Norfolk’s glorious treasure of churches is being celebrated once again with the return of Open Churches Week. SIMON PARKIN looks at some well worth a visit and events.

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They say that everyone has a story to tell, and that’s certainly true of every Norfolk church. Norfolk Open Churches Week, which runs from tomorrow until August 12, celebrates the county’s beautiful, mainly medieval, historic churches. More than 400 historic churches will be opening throughout the week, running a busy programme of special events and activities.

The week roars into life with the fifth annual Ecclesiastical Car Rally on Saturday morning. More than 60 cars, including two 1930s Rolls Royce, leave Norwich Cathedral Close at 9.30am and head for St Andrew and Peter at Blofield.

This year’s Art Alive in Norfolk Churches exhibition, Artists and Angels, is running at St Catherine’s, Ludham, is open daily from 10am-5pm. Egg tempera artist Maz Jackson and enamellist Sheila McDonald enamellist will be running workshops at the church on August 4 and 5.

Or how about Keep It Clean! an exhibition on grime, stench and soap, running at All Saints’, Tibenham, which should appeal to fans of history of the horrible kind... It’s open every day from 11am to 4pm.

One of the most special events is the annual service at the Broads landmark of St Benet’s Abbey this Sunday (3.30pm) conducted by the Abbot of St Benet’s – otherwise known as the Bishop of Norwich.

There’s lots more to discover too. The Norfolk Open Churches guide, featuring 440 churches, can be downloaded from www.norfolkopenchurches.com, or picked up from tourist information centres.

While you’re on the website, why not download leaflets about The Art Alive in Churches, how to visit churches in the Broads by boat, and Norman church trails in south Norfolk too?

Jennie Hawks, historic places of worship support officer, Diocese of Norwich said: “Norfolk is full of the most beautiful, mainly medieval churches, every one with a treasure to discover and a fascinating story to tell.

“Wherever you are in the county there is a church tower, from tiny Saxon parish churches to the great cathedrals of Norwich, the Minsters at Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn and the Shrines of Walsingham. Open Churches Week is an excellent opportunity to discover churches on your doorstep or to venture further afield and explore our rural medieval gems.”

Other highlights include a flower festival at St Mary the Virgin, Saxlingham Nethergate, which runs from this Saturday to August 14, daily 10.30am to 4.30pm; A ‘Year in the Life of St Mary’s exhibition’ at St Mary the Virgin, Martham, from Saturday, August 11, 10am to 4pm (Sunday noon to 4pm); and an open weekend at Ss Peter and Paul at Shropham this Saturday, and Sunday, 10am to 5pm, ending with Choral Evensong sung by the Horatio Singers on Sunday at 6.30pm.

Meanwhile, at St Michael and All Angels’ at Bunwell, The Annual Bunwell Lecture on Saturday (6.45pm for 7.30pm start) will feature a very topical subject from Edward Chaplin, former ambassador in Italy, Iraq and Jordan: ‘Dealing with Dictators’. Tickets are £8 on the door or £6 in advance from 01953 788283.

You can admire the recent restoration work at St Andrew’s, Great Ryburgh every day from 10am to 5pm (Sundays noon to 5pm), and see an exhibition about the church, celebrating links with Sir Ninian Comper, who reordered the chancel in 1912.

Fans of angels should make a beeline for St Andrew’s, North Burlingham every day from 10am to 4pm, which is celebrating Art Alive in Churches, Artists and Angels. You can see 16 roof angels here, plus one on the rood screen.

St Mary’s at North Elmham has, this Sunday, tea and scones and open church, while next Sunday (6.30pm) there’s a guided walk round the church and graveyard, ring 01362 668435 for details.

St Andrew and Peter’s at Blofield has a concert on Sunday (7.30pm) with St Gregory’s Orchestra, playing Bizet, Dvorak and Gilbert and Sullivan. Tickets are £6 on the door.

Celebrations! is the theme at St Mary’s, Ditchingham from Tuesday to August 12 (11am to 4pm). Mark the Jubilee, London 2012 and 350 years of the Book of Common Prayer with displays, craft stall, parish records, and art display. The tower will be open too.

London 2012 is also the theme of a flower festival at All Saints’, Salhouse from Thursday to August 12, 10am to 5pm. On the final day there’ll be a concert with the Poringland Ensemble, at 7.30pm (retiring collection).

More music at Binham Priory on August 11 (7.30pm), with the return of its popular summer concert series. This round it’ll feature the Heath Quartet, playing music by Mendelssohn, Britten and Tchaikovsky. Tickets £14 on 01328 830361.

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