After walking beside the disused Aylsham canal for a short distance the Weavers Way enters the Broads National Park . To the east on a hill above the village St.Peter and St.Paul’s fourteenth century tower beckons and the walker will find the door open twixt morning and dusk.
St.Mary’s Church is another, fourteenth century church, the beating heart of another market town. As in North Walsham, Worstead and Honing the largest land owner was within the parish was the Abbey of St.Benet’s. It is a short distance by river from St.Benet’s and close to Barton Turf where the Abbey estates’ extraction of peat up until the fourteen century has left us Barton Broad. Among the churches treasure is a wonderfully preserved font. Finding religious images on fonts the Puritans of the sixteenth century would damage them. Stalham’s font was plastered over with clay. In the nineteenth century they chipped it away and carvings of the apostles and the Holy Trinity was revealed.
A short detour off the path takes one to St.Michael’s Church and then past the windmill.
As the path enters the village and turns south-west the graceful tower of St.Mary’s Church points heavenwards, a little over half a mile away to the north-west. Civil War Graffiti is its unique point. Hickling Broad is a National Nature reserve in the care of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. If time allowed, a detour to the Visitors Centre or a guided boat trip around the secret parts of the Broad would give the opportunity to consider the birds and flowers of the field. In any case, if you follow the path along Heigham Sound and the Candle Dyke and turn down the River Thurne to Potter Heigham bridge you are likely to catch glimpses of Marsh Harriers, Common Cranes, Avocets and dozens of other bird species.
As well as the peat that was extracted to form the broad, Potter Heigham had potting clay that put the pot in Heigham. Even the font in St. Nicholas Church is made of pottery. The tower which you can see across the fields was raised in the fifteenth century when the clerestory was added. The wall paintings are well preserved including the paintings of St.Mary and St.John on either side of the Rood (cross) at the chancel arch. Beneath it is the rood screen dividing the nave, the main body of the church from the chancel where Christians are privileged to come close to the altar and receive the most holy bread and wine of Holy Communion. Henry VIII had all the roods taken down. His son Edward had the royal coat of arms hung in its place. The arrogance is startling! If the old arrangement suggested that sinful human beings could come close to God by the sacrifice of Christ, the new arrangement implied it was, instead, by the King’s permission!
The bridge is medieval possibly as early as thirteenth century. There is so little height under the bridge that larger boats cannot pass under it. It might remind the casual observer of words of Jesus, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”