St Benet’s Abbey
Situated on the River Bure, within the Broads National Park, St Benet’s Abbey is one of the most important attractions in the area. Founded by St Benedict of Nursia, the man hailed as the founder of Western monasticism, the abbey once played an integral part in life in the area. Walking around the abbey and the pristine landscape that surrounds it is a fantastic way to find out a little more about the local area and enjoy this beautiful part of Norfolk.
Although there are several footpaths close to St Benet’s Abbey, one of the most popular routes leads you from the attraction to the How Hill National Nature Reserve. The route can be completed in either direction and you can turn it into a circular walk by taking a detour through the pretty village of Ludham on your way back.
The picturesque route takes you along the banks of the River Bure and then the River Ant. On the way you’ll pass through the beautiful Ant Valley and navigate through fields and woodland.
The path from St Benet’s Abbey to How Hill is around three miles long. If you take a detour through Ludham on the way back, you could easily be walking for three or four hours. Although the paths are well maintained, some can become muddy in wet weather and you’ll also need to navigate several gates and stiles en route. This means the path may not be suitable for people with mobility problems. Dogs are welcome on the route, however you may need to keep your four-legged friend on the lead at certain points.
Although there aren’t any toilets at St Benet’s Abbey, you will find some close to Ludham Bridge and in How Hill. Both Ludham Bridge and How Hill are also home to welcoming pubs, perfect for an afternoon drink or a spot of lunch. A small shop and a further pub can be found in the nearby village of Ludham.
Points of interest
The main point of interest on the walk is St Benet’s Abbey itself. The only monastic site in England not officially closed down by King Henry VIII, St Benet’s Abbey dates back to the 9th century. After the Dissolution, the abbey fell into disrepair and by the 18th century was largely a ruin. In the second half of the 1700s, a local farmer built a windmill inside the abbey ruins. This structure, much of which remains to this day, gives the abbey its unique appearance.
As you walk to How Hill National Nature Reserve, you’ll also pass by a number of other windmills. These windmills once dotted the Broads and many still tower over the flat landscape. Used to help drain the land for agricultural use, they helped shaped the very ground they stand on.
Free guided tours take place at 2pm from May to end September on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Meet at the Gatehouse.
Combining history, nature and fresh air, this pretty walk is perfect for all the family. Visit our site to find out more about other available routes in the local area.