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Ranworth lies 9 miles north-east of Norwich - set back from the River Bure behind Ranworth Broad and marshes. Its name derives from Randi's enclosure.

View from Ranworth Church Tower

View from Ranworth Church tower

Ranworth Broad

Ranworth Broad in Winter

Ranworth broad is a key location in both Coot Club and The Big Six by Arthur Ransome. In the first book Dick and Dorothea learn how to sail on the broad - instructed by Tom and Dick.

'Up and down they sailed in the sunshine, first one and then the other at the tiller, while Tom held the main-sheet so that nothing could really go wrong. They very soon stopped catching their breaths every time a harder puff of wind sent the Titmouse heeling over, and Tom said they would do all right as soon as they had learnt that when you are steering you must think of nothing else.'

In The Big Six the children also sail to Ranworth Broad in an attempt to dissociate themselves from the casting-off of boats which is occurring in Horning. Here is the description of the broad and village:

'The Broad opened before them, trees and off-lying islands of reeds to the right. Straight ahead of them on the far side of the Broad was Ranworth staithe, with the inn and the old malt houses and the little village and, away to the right, the square tower of the old church rising above the trees.'

However, while they are moored at Ranworth more boats are cast off from the staithe and again they fall under suspicion - but they do manage to find a clue to the real perpetrators in the form of a bicycle tyre track.

Ransome captures the atmosphere of Ranworth well in both of his childrens' books: the beginnings of the broads holiday trade, the Maltster's Arms, the staithe and the church tower on its hill. Today Ranworth is still a picturesque village - even if the thatched council houses do look out of place.

Inside St. Helen's church there is another literary connection in the form of a medieval Latin antiphoner. It dates from the 14th century and has 285 ornately coloured pages and was probably made by the monks of Langley Abbey. Antiphoners were banned in the 16th century when the English Book of Common Prayer was published. Fortunately the book was hidden by a local family and has survived in tact. Originally the church had two antiphoners, but one of them is now in the British Library.

St. Helen's is also famous for its painted rood screen. It is one of the finest in the country and shows the 12 apostles. The church tower also affords a spectacular view of Broadland and is well worth climbing. It is accessed by a narrow staircase which leads to a trap door (above the bells) and then a viewing platform. St Helens is often referred to as 'the cathedral of the Broads'.

The detective writer Gladys Mitchell also uses St Helens as a location in her 53rd novel - Wraiths and Changelings (1978).

More photographs of Ranworth




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