Monday, 16 April 2012


I'm stuck in my office most of this week, but thought you'd like to see some photos from a couple of weeks ago when T and I took a cycle ride along the Norfolk-Suffolk border.

One of the nicest things about England is how you need only go a mile or two, slowly, on foot or by bike, before you see something interesting. Throughout the day I was struck by the number of signs and notices that caught my eye.

First, a rather sad one. NO LEAD, ZINC ROOF, NO VALUE. The hand written sign outside this church refers to the tremendous bout of metal thieving at the moment. War memorials, electrical cables, church roofs - it's appalling, dangerous and disrespectful. I am not convinced by the government's reasons for its lack of action. Read more here, if you are interested.

The weather wasn't great, and I quickly regretted coming out without warm socks. In the small town of Bungay I spotted the hand-written signboard of Wightmans, the sort of old fashioned house and home store that I didn't think existed any more - the kind of incredibly useful shop that sells most things.

Some of the furnishings look to be 60 or 70 years old, and when I went in, several assistants were sitting in a row behind a counter, drinking tea. They were extremely helpful. And yes, they had the perfect socks!

Later that day, we found ourselves passing the somewhat eccentric Raveningham Centre, a converted old farm on a large country estate. This tin sign of a pub scene is one of many curious objects adorning their cafe, the "Ravenous Cafe."

"Woodbines" were renowned in my schooldays as ultra-cheap cigarettes that even children could afford. (Hm.)

The Raveningham Centre (check the link for their website) is a bit of a hippie throwback. It's centred on an ancient, farmhouse doing dual service as a ramshackle family home and home for antique rugs and various curiosities. There are vintage clothes in the outbuildings, and the funky, quirky cafe-shop-event space sells great cakes, freshest salad, and, of course, vintage signs.

I usually like visiting village churches. Many are hundreds of years old, and guard much of the history of the settlement in which they stand. Even if the villagers are not particularly religious, they usually treasure their church, as the village's special building.

Here, in the small village of Toft Monks, a large Royal Coat of Arms of George II (1683-1760)hangs above the main door. After 1660 it was compulsory to have coats of arms (known as "achievements") hung in churches, but over the years most of them have disappeared or been chucked out by modernizers. I love the lion's expression in this one. It's meant to be growling fiercely but it looks rather cute to me.

I'm sorry it's a bit dark.

A little further on, in the large church at Aldeby, this message is proudly scratched upon an inside wall

"THIS STEPLL WAS BELT 1633" Not the best spelling, but the steeple-builders of 1633 must have been glad to finish their task.

Just across the road, someone was selling home made marmalade, apples (in the carrier) and eggs. You put your money in the honesty jar. Just one goose egg was left, looking quite majestic alongside the recycled box containing free range hen eggs.

I bought the apples, which had been well stored, and I made a crumble with them next day - they were very good.

Most East Anglian villages have signs which show notable things about the village. This sign serves both Wheatacre and Burgh St. Peter, and includes portraits of a windmill, an East Anglian sailing barge, a Suffolk Punch horse and a very strange looking church.

The church was just across the fields. It looked odd in real life, too, with a ziggarat shaped tower and a beautifully thatched nave.

The weird tower is actually a mausoleum built by one Samuel Boycott, a big shot around Burgh St Peter in the late 1700s. Boycott decided to repair the tower and make it double as a mausoleum, and his design was supposedly inspired by an Italian church, but the church guide compares it to a structure of ancient Iraq. Either way, the local people probably weren't too impressed, but in those days the local gentry were not to be argued with so they had to put up with it.

I suspect the blanked out window is where they put the coffins.

Large slabs of stone standing upright next to a road can be milestones, or perhaps old prehistoric standing stone re-used by a local farmer. We saw several that were inscribed with runes. In each case, the incised lines of the runes had been painted red. There was no other explanation, but I assumed the stones were part of an art work. Flickr has some photos of "The Stones of Destiny" here so see what you think.

