woodbastwick, ranworth and panxworth (towns and villages)
Although lightly populated, Woodbastwick, known in the Domesday Book as Bastwic meaning 'Bastwick Wood', is one of the largest parishes in Broadland. At its heart are Woodbastwick, Ranworth and Panxworth - three very different villages.
Predominantly agricultural, the Woodbastwick parish straddles the B1140, between Salhouse and South Walsham, stretching from the Plumstead Road to the banks of Cockshoot, Ranworth and Malthouse Broads.
The Parish boasts three pubs; The Fur and Feathers at Woodbastwick, The Maltsters at Ranworth and the Brick Kilns on the Plumstead Road.
Also worthy of a note is the Brewery; Woodforde's Ales (just behind The Fur and Feathers). Well worth a visit to see how real ale is made, and of course, to sample it for yourself.
Woodbastwick has a delightful Village Green complete with its own well and a local forge nearby. It is well worth spending a few minutes to soak up the calm and peaceful atmosphere. The village has twice won the Best Kept Village award.
Due to the decrease in population over the decades, probably due to the changes in the farming industry, the village school was closed during the 1970s and the local Post Office closed in the early 1980s. However, Woodforde's Brewery has thrived and is Woodbastwick's most famous landmark.
the old hall and the cator family
The Cator family has lived in the village since the early 1800's. During the Second World War, Mrs John Cator allowed the Old Hall to be used as a Red Cross auxiliary hospital for patients from the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.
In 1940 a German plane machine-gunned the laundry and all the patients had to be evacuated. It is said that one man, who would not stand or sit up without assistance, nimbly leapt from his bed onto a nearby stretcher in seconds to escape!
After the war for a while, parts of the Old Hall became an Agricultural Training College. Later it was rebuilt after a fire, before finally being demolished in 1970.
The mediaeval flint church of Woodbastwick shows fine examples of Norfolk thatching. The two saints to whom the church is named after are St Fabian; a pope, and St Sebastian; a soldier. The interior of the church is Victorian and was restored in the 19th century.
agriculture and wildlife
Woodbastwick is the home of the British White cow. A herd was established in the parish in 1840 and has been bred there ever since.
Woodbastwick has large areas of marsh land which forms part of the 1019 acres of the Bure Marshes National Nature Reserve, home to many varieties of birds and plant life.
woodbastwick village sign
The village sign is erected on a small green opposite the church gate and depicts two sturdy wood-cutters at work outside a thatched house under a lime tree (Woodbastwick's name derives from the Old English meaning a farm or village in a lime grove). The sign was made and presented by Mr Harry Carter to the village in 1967 and erected in the memory of Mrs I Habgood, Founder President of the Woodbastwick Women's Institute.
ranworthRanworth is the tourism centre of the parish complete with its Staithe for boating enthusiasts and holiday makers. The Staithe provides overnight mooring facilities for several boats within easy reach of a Post Office, shop and cafe.
ranworth nature trail
Ranworth's Nature Trail is very popular with bird watchers and tourists alike. A 'boardwalk' meanders through marshland reeds and tall grasses, ending at a viewing platform overlooking Ranworth broad. All manner of indigenous and migrating birds can be seen during the course of the year.
While on the 'boardwalk', a visit to the centre itself is recommended where you can learn about the broads, how they were formed and the wildlife they sustain. An electric boat offers a regular service between the nature walk jetty and Ranworth Staithe.
st helen's church
The magnificent 15th century church is dedicated to St Helen who was the mother of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor. The church has one of England's finest rood screens and the Sarum Antiphoner, a beautifully illuminated 15th century service book created by the monks of Langley Abbey.
St Helen's church and visitors centre is extremely popular with tourists and some 30,000 people venture to the tower each year to admire the extensive views across the Broads.
Outside the church is a wooden statue of St. Helen, set on a wooden plinth. St. Helen is depicted carrying a large wooden cross, the emblem associated with her. After having a vision of the true cross she is said to have journeyed on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and found it near Mount Calvary. In the base of the plinth is a tiny panel with a small carved squirrel, the signature of an unknown sculptor.
the strange fate of colonel sidley
Ranworth Old Hall was built around 1600 by the Holdich family but is now demolished. The house passed by marriage to the Sidley family and legend has it that wild Colonel Sidley disappeared on a stormy night in 1770 when he was summoned from a party by a stranger said to be the devil.
panxworthPanxworth has seen a few changes since the turn of the last century. The Windmill has gone and some rebuilding has taken place.
In days gone by it had an iron foundry and echoed to the sounds of steam driven traction engines and farm machinery that were stored and maintained in the village. Today all that remains is a plaque on a wall and the brackets that supported the sign of the village pub - The Red Lion.