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Roydon

Roydon lies on the River Waveney two miles west of Diss.

The village is now home to one of the country's most eminent nature writers: Richard Mabey.

Richard Mabey (Photo © Mike Harrington)

After suffering a breakdown in 1999, Mabey moved from his long-time home in the Chiltern hills to the county and his gradual recovery from depression is the subject of his moving memoir Nature Cure (2005). He was already familiar with the county from trips to the North Norfolk Coast when he was a student. Blakeney in particular helped to inspire his foraging classic Food For Free which was first published in 1972.

His Norfolk-based journey back to health was aided in large part by Polly Munro - the daughter of a Neatishead GP - who he subsequently met; the couple now live together in a farm house in the village. There is a touching acknowledgement in the book's introduction to the part she played in his recovery:
 

'Finally, more thanks than I can express to Polly, who rescued me, took a chance, and with love and patience buoyed me up, and whose wisdom and sense of fun helped ease the moody storms that go with writing a book. This is her book as much as it is mine.'


Nature Cure
also features many other Norfolk locations including: Blo' Norton and Hinderclay fen, Horsey marshes (where Mabey saw cranes), Sculthorpe on the River Wensum, South Lopham Fen, Wayland Wood (near Watton) and Strumpshaw Fen - which was one of the first places he went after his recovery:
 

'Polly, thank goodness, had the nous to take me straight out into a wild spot, and meet that 'hard, emphatic' presence on more even terms. We went to the fen at Strumpshaw on the western edge of the Broads. It was a mild, hazy afternoon. I was shaky on my feet, but said the mantra to myself. Listen. Look up. It wasn't easy, this time for the best of reasons. The fen flowers were beginning to unfurl at my feet.....'

Mabey, a self-taught biologist, first discovered a love of nature in the beech woods of the Chilterns where he grew up. He went on to study politics and philosophy at Oxford and then worked as a social studies lecturer before becoming an editor at Penquin Books. He has written over 40 books about nature including:  a biography of Gilbert White, Flora Britannica, The Unofficial Countryside and more recently Weeds. He is also a regular contributor to magazines, TV  and radio.

Norfolk has had a long tradition of important nature writers - starting in the seventeenth century with the physician Sir Thomas Browne - and including the likes of Arthur Patterson aka 'John Knowlittle' (see Breydon Water), Ted Ellis (see Surlingham) and Mabey's friend and co-author Mark Cocker - who now lives at Claxton in the Yare Valley.

Inside the church in Roydon are memorials to the Frere family who were once lords of the manor here. One of their number, John Hookham Frere, is remembered for his accomplished translations of Aristophanes.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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