And then we came across a very large and obviously very old ruined castle. It was very picturesque, with sheep grazing around it, it was hard to get a good picture because it was all fenced off. This was where we really did need a sign. But there wasn't one!

Just a rusty old gate.

The trusty O.S. map identified the site as Mettingham Castle, so I looked it up when I got back, here. As you see, lots of public money has gone on conserving the ruins. Here's hoping that one day they will be open to the public.

By this time the weather had warmed up so we returned to Bungay and bought some goodies from the deli to eat as a picnic in Bungay's fine ruined castle, which is tucked away behind the town. I'm afraid I forgot to take a picture of the deli sign - but the food was great, and we felt we'd had a good day.


  1. Thanks for taking us with you on this historic walk.
    I really need to check and make sure my passport hasn't expired.

  2. Very enjoyable. I like the old hand painted signs on shopfronts. Plastic signs are an eyesore.

  3. A lovely ride- I'm envious!!
    I need to get out on my bike!!

  4. It sounds like a perfect outing to me. So sorry to hear you were stuck inside today. Bonnie

  5. Gosh, I just get so intense following along on your wonderful journeys. So much history, so many interesting sights. Thank you!

  6. Always love to go walking with you. People in the US are stealing the aluminum siding off houses that have been foreclosed on and anything inside they can get their hands on or rip out. When times are hard thieves multiply, I guess.

    That really is a wonky church! LOL! Hope you have a really wonderful week. :)

  7. Thank yo for the lovely tour.

    We are also having problems here in the States with desperate, insensitive, heartless people stealing bronze markers from graves. Nothing is sacred.

  8. Aging, in this case hundreds of years of it, brings with it a wonderful collection of curious objects and architecture! That ziggurat mausoleum is rather interesting by looking so out of place. And I wish we could stumble on old castle ruins in this part of the New World, though I do appreciate this area's push towards the future. (It's made blogging possible after all.) Hope you get a chance to get out of the office and explore some more.

    - Jenny

  9. What a lovely ride/walk you had. Thanks for taking us along.
    Here in Arizona they are stealing copper. Mostly in the wiring used in homes and business. There are whole stretches of roads and parks that are without street lights. So awful, dumb and really stupid.

    cheers, parsnip

  10. Great stuff Jenny. Nearly makes me want to go back round Norfolk - where I've been but never thought much of before. I obviously missed the best bits.

  11. Walkers paradise!

    Warm Aloha from Waikiki
    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } (°>


  12. I love this part of England, my younger son lives quite close to Bungay which is one of my favourite places. There are so many other interesting old villages and small towns to see too. Did you come across any of the churches with round towers? One of them is Holy Trinity in Bungay but there are lots of others around the area too.

  13. That seems like a wonderful area for cycling, not only because of all the interest, but also because it's fairly flat. Is that right?

  14. Hello Jenny:
    What fun we have had walking with you today! It is quite true that on foot one does see all manner of interesting bits and pieces that are so often overlooked when one is whizzing by in a car.

    This is a very attractive part of the country, we think, and the marks of past times are visible in the most unexpected places. Some years ago now we stayed for a few days in Thetford and explored the countryside and places of interest in the vicinity. But, there is so much more that we have yet to discover and we really must return one day.

  15. This was a nice day out with you, thank you!
    Reg. the first sign; when my husband first came over from England to live with me (in November 2000), he was amazed to see how many of our public and private buildings sport shiny copper drain pipes and roof rims and so on. I remember him telling me that none of this would stay up very long in England, but that people were stealing any metal bits that were not totally corroded or extremely well secured.

  16. Great shots and i agree that there is so much to discover on our doorstep if we take the time of looking properly! Stuck in this office this week?! Don't have any regret, you've seen the weather forecast! :)

  17. I love the village sign - and the church! Thank you for posting these lovely pictures :-)

  18. Thanks for a lovely ramble through your countryside!

    They've started stealing metal in England? Oh, heavens. Back in South Africa they steal monuments, manhole covers, copper telephone wires, train tracks ...

