This stretch of the Norfolk coast seems to have a habit of attracting visits from unexpected specimens of wildlife. We had a rare Russian lark at Winterton, a vulture terrorising Happisburgh, and with the little village of Ostend (Norfolk that is, not Belgium) we get a whale. In June 2002 a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale became stranded alive on the beach at Ostend. Sadly, the ensuing rescue attempt failed to save the whale and it died during the night. Moving up the coast from Ostend, there are two small seaside villages – Walcott, with a history dating back to Roman times, and Bacton, with its pretty cottages and church of St Andrews – before we come to Paston.
Paston is a small village with a big legacy, courtesy of the eponymous family which dominated this corner of Norfolk in the decades following the Black Death. The fortunes of the Paston family were transformed thanks to their ability to take advantage of the chaos caused by the Black Death and the Wars of the Roses, meaning that within just two generations the family rose through the ranks from peasantry to aristocracy. How they achieved this is revealed in what has come to be known as the Paston Letters, dating from the period 1422-1509 and consisting of private correspondence by members of the family plus state papers and other important documents. The letters reveal not only the family fortunes, but insights into the historic events of that time. The family’s leap up the social ladder began when the peasant Clement Paston gave his son William the chance to study law; William managed to make a name for himself in his profession and to marry well, thus gaining influence and land. Later descendents found themselves moving in royal circles. One could say that the story of the rise and rise of the Paston family makes interesting reading with all of the current wringing of hands about the lack of social mobility in 21st century Britain.
Just to the north of Paston, towards the small seaside village of Mundesley, is Stow Mill, a flour mill built by the Gaze family in the 1920s, and now open to visitors as a tourist attraction.
Map of the area.