a treasure to behold.
Paston Way: North Walsham to Mundesley - Essential Information
- Start point
- North WalshamView in OS Map | View in Google Map
- End Point
- MundesleyView in OS Map | View in Google Map
- Total Walk distance
- 4 miles
- Walk difficulty
- Easy walking
- Country lanes and footpaths with a beach walk
- There is a short section along the main coast road from Paston church to the country lane to Bacton, caution should be taken along this section
Sanders Coaches - bus Service
- Service Number
- 5/5A - Sanders Coaches Service 5/5A Holt Sheringham to Norwich via Mundesley and North Walsham
- Sanders Coaches Website
- Date of Walk
- Walk Time
- 10:00 to 14:30
- Griffmonster, Kat
- Weather Conditions
- Sunny early autumn day
The Paston Way is a trail that is a personal favourite. I am not entirely sure why. Maybe it is the fact that it encompasses both coast and countryside. Maybe it is because this is a quiet and peaceful part of Norfolk that seems undisturbed by the masses. Maybe its because it is too short to be called a simple footpath and too long to really be a full long distance trail. Its length used to be, up until 2014, a good days hike. But then the route was realigned and the overall distance increased making it more than a single days hike if one wants to admire the scenery or visit the numerous churches along the route. The new route is good for two day walks which will provide time to peruse the interesting historic churches en route. On this specific walk we concentrate on the churches of North Walsham, Edingthorpe and Knapton. There are also two other churches encountered along this route, Paston and Bacton, which were omitted on this occasion due to the time constraints of the buses at Mundesley, this being a Sunday. These will be visited on another adventure along this excellent trail.
The original Paston Way route can still be walked and this is described in The Paston Way with several other Griffmonster Walks that also made use of the original route. Although the waymarkers have all been adjusted to the new route, the public footpaths remain so one can make use of either the od or new trail.
The walk begins at North Walsham which is a typical working market town. It has its charm, it has its history. It is also a living breathing town and therefore has the modern conurbations such as supermarkets and housing estates and pubs that are much more noisy watering holes rather than village locals. For the visitor, the obvious first attraction is the church with its semi fallen tower. I would like to say that it dominates the skyline but in truth it is tucked away behind the Market place and probably deserves a much more prominent position. A small alley between the shops leads straight to the church door and the Paston Way begins at the western side, in front of the tower where a Waymarker points northwards. Details of the church are found in the main feature to this walk.
The trail leaves North Walsham on the former North Walsham to Mundesley railway which came into operation in 1898 as part of the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Railway Company's line from North Walsham to Cromer. This section of the line lasted until 1964 and has now become a quiet and peaceful footpath along the former trackbed that passes over the Dilham Canal and past Pigney Wood.
At Knapton Cutting, there is a length of the former line that has been classified as the Knapton Butterfly Nature Reserve. On this occasion I suspect all the butterflies were in hiding or had gone to the seaside for the day as none were encountered. The nature reserve continues up until the cutting meets the Knapton road where the cutting has been filled in and the line returned to agricultural use. At this point the path heads away across fields to the village of Edingthorpe, navigating out to its small church which stands adrift of the village. This flint faced church dedicated to All Saints has a circular tower that holds a hexagonal bell tower and is a rewarding find for any walker passing in this direction. The bright and airy interior is well worth inspecting with some exquisite pieces of history including some rare 14th century wall paintings and a panelled reading desk that dates from 1587. Behind the font, mounted high on the wall are the remains of the original 12th century wooden door from the now blocked up north entrance. At the far end of the nave, on the north side is a small opening with a series of stone steps, barely large enough for anyone to fit in its confines. These originally led up to what is known as the Rood Loft. It is worth explaining the terminology here. The word Rood is the term for the crucifix that was set above the entrance to the chancel (the part of a church near the altar) from the nave (the central part of a church building that seats the congregation). The Rood Loft was a display gallery above the Rood Screen, the ornate partition that separates the chancel from the Nave. The 14th century Rood Screen in this church features six panels each containing a carving of an apostle. This really is a treasure worth seeing so do not pass it by.
From Edingthorpe the path heads back to the village of Knapton, passing over the former filled in railway where an iron bridge parapet is still visible and provides the evidence that the railway once led underneath and then alongside, there is an adjacent building which was the former Knapton station which is now a domestic dwelling. The footpath leads into the village a few yards down the road from the church.
Taking a step inside the church, one is immediately confronted by the magnificent octagonal font with steps around its base, dating from the 13th century. Above it is a 1704 ornate cover inscribed with a Greek palindrome
NIYON ANOMHMA MH MONAN OYIN which translates as
cleanse my sins not my face only. The wooden beamed roof features angels at the base of each support although these are a modern creation from the 1930s when the roof was restored, they nonetheless make an eye catching feature. A board carved with the Rectors of the parish traces their history back to the year 1294 when Robert De Ludlam was Rector. On the aisle lies a stone with skull and crossbones and the inscription
here lyeth the body of Richard Flight gent who departed this life the 24th day of November 1687 in the 29th yeare of his age.
Moving onwards, the route follows the country lanes through to Paston village where the 14th century St Margaret’s Church is notable for its association with the Paston family whose published letters offer a glimpse into the life of Norfolk gentry during the 15th century.
The trail then follows the lane through to Bacton Green, passing through the churchyard of Bactons St Andrews church. Although the building dates from the 14th and 15th centuries it was substantially renovated during the 1800's but is still worth admiring. From here the path leads down to the coast where a beach walk provides a change of scenery through to Mundesley. If the tide is high and access is blocked at the end of the beach walkway, follow the acorn signs for the Norfolk Coast Path which provide an alternative route down to the beach via the slip way beside the Gas Terminal. This gets around the first section of cliff which can be impassable at high tide. Then the beach walk is a glory of a stroll. Acres of golden sand and wide open skies. It is a site to behold and something that should never be missed.
