St Helens Church in Ranworth
St Helen's Church stands watch over the quaint village of Ranworth. Many properties are thatched with Norfolk Reed and all nestle in a little valley with the church at its heart. The village rubs cheeks with Ranworth Broad and the Broads Wildlife Centre. Getting there by boat is is easy, you can moor stern to the dock and the church is a short walk away. By road it is very close to South Walsham and Woodbastwick.
One of the great advantages about the landscape of the Norfolk Broads is its flatness! Landmarks can be seen easily. Of course, the numerous drainage mills dotted along the riverbanks are the main attraction, but the churches literally tower above everything else.
Most churches seem to be built on higher ground than the parishes they command and that is particularly noticeable with St Helens Church in Ranworth.
The tower is almost 100 feet tall and accessed by a very narrow winding stone staircase. Be careful because the steps are a bit uneven and you can get a bit dizzy going around in circles as you inch up the tower. Finally you reach the two ladders that take you past the bells and up to the trap door.
The view from the top of the tower is quite spectacular. On a clear day you can see Happisburgh Lighthouse and the wind turbines on Scroby Sands and most of the northern rivers and broads. From the patchwork quilt of the fields to the ribbon of rivers, it is a quite magnificent! Don’t forget to bring a camera and paper airplanes to hurl off the top of the tower!
Ranworth Church was once richly furnished by wool merchants, who painted stories from the bible on the walls. Sadly much of the treasures were destroyed during the Reformation.
Despite falling into rack and ruin, it has been lovingly restored through the ages until 2016 when the restoration of the rood screen and the nave roof were completed.
You can see today the Medieval screen rood with its painting. You can also see a 15th century illuminated manuscript and the original 15th C lecturn or Cantor's Desk which is still, 500 years later, in use every Sunday.
Sadly as is the case with all of these ancient buildings, restoration and conservation is ongoing, so please leave a donation to the cause if you can.
There is a lovely Visitors Centre nestled close to the church, inside is a small permanent display of photographs of the Antiphoner and of other East Anglian churches. The tea shop serves hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes, soup and other light refreshments. Above all you will find a genuinely warm welcome, from a team of voluntary helpers.
A visit to the Church is not complete without a visit to the pub, conveniently placed within a couple of hundred yards! Funny isn't it how inevitably one always finds a pub next door to a church! Wellbeing is found in many ways!
For more information about the restoration and the artifacts, please go to the website, click on the link below