For an evocative winter walk head to Walsingham Abbey in Norfolk from the 2nd January 2021, where snowdrops cast a new light upon the crumbling stone of the old abbey. This is a perfect spot, tucked away with a beautiful stream which can run fast and high. Glorious hellebores and aconites as well as the carpets and carpets of snow drops.
A Saxon noblewoman, Richeldis de Faverches had a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1061. de Faverches was instructed to build a replica of the house in Nazareth where Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary to announce the birth of Jesus. It was to contain a statue of the enthroned Virgin with the child Jesus on her lap.
It was a simple wooden structure, but her son Geoffrey left instructions for the building of a Priory in Walsingham which passed into the care of Augustinian canons sometime between 1146-1174. Over the next four centuries Walsingham became a major centre of pilgrimage, rivalling Rome and Santiago del Compostela, and was visited by every reigning monarch from Henry III in 1226 to Henry VIII. A few years later in 1538 he ordered the destruction of the entire monastery as part of the Great Dissolution. The Prior and canons were pensioned off. The site was sold to Thomas Sidney for £90 pounds and he built a mansion on it, which was, and still is, referred to as ‘The Abbey’.
Walsingham Abbey is famous for the beautiful ruins of the Priory of our Lady of Walsingham, and nowadays it’s spring snowdrop walk around the ruins that stand among the lawns, with woodland and river walks extending to 18 acres.