Heydon Village, Norfolk

Posted on 16th Nov 2012 by ian under Travel Tales | No Comments »

And so to Heydon, a place chosen simply because of the shared name. We didn’t expect to find any ‘Heydons’ as the Heydon family left the village in 1447 to move into nearby Baconthorpe Castle. Since the 1500’s the village has been in the hands of the Bulwer family. We would be staying in The Stables, next to Heydon Hall (right) with Sarah Bulwer-Long. Sarah’s daughter-in-law, Rhonda, and grandchildren live in Heydon Hall – Sarah’s son, Benjamin, died following a heart attack in 2010.

Heydon is one of a dozen privately own villages in England and there is a waiting list of over a year to rent the cottages. Only about 100 people live there, but the rent from the homes, the tea room, the hairdresser/beauty salon and the pub would give the owners a tidy little income.

We decided to take a leisurely drive to get there, via Sherwood Forest near Nottingham, because Sarah was ‘entertaining’ that afternoon – a birthday afternoon for a friend called Suzy as it turned out. We arrived in Heydon mid-afternoon and dropped in to the Tea Room for a cuppa, some scones and a chat with owners Cindy and Jamie. I had already ‘met’ Cindy via email and she had kindly made a dinner reservation for us at the Earle Arms for dinner.

Heydon village is simply old world charming. The most recent building is the well on the Village Green, next to the church – it was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. Jamie told us that he would be closing the tea room early the following Saturday to attend the wedding of local lass Rachel. He and Cindy would cater a lunch for the couple an family/friends before the wedding and there would be drinks on the Green following the service.

We asked if the church was open and Jamie told us to use the side door, which is never locked. Wow. What a delightful old church St Peter and St Paul’s is. On one wall is the Heydon Shield, which would have accompanied one of the Heydon knights in the Crusades. There is also a list of the rectors from 1310 to the present one who no doubt did the official duties for Rachel and her beau. And thanks to Rachel’s mum, the church smelt wonderfully of beeswax – she’s been in to give the old pews a polish. One of the rectors was a Leonard Heydon (1539 – 1554) and he is buried in the adjacent churchyard. There are also graves in the floor of the church, bearing inscriptions such as… “Alfo to the memory of MARY, his beloved Wife, who dyed the 29th Day of Auguft 1763 In the 74th year of her Age.”

After strolling around the churchyard we headed to The Stables, stopping in the garden for a bit. Apparently Oliver Cromwell climbed a tree here to escape a charging bull. Maybe it was the one that tempted Laura to climb. We met Sarah and Suzy, and Sarah’s Norwich Terriers. They were heading out to have a look at a neighbour’s foal that had just been born. If they weren’t back before us, not to worry because the door was never locked – the house was a cacophony of charming clutter – photos and paintings and plates on the walls everywhere from watercolours and portraits to horse jumps and grouse shoots.

Dinner in the Earle Arms dining room was lovely as was our barmaid/waitress. We dwelled a while for a chat with locals in the bar section after an excellent dinner – a fabulous eclectic menu offering Thai curry, whitebait, risotto, Greek lamb kebabs and Swannington sausages. And the racehorse owning publican, ‘H’, was happy for us to add £120 to the visa card in return for cash to settle with Sarah in the morning. Of course she didn’t have credit card facilities – she doesn’t see any need to have email either – and believes that GPS Sat-Nav thingummies are full of misinformation…

We woke, late, to the smell of bacon being cooked on the Aga oven. Nice and crisp, served with egg, mushroom, grilled tomato and toast. Fresh orange juice and raspberries to start… tea in pretty porcelain pot to finish. We enjoyed breakfast in the conservatory looking out on the garden where squirrels ambled and birdies darted from the bushes to the feeders. For some reason Laura thought I kept saying ‘tits’ just because I liked saying the word. Not so! I had never seen so many lovely tits – there were blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, marsh tits and bearded tits. And according to Sarah’s bird ID book, five or six tits will gather food to feed another twenty tits at home in the nest. Incidentally, Sir Henry Heydon married Ann Boleyn in the 1400’s – she was the Aunt of Henry VIII’s Anne Boleyn, who supposedly had three tits.

Sarah mentioned that ‘they’ had successfully put a stop to having the phone box at the post office upgraded (above). After breakfast, it was hugs and kisses with Sarah before hitting the road and then hitting a pheasant that emerged from a hedgerow faster than old Felix Baumgartner in freefall. No time to swerve and not allowed to pick it up. Under local law it is fine to kill pheasants but not intentionally run them over. But if the next motorist to happen along wished to gut and jug the bird, all well and good. That’s a pheasant in the photo BTW, not a tit. Tits are smaller, rounder and firmer. Pip-pip, tally-ho and on to Essex & Kent!