Paston Way is a 22 mile walk between Cromer and North Walsham, discovering the area’s beautiful medieval churches.
Each church has its own hidden history and one was even moved brick by brick from a cliff top to save it from the sea.
To visit all 14 of the fine churches on the Paston Way, the trail covers 29.5 miles.
View overview map of Paston Way – PDF download (1mb) or view Paston Way on interactive map.
In travelling church to church, the trail ambles down quiet lanes, through picturesque towns and villages, across vast arable fields, disused railway lines and quiet grazing pastures with views of the North Sea. Keep a look out for seals on the stretches of beach walk too.
The Paston Way takes its name from the Paston family who during the Medieval and Tudor periods were the dominant and wealthy landowners in the area through which much of the trail passes. The Paston family in turn had taken their name from the small village of Paston on the north east Norfolk coast. They also wrote the famous Paston Letters.
Use the menu below to discover more about Paston Way and the churches you can find along the walk.
The 22 mile Paston Way between Cromer and North Walsham offers a variety of scenery that ranges from beaches, cliffs and North Sea views to open arable fields, 14 medieval churches and grazing meadows.
The following are all well worth exploring along the trail:
Cromer became an important seaside resort in the late 19th century when the railway first arrived. The town has long been associated with crab fishing and Cromer crabs are still highly regarded.
The church of St Peter and St Paul in the town has the tallest church tower in the county. Next to the church is Cromer Museum where you can learn all about the fascinating history of the area. The museum includes a fossil display, a cosy Victorian fisherman’s cottage and the ‘Old Cromer’ gallery with displays of historic photographs and illustrations. There is also a nationally important collection of photographs by pioneering North Norfolk photographer Olive Edis.
Cromer Pier built at the beginning of the 20th century houses both the offshore lifeboat station and the end-of-the-pier Pavilion Theatre.
The elegant 19th-century Hotel de Paris on the promenade just above the pier was designed by Norwich architect, George Skipper.
Further along the promenade to the east of the pier is the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum, which documents the thrilling history of the Cromer Lifeboat and the town’s most famous coxswain, Henry Blogg.
Cromer is now also a Walkers Are Welcome town.
Overstrand, along the coast just east of Cromer, was once a crab fishing centre but it became a very fashionable resort for wealthy Londoners at the end of the 19th century when this part of the Norfolk coast was celebrated as ‘Poppyland’ by the writer Clement Scott.
Because of this, Overstrand became known as ‘the village of millionaires’ and there are several grand buildings in the village that date from this period.
Both Overstrand Hall and The Pleasaunce in the village were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and Gertrude Jeckyll is also said to have had a hand in designing the gardens of the latter.
Lutyens also designed a late 19th-century Methodist chapel in the village.
Between Overstrand and Trimingham is a mysterious tree-shaded pond that is known locally as ‘The Shrieking Pit’. Although this name is normally associated with the flooded pits of ancient ironworking site, here a local legend tells of a young woman called Esmeralda who is said to have drowned here as the result of a tragic love tryst.
At Sidestrand, the old church of St Michael’s used to stand on the cliff edge.
Because of the threat of erosion the church was partially demolished leaving just its tower in place as a landmark. The solitary round tower finally succumbed to the sea in 1916. In 1881 a new church of the same name was built further inland to exactly the same design using material from the earlier church
Northrepps St Mary the Virgin is a beautifully proportioned church. Check out the crowned ‘M’s over the west door and the tower with stepped parapets and tall pinnacles.
Southrepps Church of St James boasts a remarkable tower, built in 1448 and 114ft high. This big church was even larger before the aisles were demolished in 1791. Much restoration took place in the 19th Century but St James remains a spacious, light-filled church.
Trimingham is home to the Perpendicular-style church of St John the Baptist’s Head, which has a short, heavily buttressed tower and dates from 1300.
A life-sized alabaster carving of St John the Baptist’s head used to be on display here in medieval times and the church would have once been an important place of pilgrimage. As a reminder of this tradition, the small painted rood screen depicts St John the Baptist’s head on a platter.
This impressive 15th-century rood screen, with double-layered carving, also depicts beautifully coloured paintings of 8 saints.
The pretty village of Trunch is home to the Church of St Botolph, famous for its splendid font canopy.
