This month Natalie Butler, NAT’s new volunteer co-ordinator, looks at St Benet’s Abbey from an unusual angle:

‘One of the pleasures of my new job is reacquainting myself with some of Norfolk’s most significant archaeological sites. Last week I visited St Benet’s Abbey and enjoyed walking around exploring in the beautiful summer sunshine. There were lots of visitors enjoying a walk or a picnic with their families. I watched as they explored the ruined gatehouse and windmill and walked up the slight rise to the church remains built on the highest spot, the old Cowholm island in the marsh, and then back to the car park. It got me thinking about the earthworks which are not always so easily visible on the ground.

This photo, which was recently taken by one of our amazing volunteer photographers, shows how the standing remains of St Benet’s Abbey sit at the centre of a remarkable historic landscape. From above, the full extent of the outer precinct can be seen with its distinctive semi-circular ditched boundary. The way the mill intersects the gatehouse is also clear – this can be quite difficult to understand from the ground. The fish ponds, a feature which visitors can miss as they walk up to the church, show as an elaborate pattern, and the swan pool near the river bank is also highlighted. I enjoyed walking along the river, where there are more earthworks and a sunken platform, a reminder that the bank was once lined with buildings and warehouses facing the busy transport route of the river.

The photo also shows the new mown circles in the grass next to the Gatehouse – ideal for modern-day picnicking and wildlife spotting.’

During July, August and September there will be some Angling events at the site when visitors might find it difficult to find space in the car park, although designated parking spaces for people with reduced mobility should remain free. If you’re planning a visit by car it might be best to avoid these dates – or park in the lay-by at Ludham Bridge and walk along the lovely permissive path to the Abbey. This way you will also be able to see the remains of St James’ Hospital on the other side of the river, and the great earth bank of the causeway that once joined it to the Abbey. Information on walking routes to St Benet’s Abbey can be downloaded from our sister website

Angling matches dates:
July: 19, 21-22, 26
August: 2, 9, 13, 23, 30
September: 4-6, 10-12, 26 – 30

The photo of St Benet’s Abbey was taken by NAT volunteer, Amanda Leeming, with permission from us to use a drone. NAT does not permit recreational use of drones on our sites without permission.