St Martin’s church clock strikes the hour. And as it chimes, it rings out a tuneful hymn or Christmas carol. This is Glandford, two miles inland from Blakeney, and a ‘typical’ Norfolk hamlet.
Glandford is made up of a working grouping of brick and flint barns, cottages, and the church of St Martin’s which overlooks the ford of the River Glaven. It is an enchanted oasis of calm in the Glaven valley - and full of surprises.
Pause here and you will have a fulfilling day emotionally, artistically, historically, ecologically…. and a stomach full of some of the most enriching home-made vegetarian food and Norfolk roasted coffee.
Taking the road from Blakeney, turn right near the village crossroads by a sign for CleySpy, one of the country’s leading optical centres, and into a farmyard of converted working barns which support a thriving combination of attractions and businesses. There is plenty of parking.
Here coffee beans imported from across the globe are roasted and as Grey Seal coffee
are supplied to the best coffee shops and restaurants in Norfolk, including Buoy Coffee House in Blakeney. The coffee is delicious. Try it in the vegetarian restaurant, gallery and licensed cafe - the Art Café - in the rustic setting of the barn opposite. The cheese scones are wonderful. There is a sunny courtyard for sitting outside in the summer and a cosy warm fire inside for winter. The art work changes regularly and there are occasional evening concerts.
Next to the café is the BIRDscapes Gallery, one of the largest galleries in the area,
which displays outstanding paintings, prints, and bronzes from some of Britain’s best bird artists.
Further along this complex of barns is CleySpy – a specialist birding shop selling all things ornithological from binoculars and telescopes to outdoor clothing, rucksacks, books and a selection of bird and wildlife walk maps for the local area. There is a hide at the back of the shop to test equipment before purchasing.
While in the BIRDscapes Gallery ask for a free copy of the Bayfield Bird Walk. This three-mile circular walk along permissive paths across the Bayfield estate takes you over rolling countryside and through beautiful mature woodland.
With the barns behind you, cross the road with flint cottages on either side and you reach the ford across the River Glaven, one of only a few chalk streams in Britain. The water is crystal clear and holds a surprising number of different species of fish including eel. A project to build the eel population is under way (see our eel blog).
The ford is a magnet for photographers, people with dogs and children playing in the water or picnicking on the nearby bench. Upstream is a watermill with a ‘ladder’ to help migrating eels.
On your 200 yard walk from the crossroads you pass on your right St Martin’s church and, below it, an enchanting museum - the only purpose-built shell museum in England. It houses the Victorian collection of benefactor the late Sir Alfred Jodrell who lived in nearby Bayfield Hall and inherited the estate and much of the land in and around Glandford in 1882. The contents of the museum were collected over 60 years by Sir Alfred and include the finest collection of seashells in the UK - thousands of them - and collections of fossils, birds’ eggs, agate and local archaeological finds. Check opening times.
On the rise above the museum is the church of St Martin which has a carillon of 12 bells on which the clock strikes out hymn tunes at 6am, 9am, 12 noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm. A different hymn tune is played each day and at Christmas carols are played. It is uplifting to hear Once in Royal David’s City pealing across the Glaven Valley from this tiny church which was rebuilt from ruins by Sir Alfred Jodrell in memory of his mother between 1899 and 1906. The church is full of interesting detail and is well worth a visit. Spot the image of Sir Alfred’s dog carved into a pew.
Glandford was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 but has been mostly rebuilt after 1882. Many homes are now owned by a housing trust which ensures local people are still able to live in this attractive part of North Norfolk. And Glandford also resists the move to holiday accommodation with just one holiday let in the village.
Walk across the ford and take the footpath on your right after the junction. This leads you along the Glaven valley to a wonderful wild flower garden centre and wildlife reserve called Natural Surroundings next to Bayfield Hall.
Natural Surroundings and its owners, ecologist and wildlife writer Simon Harrap and his wife Anne, provide a delightful teashop among the woods. The centre was set up to spread the word on wildlife-friendly gardening. Simon has written many books on birds and flowers and the reserve is a peaceful spot to look at the wildlife and contemplate the world surrounded by birdsong. Natural Surroundings is on the route of the Bayfield Bird Walk.