This is the longest of the Coastal Treasures walks. The sense of remoteness that exists along this walk’s green and pleasant lanes is a wonderful experience for the more adventurous walker and the perfect excuse to indulge in some great local food afterwards.
For the majority of its history, farming provided the population of Ringstead with its primary source of employment, as was the case for most rural communities across north-west Norfolk. The village sign represents this with a tractor at work in a field.
Great Ringstead School was built in 1852. The log books indicate several pupils were routinely absent owing to other commitments. An entry from 1866 records a particularly extreme example: ‘Every child in the 1st Class Register absent this week working in the fields and at home.’ The school closed in 1985 and has since been converted into a residence.
Modern agricultural technology and techniques have greatly reduced labour requirements and have resulted in increased yields. Some of these innovations have been implicated in causing dramatic decreases in populations of native wildlife species, and the marginal habitat offered by hedgerows has decreased over the last half-century. Courtyard Farm at Ringstead responded to these concerns by becoming fully organic in 2000. Their main crops of wheat, barley, beans, peas and red clover are now grown using a six year rotational system.
Ringstead Towermill, built around 1840, still stands, but unfortunately it has lost its characteristic complement of six sails – most Norfolk mills had just four. The mill ceased working in 1897 and was left derelict until 1927 when it was purchased by Professor Francis Cornford and his wife Frances, grand-daughter of Charles Darwin. The couple employed an architect to convert the mill into a house and in 1936 and 1937 hosted meetings of the Theoretical Biology Club in the brick base of the windmill, for those fascinated with the natural world and the complexity of life. The scientific philosopher Karl Popper described the club as ‘one of the most interesting study circles in the field of the philosophy of science.’
Ringstead Circular Walk runs along the High Street passing by the Gin Trap Inn, the Old School, St. Andrew’s Church and Ringstead Towermill. It then passes out into the countryside with some fine views over land managed by Courtyard Farm.