Discover region’s ancient churches with new guide

A new booklet helping people to explore Norfolk's historic churches has been officially launched in Reepham.

The Diocese of Norwich has produced the free Open Churches guidebook to celebrate and promote the 174 churches across the county which open to visitors all year round.

It forms part of the Churches Discovery Project, which was started last year to encourage churches to attract more visitors, make the best use of their buildings and reclaim their place at the heart of communities.

The guidebook was launched at St Michael's Church, in Reepham, yesterday by a team of 'church ambassadors' working on the project.

Jennie Hawks, historic places of worship support officer, 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 Norfolk there is a church tower, from tiny Saxon parish churches to the great cathedrals of Norwich and the Shrines of Walsingham. Whether you travel by train, car, bike, boat or on foot, you will find a historic church. The concept of an Open Churches booklet is a new one and as far as I know, we are the only diocese doing it.'

The diocese's eight ambassadors, many members of the clergy and church wardens, were recruited from across Norfolk to advises churches in a number of areas, from fundraising and business plans to starting friends groups and creating their own guidebooks.

Ken Grapes said, an ambassador from St Catherine's Church in Ludham, near Norwich, said: 'We have being doing things on behalf of our own churches for years and along that journey we discover all sorts of things which we can share with others. We are helping to make churches open and welcoming to everybody.'

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The Rev Paul Cubitt, of Blofield near Acle, said churches were encouraged to make as much space available to other groups as possible.

'In villages where there is no school, shop or post office, the best thing to do is make sure they become a community venue as well,' he said. 'This benefits the congregation as well and puts churches back at the heart of the community where they used to be and should be.'

More than 250 churches will open to visitors during Open Churches Week in August and a busy programme of events and activities is already being planned.

The week will start with the annual Ecclesiastical Classic Car Rally on August 6 followed by a service at St Benet's Abbey on August 7.

For more information about Open Churches Week, click on www.norfolkopenchurches.com or find Norfolk Open Churches on Facebook. The guidebook is available from churches, libraries and Tourist Information Centres.