Streams of cars speed down Kings Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Way everyday. High above the traffic a ruined church has paid witness for a thousand years and more. For decades it has been drawing me like a magnet. So on a sunny Spring day I finally found my way up the hill.
Church Farm, Bawsey is managed under a Higher Level Stewardship scheme and provides parking and permissive footpaths. You can approach the farm from the Gayton Road turning left into Church Lane just beyond the crematorium. Maps showing the paths and parking are available online on the Natural England website (cwr.naturalengland.org.uk). They are also displayed at strategic places around the farm .
I had intended to walk from Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Roydon Common, via the Grimston Warren reserve but that was closed as the work there continues. They are converting it from commercial forestry back to its original lowland heath. I followed a path to the edge of the warren through recently restored pasture that supports a herd of Red Poll cattle. Crossing the Gaywood River I saw Lapwing and Curlew feeding on the edge of flooded water meadows. In half an hour I saw more Brown Hares than I have seen all winter and more Grey Partridges than I’ve seen in years!
Seen from afar it’s easy to imagine what the church looked like in 8th century, when the hill it stands on jutted out into the waters of the Wash. The archaeology suggests there was an ecclesiastical settlement here from early days and if you were looking for a mother church for the Kings Lynn, St. James would be it! A thousand years ago when river was silting up activity moved to Lynn and the buildings eventually fell into disrepair.
From the top of the hill I got a sense of perspective from the busy world - traffic sped by in the distance. The ruins - a central tower and work in different styles - had an atmosphere as special as I had imagined . Overhead a Skylark sang and I glimpsed the greening valley through the riven west wall I was reminded of the empty tomb. “ He is not here, he’s gone before you into ……” Kings Lynn? Gaywood? Pott Row?…….
Will Hancock, who farms the land, Natural England and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust are to be praised for their work to restore the valley to its former glory.