    PS: I think that lion needs to practice his scowl a bit more.

  19. What a fun walk around a countryside far from where I live. The history is magical. The photos told great stories and you are lucky to live in such an interesting place.

  20. This is an awesome post Jenny!! Enjoyed all of it. Love the church/mausoleum and Mettingham Castle... the latter being a place I might have to add to my list of places I want to visit. :-) My favourite ruins in England would have to be Corfe Castle

  21. Love the pyramid church (I can't spell ziggurat either!)

  22. Good morning Jenny, I have just enjoyed my virtual cycle ride, not an area we have explored when we visit our friends yet. :)

  23. I have never been to that part of the country. Odd really that i spend so much time away and don't travel the length and breadth of my own land. I suppose the region has an image of flatness which implies a lack of features both topographically as well as culturally. Perhaps I will go and have a look.
    the mausoleum is quirky but something about the idea of a mausoleum I find a bit repellent. Somehow, Apart from the reminder of mortality, which let's face, few of us wish to have brought to our attention very much, it just seems a bit of a morbid idea (especially in that most prosaic of materials: red brick)

  24. Thank you for the comments. I'm shocked and surprised to learn how widespread metal theft is elsewhere too I still think our government could do more since we are an island and so it's harder to get the loot overseas. They could start by regulating scrap metal dealers more effectively. And your post suggetss, Meike, that the Germans are on the case.

    Oh well, off my soapbox about metal theft, now!

    Adullamite, I can't spell it AND I am too lazy to look it up. PerNumquist, I agree about mausoleums and to me there is something specially odd about putting it in the church tower, sort of suggests they couldnt be bothered to build one, suppose it's just as well they didn't attach it to the village pub. An interesting bit of social history nonetheless.

    Dominic, I like Corfe Castle too, that whole area is full of interest.

    I think Norfolk hides its charms a bit, because as some people have pointed out, it's flat and not very scenic in parts. (Although actually it wasn't THAT flat, I had to get into bottom gear in a few places. )

    1. I'm having problems again with blogger. Sorry, I'll have to leave a comment here.
      You make me want to travel. My town is no where near as interesting as yours. Thank you so very much for sharing your world with me.

  25. I am fascinated because it's not an area of the country I know particularly. I certainly didn't find Mr Boycott's church very appealing: too 'square'.

    PS I couldn't get the first link to work.

  26. oh my goodness..I am so interested in all of this history! thank you very much! very fun tour! and I love learning something new everyday!! stinks about the metal thievery! someone broke into our church last weekend and stole cash...
    have a great day!

  27. cool to be so close to such rich history...i have a thing for castles...ugh on the metal theivery...signs of the times maybe...the face on the lion is rather cute, lol...

  28. Thanks for visiting my blog and your comment :) I enjoyed the tour of your city; very fascinating things to see and observe there. I have to say it did struck me as unusual to see the sign about the roof until you explained why one would put such a sign there. That is sad with the state of events causing theft of things like this.

    Enjoy the day


  29. Thanks for visiting my blog and your comment on my blog....what a beautiful blog you happy week from

  30. A shop that sells most things sounds almost magical … I’m glad they had the socks you needed, as there is nothing more comfy than warm feet. :)) Your travels down neighborhood streets illustrate just how much of a museum your entire country is compared to a young country like mine. There is fascinating history and interesting things to see at every corner … each with its own story to tell. Strangely enough the thieving of wires and metal is also happening in my part of the world. It seems to be an unpleasant trend and a sign of the times everywhere.

  31. I really like your posts of bits and pieces like this one. You have such a good eye for the small details. Those are just the sorts of things that would attract me if I were traveling.


  32. We've had trouble with vandals in this area too. They steal different metal things including air conditioners, funeral urns, and even fencing surrounding a little league baseball park to sell for scrap. Recently the police caught a pair of thieves and come to find out, they were using the money to support their drug habit. Wish I could say I feel sorry for them, but I don't.
    Love how you said you can walk to these places. Around here, you would be taking your own life into your hands if you try that!

