Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cromer Beach

In some small matters the call for Christians to be Christ-like is easy! Anyone can walk by the seaside! A favourite walk is from Overstrand to Cromer. On a summer’s day, with sunlight dancing on the sea, a breeze blowing your hair everywhere and with the rhythm of the waves on the shore, everything seems alive. A paddle or a swim can intensify a sense of being part of it all and can become an occasion to reflect on baptism. Even on a summer’s day the water can be cold and it’s not all blue skies! Imagine the same beach on a dark and stormy winter’s night. Baptism Service speaks of “the deep waters of death”!

Cromer and Cromer men have a proud history of saving life at sea. Henry Blogg, coxen of Cromer boat from 1909 to 1947 is probably the best known lifeboatman ever! He carried out 350 rescues and saved 800 lives. Now the RNLI have done him proud by building the new Henry Blogg Museum at the bottom of the Gangway (opened Spring 2006). It is well worth a visit, if only to enjoy a thrilling piece of modern architecture and the refreshments in the, first floor, Rocket House Café!

Of course, Henry Blogg and most of the lifeboat men were fishermen and lots of Jesus’ friends were fishermen but when it comes to saviours………… I never go to Cromer without remembering Margaret. By her own telling she was an awkward, unhappy and unloved child. But she found a Saviour when she came to know Jesus through a summer holiday beach mission. The good news of God’s love never left her! Henry Blogg, Margaret, you and I can’t dodge the deep waters of death. But we do have a Saviour! Remembering them all and that breakfast on the shore (John 21) when the resurrection faith was brand new I like to buy a crab and picnic on the beach.

Cromer’s has brilliant public transport connections and the Promenade is great for wheelchair users. Those with disabled parking badges can park on the Promenade. The lift at the Henry Blogg Museum connects the cliff top with the Promenade and the Rocket House Cafe there are toilets for the disabled at the Museum and on the Pier.

© 2006 Richard Woodham

Praying where the Cows come Holm

On the Horning to Ludham road turn right at the Dog public house and take the back road to Ludham. After half a mile a farm road and bridle path on the right leads, a mile across the marshes, to the ruins of St. Benet’s Abbey at Cow Holm.

Tradition has it that the first monastic community was established by Abbot Suneman and a group of hermits in 800 AD on what was then an island used for grazing. Great work has been done to reclaim land for agriculture, but then, before the rivers were embanked, the whole area was tidal marshes and open water where the rivers Bure, Thurne and Ant met.

This first monastic community was destroyed by Viking raiders, but in the 10th century it was re-established by Wolfric and seven companions still following as their predecessors the Celtic pattern of monastic life. Under King Cnut the community was refounded and endowed as a Benedictine house. It was named after St. Benedict ( St. Bene’t’s!) but until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VII the community continued to celebrate St. Wolfey’s Day on 3rd December.

Today the site is owned by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust whose interpretation boards help visitors imagine its past glories. Very little of the abbey survives except the gatehouse and the stubs of a few walls. A tall cross marks the place of the high altar!

Once a year, on the Sunday of the August Bank Holiday, there’s a well attended service on the site. At other times pilgrims find themselves alone with the cows that continue to graze the pastures. St. Benet’s at Cow Holm is a place “where prayer has been valid”. If one wanted to follow Jesus’ command to “come apart and rest a while”, or his example, by going to a lonely to pray, it is fit for purpose. There are few better places to recover a proper perspective on life or where the communion of saints is more keenly felt.

Most visitors to St. Benet’s arrive by boat. Many come by bike. Cycle’s can be hired from Broadland Cycle Hire (1603- 783906). There is a bus to Ludham, route 54 from Norwich to Stalham and from Ludham a round walk of 5 1/2miles (9 kilometers) follows the banks of the rivers Thurne and Bure to the Abbey and back along the farm road and back road to Ludham.

© 2006 Richard Woodham