Norfolk's churches on display

Anthony Carroll It is all too easy to pass an integral part of Norfolk's important heritage without even a second glance. Or perhaps with just a quick glance towards an impressive spire or exquisite stained glass window from the comfort of a car.

Anthony Carroll

It is all too easy to pass an integral part of Norfolk's important heritage without even a second glance.

Or perhaps with just a quick glance towards an impressive spire or exquisite stained glass window from the comfort of a car.

But the wonders of some of Norfolk's 659 medieval churches should not be taken for granted any longer when they are opened up to the public next month.

Between August 2 and 10, people are being encouraged to enjoy the rare architecture, striking naves and charming stained glass windows of 100 churches in the county - mostly around the Norfolk Broads and coast.

The week will see visitors enjoying the tall church tower at Ludham, a rare Norman doorway in Wroxham and unusual bench carvings in Horning depicting dragons attacking villagers.

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And the open church events will have the added bonus of deterring thieves from breaking into churches as the religious sites should be busy with visitors.

August's Norfolk Open Churches Week is an extension of the Church of England's successful 2005 gateway church scheme.

The pilot project saw churches in Diss, Pulham Market, Loddon, Acle, Ranworth, South Walsham, Marth-am, Ludham, Wroxham and Stalham open their doors all day to the public.

Since the gateway initiative was launched, churches have seen a significant rise in visitor numbers - resulting in increased donations to help meet the historic buildings' mounting maintenance costs.

Organiser Jennie Hawkes said: “Opening the churches is not a risk at all as the public will be able to keep a close eye on them.”

The open week will be launched at 10.30am on Saturday, August 2, when an ecclesiastical classic car rally sets off from Norwich's Anglican Cathedral to Ludham's St Catherine's Church.

Cars in the rally include the Dean of Norwich's 1962 Daimler and the Archdeacon of Lynn's 1980 Porsche.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, said: “Norfolk is blessed with the largest collection of historic churches in the world.

“Without churches we would lose a key element of our countryside.

“They are wonderful places to visit and enjoy quiet reflection.”

Events at some of the open churches include family activity days, church trails, country crafts, concerts and organ recitals.

For information on the Norfolk Open Churches Week and activities, visit www.EDP24.co.uk/dailylinks.

Leaflets can be picked up from the following churches:

St Mary in Stalham; St Catherine, Ludham; St Mary of Martham; Wroxham's St Mary; St Helen in Ranworth; St Mary with St Lawrence in South Walsham; St Edmund of Acle; Blofield's St Andrew and St Peter; St John the Baptist in Reedham; Loddon's Holy Trinity; St Mary Magdalene in Pulham Market; and St Mary in Diss.