  33. Beautiful. When i travel over here, so much of it looks the same, cookie cutter and glaring and not a whit interesting.

  34. I really enjoy traveling around with you! I especially like the Royal Coat of Arms and the village sign with the windmill. Our signs here, at least in my little town, are much plainer.

  35. This is a fascinating post Jenny-and looks like the perfect day out-discovering lots ofcuriousities along the way. I love to visit churches when I am out and about too-always interesting from an aristic point of view.

  36. Hi, Jenny :o) I`m so glad to visit you again :o) Thanks again for lovely trip. It was so interesting to read. Great pictures! My favorite is the last one. So interesting to find out more about this castle :o)
    Have a very happy week, Dear Jenny
    lot of love

  37. the 'belt' sign is too quaint! we have lots of people stealing copper here so i can understand advertising you have no precious metals to steal... sad...

  38. Thank you for inviting us to share your cycle ride. It's not an area I know, but it looks as though there is a lot to see. That church is a real curiosity.

  39. All right. That does it. I'm moving to England. What a fabulous day out. And on bikes, no less.

  40. I've got a real itch to explore England South of The Wash at the moment. After reading your post it's definitely in need of a good scratch!

  41. You have metal thief problem too I see. Ours is mostly copper. You might call the Wightman store and antique. I wonder how they stay in business. That church/mausoleum looks spooky. You won't find me there.

  42. What a fantastic collection. Quite amazing. No favourites, I just think everyone's a winner. Thanks for posting them.

  43. A super day out, Jenny, thanks for taking us with you. And I still maintain you're too young to remember Woodbines (which, of course, were not just sold in packets but singly to ensure that we youngsters could access them!!)

  44. Lovely set of signs you found. My dad used to smoke Woodbines. I remember them very well.

    You asked whether I have a follow button. I should have - top left, just over the 'orn' bit in Morning AJ. If I haven't I shall complain to Blogger - cos they've pinched it!

  45. That face doesn't look anything like a lion, more like Munch's The Scream!

    How scandalous that so much public money is poured into Mettingham Castle but the public can't look inside it.

    Some metal theft here in Northern Ireland I think, but not that much. It seems the problem, as you suggest, is the scrap metal dealers. I gather they can buy metal for cash with no questions asked and no paperwork, so it's impossible for the thieves to be identified.

  46. That was very, very enjoyable Jenny - thank you! :)

  47. I have been looking at your photographs. You have been to so many interesting places. England is very picturesque so it does not take long to have a great series of photos I imagine. I hope the sign in front of the church will stop thieves from coming close to it - that is horrible.

  48. Great photo tour, Jenny! SO many amazing sights along your way. I love how our early American settlers named so many towns and villages after ones in England. When I lived in the Chesapeake area of Virginia - Norfolk and Suffolk were next to each other there, too.

    Oh! And, the bit about the thieves stealing cable and metal - we have that here, too. As a matter of fact, a couple of months ago they broke into my grandparent's old house - empty and under contract to a buyer after their passing - the thieves stole ALL the copper tubing from the basement plumbing causing flooding in the basement AND they stole the central air conditioner unit from the side of the house! Ya! Insurance paid for everything new and it closed on Good Friday. The new owners got a deal with all that new plumbing and heating work in a house built in 1937!

    Look forward to your next trip out and about!

  49. Thanks for the info about the link, Graham. I've changed it now. I'm just shocked at the extent of metal thieving throughout the world. Though, right, Kathryn, those buyers came out fine :) Must be among the few who do though, and I bet it sees insurance premiums rocketing. John, I was amazed to find that Woodbines are apparently still smoked. I wonder who by, don't you? (I mean, now that they're not sold to kids any more). AJ I've found your follow button now! thank you!

  50. What interesting signs and sights you get to stumble, Jenny!

    The Wightman shop made me think of Ms Marple somehow and how she'd spend time talking with the shop assistants (and getting gossips to solve a mystery) while choosing lace. ;p

    Thank you for sharing them. :)


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