diamond geezer

 Monday, August 18, 2003

Famous places within 10 minutes walk of the obscure Norfolk village I'm currently staying in
Number 2 - Old Buckenham

Old Buckenham is a picturesque village in South Norfolk hidden far from the well-trodden tourist trails. The monthly village newsletter will tell you all you could ever want to know about local events, including details of the thrilling Country Fayre at the end of the month. But is there any famous local history, you ask? Oh yes.

• Old Buckenham Mere is the site of the earliest archaeological find of the cultivation of cannabis in Britain, dating back to the 5th century AD.
• William d'Albini, butler to William the Conqueror, built a stone castle in the parish in 1146, around which grew up the village of New Buckenham. Only a few ruins remain, but Buckenham Castle keep is the largest in diameter in England.
All Saints' Church dates back at least 750 years, and is one of only six churches in Norfolk with an octagonal tower.
Old Buckenham windmill, built in 1818, has the widest tower of any windmill in the country. One of the first owners was James Colman who went on to found the famous mustard business in Norwich. The mill was recently renovated and is open to visitors on the second Sunday of the month.
• The Australian cricketer Lionel Robinson lived at Old Buckenham Hall where he created a unique cricket ground with special Australian turf. In the spring of 1919 ten thousand spectators turned up to watch the Australian national team draw against an English XII (yes, really, this was the only time an Australian team ever played twelve-a-side).
Old Buckenham Airfield was built in 1942/3 and became home to the 453rd Bomb Group of the US Army Air Force. They flew 259 missions over enemy territory before the end of the war, losing 58 aircraft and 366 crew. Hollywood actor James Stewart was an Executive Officer and flew over 20 missions from 'Old Buck', while Walter Matthau also served here as a sergeant and radioman/gunner.
• The village green is reputed to be the largest in England, covering 40 acres. The sheep seem to like it too.

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