There was a stiff breeze blowing on Saturday 10th September as I set off on my bike for Norfolk churches. I timed my arrival at each one well, managing to dodge the showers. A good number of cyclists checked into my own parish church in Gissing where a flower and produce show was underway, offering refreshments to all comers. A fellow cyclist I met along the way gave me helpful information about electric bikes but for now I am solo-powered. Generous sponsorship from family, friends and neighbours amounted to £250 for Norfolk churches. I got first prize for my potatoes and carrots too at the produce show! So an all-round successful day.
I reached the ‘ripe’ age of 80 this year Although I am lucky to be pretty fit for my age, I hadn’t been out on my bike much recently and was surprised to find that after a day in the saddle I was absolutely bushed. I went to bed at 9.30 and slept like a top until 8.30 the following morning. So if anyone out there is having trouble sleeping, I recommend you “get on your bike”!
I have done the Norfolk Churches bike ride many times before. I think the most distance I ever went was some 53 miles, or was it 53 churches? Whichever sounds most impressive! I read on the Diocesan website that one hardy soul by the name of Anthony Meynell, who celebrates his 70th birthday this year, was aiming to cycle around 70 churches. A fine undertaking and I hope he did well. I’m sure he did and compared to his efforts mine look like a drop in the ocean. But I thought I would like to take the opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the Trust for all the splendid work you do to help struggling parish churches. I’ve been glad to do my bit in return over the years, partly because the Trust has been very supportive to my own parish church in the past, supporting it with grants towards three major restoration projects. Many of our church buildings are creaking just a bit these days. If I were to live to 500 years of age, then I’m sure many of my parts would be wearing a bit thin!
My wife and I love visiting Norfolk churches, many of them helped by grants. We have a particular spot for round towers. Our own church has one – restored in 2000 – so forgive my bias! If you haven’t yet visited Grade I listed St Mary the Virgin, Gissing, you’ve missed a treat. We have carved medieval angels in the double hammerbeam roof and there are some interesting Norman features. Our church is open seven days a week from around 9am until tea-time, or dusk in winter. Members of The Round Tower Society recently paid a group visit, so look out for a report in the next issue of their magazine.
In this quiet corner of south Norfolk, the church on the edge of neighbouring Tivetshall St Margaret is also open every day and well worth a visit. When you step through the door, you feel as if you are in a time warp. The church has a most beautiful Elizabethan tympanum in the chancel arch that was featured, several years ago, in a split second bit of screen-time during a programme/series on churches presented by David Dimbleby. Watch the steep steps down immediately inside the door!