Country Lanes, footpaths lead across the north eastern Norfolk countryside followed by a beach walk to Mundesley
Proceed to the western side of North Walsham parish church and walk northwards and out onto North Street. Continue to the junction with Mundesley Road and turn right. Follow this road to its northern most extent ignoring all other junctions. A path then leads from the end of the road, down onto the old railway track. Keep to the railway track, following the path directions where the dismantled bridges over the Dilham canal and the Little London road requires navigation down the embankment via steps then back up again.
Beyond the Butterfly Nature Reserve, the path ascends out of the cutting, crosses the road and navigates down the side of a fence. Continue on across open fields following the waymarkers at each crossing of tracks and lanes. This eventually emerges on the road into Edingthorpe village. Continue through the village and take the driveway on the left up to the church. Keep to the southerly side of the church and follow the path out towards Knapton. Once again follow the waymarkers as they lead along footpaths and tracks to Knapton emerging down the road from the church.
Take the easterly road out of Knapton, bearing left where the road forks and keep on this country lane to the village of Paston. At the main road, turn right and continue past the church to the lane on the right. Follow this lane through to the junction. Turn left and take the path into the churchyard as the lane leads round to the right. Walk through the churchyard and then across the field to the coast. Cross the coast road and follow Beach Road down to the sea defences. Walk along the top to the far end and then down onto the beach. Continue along the beach to Mundesley.
The Ship, Mundesley View in OS Map | View in Google Map
- Beach Road, Mundesley
Set on the cliff top overlooking the North Sea, The Ship is over 200 years old though there is no exact date as to when it was built. Records do show that in 1796 the pub’s lease was sold by the Coltishall Brewery. A stone celebrating Queen Victoria's jubilee in 1887 can be found in the rear wall of the pub. Today the pub is a friendly hostelry offering a selection of local ales and food made from locally sourced ingredients.
A worthy end to the walk with a pint of Green Jack ale. The pub was very busy on this Sunday lunchtime and reflected the old fashioned traditional Sunday local. More of this!
St Nicholas Church, North WalshamView in OS Map | View in Google Map
We owe much of the history of St Nicholas's church to a former vicar of the parish, namely the Reverend F A Chase, who compiled a booklet during the 1940s as a means of funding the tower restoration fund. The publication makes reference to two earlier works, one by a John Gaymer entitled Notes on North Walsham Parish church, and a second credited to George Hare entitled simply North Walsham Church. Thus far neither of these publications have been located although Rev. Chase's booklet is available online at archive.org. This is a useful resource and well worth reading for those interested beyond this short summary of the church's history.
The site of the present church of St Nicholas in North Walsham is thought to have been the location of a Saxon church which was enlarged 1275 to accommodate the increasing population of the surrounding area. Several setbacks occurred in its alterations, notably in the years of 1348 and 1361 when the Plague reduced the number of skilled craftsmen needed to build the structure.
Another setback for the church came in 1381 with a peasants revolt. This is described by William White in his 1864 publication History, gazetteer and directory of Norfolk
...a body of 50,000 rebels, under John Litester, a dyer of Norwich, were completely routed on the heath by Bishop Spencer[...]. After their defeat on the heath, the rebels retreated to the town, where they were finally overthrown by the troops of the warlike prelate, after the destruction of the church and other buildings, in which they had barricaded themselves. On the Norwich road, about a mile S. of the town, stands a lofty stone Cross, erected as a memorial of the Bishop's victory over the rebels, of whom it is said nearly 40,000 were slain.
In the ensuing years the church was rebuilt with a massive tower which was said to have been 147 feet in height and was completed with a spire which reached a massive 180 feet, second only to that of Norwich cathedral. As can be seen today, this tower is in ruins with no sign of a steeple which is the result of several collapses.
The first tower fall came on Friday 15th May 1724. This date was the towns annual Ascensiontide Fayre when the church bells were ringing continually for hours on end. The fact that it was a windy day, combined with the constant vibration of the peel is thought to have been the main cause of the weakening of the tower. The verger was the first to notice the precarious state of the building when he dutifully ascended the tower to wind the clock. Such was his concern with the stability of the tower, that he immediately fled to warm the townsfolk, and none too soon, for the towers south and west side soon came crashing down. The vicar of the day recorded this in a notes, dated Memorandum May the 16 1724
on Sat: between nine and ten oclock in the forenoon fell down the south and west sides of the steeple and no person, man woman nor child (that we hear of yet) getting any mischief thereby. Thanks be to God for his goodness therein.
In the years that followed the weather further weakened the ruin, and in 1835 a series of small falls indicated the weakness of the upper stonework. February 17th 1836 saw the biggest fall when northerly gales toppled the north side of the steeple, damaging the roof of a library and bringing the bells down into the ruins. It is stated that the sound was like an earthquake. Following this fall, the remaining east wall was in such a precarious state that it had to be reduced in height for safety reasons.
1939 saw work to stabilize the remaining sections of the tower with a view to reconstruction. Unfortunately no rebuilding ever took place and by the 21st century further small falls were being experienced such that the area had to be fenced off in August 2011. Fortunately funding from several organisations including English Heritage and the National Churches Trust enabled repair work to be undertaken, this being completed in 2015.
Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information
Summary of Document Changes
Last Updated: ... 2016-05-10