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A cavalcade of cars and a bishop on a boat launch Norfolk Open Churches Week, with events involving bats, drama, cakes, a warm welcome and the message that churches are not just for Sundays

PUBLISHED: 15:50 03 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:50 03 August 2017

The Bishop of Norwich The Rt Revd Graham James arrives at St Benets Abbey by wherry. 

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

The Bishop of Norwich The Rt Revd Graham James arrives at St Benets Abbey by wherry. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2015

The 10th annual Open Churches Week runs from Saturday, August 5 to Sunday, August 13

A cavalcade of classic cars will roll out of Norwich Cathedral Close at 9am tomorrow morning – launching the 10th annual Open Churches Week.

The week celebrates the welcome offered by churches across the diocese which takes in most of Norfolk and some of Suffolk too. Here are some of the highlights:

The Bishop of Norwich will arrive at St Benet’s Abbey by wherry for the annual open air on Sunday. It’s open air because the ancient abbey has been ruined for centuries. But on the first Sunday of every August at least 12 centuries of Christian worship is continued beside the river and reedbeds, in what is left of the only monastery in the land not to be dissolved by Henry VIII.

A wooden cross marks the site of the medieval high altar of St Benet’s Abbey, near Ludham. A ruined 18th century wind pump fills the even more ruined gatehouse to what was once one of the richest churches in the kingdom, built by a Saxon hermit, funded by both King Canute and, later, wealthy Norfolk knight Sir John Fastolf (the model for Shakespeare’s Falstaff) who is buried here.

The isolated site has attracted painters and ghost stories over the centuries, including the legend of the traitor monk who opened the door to Norman invaders in return for being made the next Abbot. He was made Abbot – and promptly hanged.

The modern-day Abbot of St Benets, the Bishop of Norwich, will lead the service from 3.30pm.

The theme of Open Churches Week this year is “our parish and the world.” At Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham, a huge map traces the village’s links across the world. Learn about the origins of the plants in the churchyard, read about the journeys of soldiers in the First World War and find out whether villagers have been able to offer a cake from a different country every day as they serve refreshments all week from 10am-4pm.

At Swanton Morley, near Dereham, extracts from the diaries of five women give an insight into lives around the 
world during the First World War.

Momentous Times links a German schoolgirl, an American opera singer, a Scottish charity worker, an English governess in Moscow and the third woman to climb Popocatepetl, and will be performed at the church on Sunday, August 6, 2-4pm. Tickets £10, including tea and cake. Visitors can also trace the village’s links with Abraham Lincoln (he might have been a church warden here, rather than president in the USA, had it not been for a family row.)

Villagers from three parishes near North Walsham are filling their churches with art, craft and flowers. At Felmingham craft demonstrations and a craft fair run from August 5-7, 10am-4pm. See around 100 paintings by local artists at Skeyton church from August 11-13. And Knapton says it with flowers from August 5-12 August, 10am-4pm.

Floral displays throughout the church will celebrate village history – beneath the 138 angels flying from what has been described as the most handsome parish church roof in the country.

Bats, beer and burgers is the intriguing offer at medieval Spixworth church, near Norwich, on Friday, August 11. The evening begins at nearby Grange Farm at 8pm, followed by the chance to see a bat flight in the church. Book by calling Sheelah Cook on 01603 898190.

Spixworth church will also be open daily from 10am-4pm, with refreshments served daily and art by local schoolchildren on 
display throughout Open Churches Week.

See ancient wall paintings in the churches of South Burlingham, Moulton and Wickhampton, near Acle. The tour, begins at 2pm on Saturday, August 12, led by the Rev Canon Nick Garrard.

Booking essential; tickets £11, further information from hemblington@gmail.com.

At Wretham, near Thetford, Victorian St Ethelbert’s will be open every Sunday from August 6 to September 10, with the chance to see war graves and a memorial by Edwin Lutyens, who also designed both the Cenotaph in London and the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France.

Find out who has won the Capturing the Church photography competition. Twelve shortlisted photos are on display at Wymondham Abbey until Sunday, August 13. Vote for your favourite – and find out who won as Open Churches Week closes.

A free guide to churches in Norfolk and Waveney, most of which are open all year round, is available from tourist information centres and libraries and www.dioceseofnorwich.org/visiting/guides/open

For a full list of events visit www.dioceseofnorwich.org/open

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