Castle Acre

We parked by the West Acre church and walked east. It was too early to stop for refreshments at the Stag public house, instead we turned right and crossed the river on a footbridge. At the way mark, we went left through woods to arrive by another ford and footbridge, ignoring these we took the way-marked path just down stream. It is part of the Nar Valley Way, a long distance path that connects Kings Lyn with East Dereham.

On a summer’s day one can imagine families and children playing in the river at the fords. The river is one of the finest lowland chalk streams in the country supporting a wide range of wild life. We saw trout going against the current and a grass-snake swimming from one side to the other. The trees and meadows were full of birds and the path was not too soggy underfoot.

Our destination was Castle Acre where the Peddar’s Way crosses the river Nar. The crossing was fortified by the Earl of Surrey soon after the Norman Conquest. Its earthworks and ruined buildings are impressive to-day, what the conquered Saxons thought of them one can only guess?! The Priory, founded in 1089 is impressive too and must have given hope to the conquered! Cluniacs were independent of the local aristocracy and were promoters of the Peace of God movement which did much to protect the innocent and reduce violence in feudal society. They even promoted town councils!

Entry to the Priory is £4.70 for adults. Its open from 10 a.m. –6p.m. in summer English Heritage do a wonderful job of maintaining the ruins and interpreting the past, but it is a dead past! The Church is different! It is living heritage! The Cluniacs were great enthusiasts for pilgrimage and offered a welcome to travellers. Castle Acre Church keep up the tradition. They were Tourist Church of the Year in 2006. And there’s no entry fee! The church is dedicated to St.James, who appears on the Rood Screen wearing a scallop shell badge and carrying a pilgrim staff. He had answered our Lord’s gracious call “Follow me!” a call that still challenges pilgrims and tourist

© Richard Woodham 2007


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