Hopes for future of St Benet's Abbey

It's one of the most iconic views on the Broads beloved by generations of artists and photographers.But the isolated riverbank position of St Benet's Abbey, perfect for the solitary lifestyle of its Benedictine monks in the Middle Ages, has always made it difficult to reach except by boat.

It's one of the most iconic views on the Broads beloved by generations of artists and photographers.

But the isolated riverbank position of St Benet's Abbey, perfect for the solitary lifestyle of its Benedictine monks in the Middle Ages, has always made it difficult to reach except by boat.

Now Norfolk Archaeological Trust is toasting a �51,500 Heritage Lottery Fund award that will allow it develop its vision of unlocking the full education and tourism potential of the historic site.

The funding will be used to draw up a �500,000 scheme to improve access to the abbey, near Horning, conserve the ruins and install explanatory panels to guide visitors through its rich history from Saxon times.


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It is also hoped to develop educational resources, including a special website, to allow schools to study the abbey as part of the national curriculum.

The trust, which owns the site apart from the abbey church, wants to enhance the abbey's tourism appeal by staging living history events depicting the monks' lifestyle.

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If a second round lottery application is approved in 12 months time, the plan is to carry out the work over the following three years.

Anne Mason, the trust's project officer, said: “In preparation for our initial lottery bid, which has turned out to be successful, we commissioned a landscape architect to look at the feasibility of creating a carefully landscaped parking area and a disabled access path as far as the gatehouse.

“These plans will now be developed over the next year and we will be consulting with schools and adult education providers to see what educational material would be useful, and how studying the abbey might be tied in with the national curriculum.”

She said a lot of history could be unravelled by visiting the site and “interpreting the humps and hollows”.

There was also in existence a large collection of documents, including charters, leases and accounts, the study of which shed light on how monks lived their daily lives.

“Copies of these documents will be placed on the website with guidance on what can be learned from them,” she said.

Ms Mason highlighted the pivotal role the abbey played in the development of the Broads as the owner of the rights to peat diggings in 16 parishes, the excavations creating the broads.

She said future plans included staging workshops on caring for the historic earthworks, and involving the public in surveys of the site's plants, birds and insects.

“We will also be holding workshops to look at how the abbey has inspired well-known artists over generations as well as writers from PD James to the poet John Betjeman,” she said.

Groups interested in the Broads will be connected as part of the development work, but anyone wishing to volunteer to help is invited to call Ms Mason on 01760 755685.

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