The weather may be miserable and grey today, but Spring is definitely on the way in this little corner of Norfolk. Not only has the Easter issue of Landlove magazine arrived, it’s also the Snowdrop Walk at Lexham Hall tomorrow and this morning saw the popular return of the first Farmers Market of the year at Creake Abbey.
Creake Abbey is a real gem. Once a hospital, the thirteenth century abbey is now a ruin, having been ravaged by fire in the late fifteenth century and succumbing to plague in the early sixteenth century. The poor abbot was the last man standing and died there alone in December 1506. But the abbey’s sense of calm and tranquility remains and the site is now cared for beautifully by English Heritage and is free to visit all year round.
More recently, and thanks to the vision of one remarkable lady, a real buzz has developed at the Creake Abbey site. The wonderful Creake Abbey Cafe and Food Hall serves delicious food (try the cheese and chilli jam sandwiches), hosts regular events such as jazz evenings and is a perfect spot to meet friends for a long, relaxed lunch or a quick coffee and cake. The courtyard is home to a handful of lovely, interesting shops, ranging from country clothing to eclectic antiques – brilliant for a browse or to find an unusual gift. There’s plenty of parking and open space, so dogs and children can enjoy themselves too, and the surrounding countryside is perfect for walks.
Creake Abbey Farmers Market is held on the first Saturday of every month from February onwards and, with three barns to explore as well as outdoor space, it’s one big market. Earlybirds can get in from 9:30am, there are tastings galore and, with live music and yummy food being cooked up on the BBQ, the atmosphere is unbeatable. I love the huge range of foods and the coming together of people from all over Norfolk to celebrate and share our agricultural roots.
Most of the photos I have of Creake Abbey include my friends’ beautiful little girl, Evie, so I have borrowed the photo above from English Heritage instead. This video, produced by Creake Abbey, captures the buzz and happiness at this lovely country spot too:
Whenever I visit Creake Abbey, I try to take a walk down to the abbey ruins to get in touch with the original spirit of this special place. For me, this is a perfect example of how the heritage movement protects historic monuments. The buzz created by the cafe, shops and farmers market at Creake has developed alongside the perfect peace of the ruins. They’re quite separate, in a way, but they have inspired each other. Before, I imagine very few people came to visit the ruins alone, but now they flock to Creake Abbey to enjoy everything that’s going on there. And that’s no bad thing, as so many visitors now enjoy sitting amongst the thirteenth century stonework with the sun on their back as much as they enjoy the delicious cakes and the local beers. As Simon Thurley always used to tell us, if you can get people to enjoy our historic monuments, you get them to understand them. And if they understand them, they’ll value them and protect and care for them. And then more people can enjoy them and it becomes a virtuous circle.
But it all starts with a sense of happiness and enjoyment so, now that spring is in the air, let’s put on our walking boots and get out there and explore.
Address: Creake Abbey, North Creake, Norfolk NR21 9LF – map it
Telephone: 01328 730399 (Cafe and Food Hall)
Managed by: English Heritage and Diana Scott
When to visit: open daily, 10am-4pm. See website for more details.