The canopy is carved with flowers, birds and animals, one of which is a pig wearing a bishop’s mitre. The hammer-beam roof is adorned with angels and the hinged seats (known as misericords) in the chancel also reveal outstanding carvings of winged animals, angels and a devil. Ink-well holes and carved initials in the old choir stalls are from around 1700 when the chancel was used as a school room.
The small village of Gimingham has the church of All Saints’, a medieval church with later additions. This church rewards close and careful inspection - dating from 1300, the elegant Tudor windows with their clear glass and exceptionally intricate and delicate patterns on the framing, allow light to stream into the simple white coloured interior.
Gimingham also has fishing ponds and the site of Gimingham Mill, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book.
Mundesley between Overstrand and Happisburgh is a popular seaside resort with a fine sandy beach.
The village once had its own railway station but this closed in 1964.
Mundesley’s Maritime Museum, one of the smallest in the country, is located in a tiny two-storey building that formerly served as a HM Coastguard lookout station. The Lookout is still manned by volunteers for National Coastwatch.
Bacton’s Church of St Andrew has a fine tower (1471) and unusually large carved figure niches set low down the angled buttresses. The Ten Commandments are beautifully painted on the eastern wall like ancient illuminated manuscripts.
As at Trimingham, Sidestrand and Mundesley, the church serves as a landmark for seafarers.
The village of Paston has long associations with the wealthy landowning family of the same name.
The village’s thatched 14th-century church of St Margaret’s contains several family tombs of the Paston family who once lived at nearby Paston Hall. The 2 Paston monuments which dominate the chancel are by Nicholas Stone, the leading 17th Century sculptor in England.
Members of the family were responsible for the famous Paston Letters, a large collection of historically valuable correspondence written in the 15th century. This same wealthy family also built the enormous thatched barn in the village, the famous Paston Great Barn. This 16th-century barn, which has brick buttresses and a magnificent hammerbeam roof, is both a scheduled listed building and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest because it is home to a rare maternity roost of barbastelle bats, one of only three in Britain and the only one to use a building to roost.
At Knapton, the church of St Peter and St Paul dates from the 15th Century and has a very impressive double hammerbeam roof decorated with a large number of medieval wooden angels. Outside, the cockerel and flay-piece weather vane is said to be designed by J S Cotman while giving a drawing lesson at Knapton House.
Also note the flint with dramatic domed cover, inscribed with a Greek palindrome: NIYON ANOMHMA MH MONAN OYIN which loosely translated reads ‘wash though, not only my face but my transgression’.
The Knapton Cutting, part of a disused railway line once belonging to the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Railway (and now owned by Norfolk County Council), is designated a local nature reserve and butterfly reserve with19 different species.
A little further along the same disused line is Pigney's Wood local nature reserve, an area of mixed woodland and wet meadows owned and managed by North Norfolk Community Woodland Trust that has been planted with over 40 species of trees over the past 20 years.
This section of the trail also crosses the disused North Walsham and Dilham Canal, Norfolk’s only canal and the only one ever built specifically for wherries. It was constructed in the early part of the 19th century to transport goods between Antingham and Great Yarmouth via the River Bure. The canal is now much narrower and shallower than it once was.
Edingthorpe, close to Knapton, has the church of All Saints’, which has a round tower with an octagonal top, the bottom part of which probably dates back to Saxon times.
The war poet Siegfried Sassoon used to spend childhood holidays at the Old Rectory in the village and wrote about the timelessness of the church in his autobiography. Inside, the old rood screen has paintings of 6 saints and according to local legend, the small holes in the screen were made by Cromwell’s men during the Civil War.
In 1724 the south and west sides collapsed and storms in 1836 brought further damage. The 14th Century porch is a riot of decorative carving with figures in ornate riches. The church contains a 15th Century painted font cover which is topped by a pelican and the base of a 15th Century painted screen that was damaged by Cromwell’s men during the Civil War. Most notable is the ornate tomb of Sir William Paston, who founded nearby Paston School, now Paston Sixth Form College, in 1606. The school was later attended by Horatio Nelson and his brother William. The present red brick building dates from 1766.
North Walsham Market Place has an impressive octagonal Market Cross with a three-tiered dome. This wooden structure was erected in 1602 to replace an earlier structure that was destroyed by fire in 1600. It was fitted with its chiming clock in 1899.