A lovely broadland village on its own Broad, which is best viewed from the top of the tower in the church.
An Introduction to Ranworth
Ranworth is a lovely Broadland village, actually fronting Malthouse Broad (so called because of the old malt houses near the pub) and accessed by a dyke from the River Bure. Ranworth Broad (to the west) is closed to boats as it is a nature reserve and divided from Malthouse Broad by a thick bank. Malthouse Broad is a boating paradise with all style, shape and size of boat, and their crew can often be found having a pint of local beer in the pub! Ranworth Broad is said to be haunted by a 12th century monk that is often seen rowing his boat out onto the Broad early in the morning mist. The village itself is dominated by the church dating back to 1370 and is known as the Cathedral of the Broads. It has some splendid old woodwork, including a painted rood-screen, one of the finest in the country and there is a glorious view from the top of the church tower. An ancient book of Psalms is on display in the church - the Ranworth Antiphoner, dating from the 1400's. Ranworth also contains a nature reserve with a visitors centre, a wildlife information office and a shop (most of these operate seasonal opening times). There is a lovely short walk out of the village and across to South Walsham Broad.
We start our tour of Ranworth at the village staithe. Ranworth Staithe actually fronts Malthouse Broad; named after nearby malt houses. It is popular with boating enthusiasts and there is overnight mooring for a few boats (stern on); there is also a seasonal information centre, operated by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and a shop. A ferry service from the staithe take visitors to the Wildlife Centre (tickets are available from the information centre).
Ranworth Information Centre
Boats moored against Ranworth Staithe
Chartered cruiser the Southern Comfort moored at Ranworth
Granary Stores on Ranworth Staithe
The Maltsters pub, opposite Ranworth Staithe
The village sign adjacent to the pub car park
All around Ranworth there are great waterside views ...
including glimpses of the Broad through the trees. The village contains more than its fair share of pretty thatched cottages and all this all makes Ranworth an ideal place to visit if you enjoy photography or painting!
A boating holiday is a great way to see and enjoy the Norfolk Broads. The following boatyards offer a fine choice of comfortable self-drive cruisers, with a good choice of layouts and all well equipped to a high standard - you just need to choose the right boat for you!
The tower of St. Helens church dominates the Ranworth skyline and has served the villagers since 1390. It is well worth tackling the ladders inside the church tower and climb to the top for the wonderful views over the landscape. The church bears the nickname the Cathedral of the Broads and it is easy to understand why when from its heights on clear days you can see five Norfolk Broads. The church also has a fine example of a medieval painted rood screen and some lovely stained glass. Next to the church is a Visitors Centre in a converted old coach house, which houses a tea room and a display of photographs of East Anglican churches.
The Cathedral of the Broads
The entrance to Ranworth parish church of St. Helen
Inside the church at Ranworth
The medieval rood screen at Ranworth church
Stained glass window in Ranworth church
Tight stone steps take you up the church tower
The roof of Ranworth church tower
Part of the magnificent view from the top!
Before we leave Ranworth church, head over to the cabinet just to the side of the main door; usually it has a cloth protecting its ancient contents - the Ranworth Antiphoner. In medieval times, services were held 7 times a day and these would consist of prayers said or sung from a book of psalms. Lines were read alternately, ‘antiphonally’, between the priest and the choir. Ranworth Church still has one of its two medieval Latin antiphoners; the other earlier and smaller one is in the British Library. The book dates from the 1400s and has 285 vellum (animal skin) pages illustrated with gleaming colour pictures and gold leaf edging. Amazingly this book was lost for 300 years, only to re-appear in a private collection and offered for sale back to the church in 1912, where it has rightfully been displayed ever since.
The Ranworth Antiphoner
Beautiful Colour Illustrations in the Antiphoner
Ranworth is said to be haunted by the friendly ghost of a monk. He appears at dawn, rowing a small boat across the broad with a little dog standing in the bow.
Legend says that the brothers of nearby St. Benet’s Abbey undertook the work of restoring the rood screen of the church of St. Helens at Ranworth. So early each morning a monk would row his boat across the broad from the Abbey to the church in order to carry out the restoration work. At the end of the day the monk would return by the same route.
One evening returning to the Abbey, the monk found to his horror that his fellow monks had been murdered, by the Kings troops as part of the dissolution of the monasteries, ordered by Henry VIII. Devastated, he remained in the ruins of his beloved Abbey living like a hermit. When he died the local residents buried him in the churchyard of St. Helens, but he still returns to his work at Ranworth Church, accompanied by his little dog.
Near the church is a large nature reserve, which winds its way through woodland to a Norfolk Wildlife Conservation Centre; a floating thatched building right on the edge of the Broad which has information about the Broads and their history. Inside, the centre has plenty of things to see and do, such as models of local scenes depicting peat digging, thatching and duck shooting. There are also views out through purpose built windows with binoculars and telescopes on the upper windows for bird watching. The centre also has a shop and a ferry boat operates between the centre and Ranworth main staithe (seasonal).
The thatched visitors centre at Ranworth Broad
The entrance to the boardwalk taking you to the centre
The boardwalk twists and turns through woods
Beautiful views from the path
Boat trips to the wildlife centre from the main staithe
Birds that can be seen at Ranworth Broad
Inside the wildlife centre at Ranworth Broad
Peat digging for warmth
Reeds for thatch and shooting ducks for food!
The view over Ranworth Broad from the WIldlife Centre
SUGGESTED WALK: Ranworth and South Walsham Broad (2 miles approximately)
For an enjoyable short walk, take the track that leads away from Ranworth village staithe heading East. This track leads out of the village along the edge of the Broad and turns into a path that follows the edge of South Walsham Broad, before coming out on the road back into Ranworth.
The lane from Ranworth Staithe
The footpath near South Walsham Broad
The footpath from Ranworth Staithe
You may also like to visit the nearby Fairhaven Woodland and Water Gardens, which comprises of 53 hectares (131 acres) of beautiful ancient woodland, water gardens and a private broad at South Walsham.
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden near Ranworth
The old oak tree at Fairhaven gardens near Ranworth
Ranworth summary of what to SEE and DO
Enjoy the view from the staithe
Visit the church and climb the tower for amazing views
View the Antiphoner in the church
Wander over the boardwalk to the Norfolk Wildlife Conservation Centre
Enjoy a refreshment in the pub or church tea room
Browse the wildlife information office
Take a ride on the boat ferry from the staithe to the nature centre
Walk the path towards South Walsham Broad
Ranworth is one of the best villages on the Norfolk Broads. There is enough to keep you busy for most of the day, including an historic church, picturesque nature reserve, relaxing walks and finally a pub lunch!
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