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A TERRA INCOGNITA.
terest, and possessing a certain wild poetry all its own, and though
These scenes to careless eyes may seem
they have a peculiar charm to the artist, a charm. hard to put into words. A terra incognita this to the majority of Englishmen, who as a rule know little of the romantic beauties of their own land out of the hackneyed paths of tourist travel. Those who are fond of untamed nature, of fresh scenes and curious people and customs, would find a rich reward on taking a summer ramble in this neglected corner of old England.
Taking the villages in their order from Cromer, there is Overstrand with its picturesque ivy-grown and ruined church, desolate and devastated. Some of the old tombstones here bear the signs of having formerly possessed exceedingly fine brasses, but now all about is in ruinous decay:
O'er their words defaced
Grow weeds and nettles of the waste.
Next comes Sidestrand, with the solitary round tower of its decayed and dismantled church standing boldly out upon the very verge of the storm-swept cliffs, surrounded by its forsaken churchyard, a very picture of desolation. Then after passing through a pleasant stretch of green country comes Trimingham; the church here was once upon a time (as the fairy stories have it) of great interest, but alas! it has been effectually 'restored.' Save the mark! If we were rightly informed, at the time of this so-called
restoration even its ancient brasses and inscribed tombstones were not spared, being ruthlessly covered with cement and overlaid with trumpery modern tiles that have no story to tell. The church is of little interest now; of old it was the resort of many a pious pilgrim, who went thither from afar to worship at the shrine which contained (or was supposed to contain) no less a relic than the head of John the Baptist! By the way, I wonder how many heads John the Baptist had. If all the skulls exhibited as sacred relics in various churches in mediæval times belonged to this saint, he must have possessed at least a score of heads, of which peculiarity history gives no record. Alas! how easy it is to make an old building look like new, but a new building can never be made old. These ancient churches of our forefathers that are scattered throughout the land, hoary with age, having the bloom of centuries upon them, are sacred possessions; their time-worn walls are eloquent of the past, their grey stones tell their own story. But too often the 'restoration' of such means nothing less than the destruction of their history; the precious gift of antiquity improved away, neither money nor tears will give it us back. About another two miles further, following the coast, and eight miles altogether from Cromer, brings us to the little fishing village of Mundesley. Charmingly situated this remote hamlet, in a dip of the cliffs just where a tiny friendly river loses itself in the sea. The Ship Inn here is clean and homely, with a pleasant little lawn looking on to the sea.
Let us now once more return to Cromer, which,
A JACOBEAN MANSION.
after our out-of-the-way wanderings beyond railways, gives one the impression of being almost gay. The lone Norfolk shore upon which many a gallant ship has left its ribs, is not lonely here. Cromer is now a get-at-able place; the railway is surely but effectually driving all the romance out of it, but the country round about is full of interest and will remain unspoilt for many a year yet. Perhaps one of the most interesting walks from the place is to Felbrigg Hall, only some three miles away. The house, situated in a finely timbered park, is a magnificent and well-preserved specimen of a Jacobean mansion, and repays a visit. This charming estate formerly belonged to the Windham family. The last owner of that name, known as 'Mad Windham,' sold the property, house, land, ancient pictures, furniture and all, to a wealthy Norwich merchant, a Mr. Kitton; and a local saying has it, with more wit than one generally finds in such things:
Windham has gone to the dogs,
But Felbrigg has gone to the kittens.
Out of Cromer it was collar-work for some distance. The first part of our stage was decidedly hilly, but on reaching the high ground we were well rewarded for our climb, for we had wide views all around over a beautiful country, a country of hill and dale, of wandering streams and waving woods. The prospects that opened out before us ever and again. were most charming. The curious round towers of the churches gave a special character to the landscape ; had it not been for these, we might easily have imagined ourselves in some picturesque part of Q