Ringstead is easy to miss. And that would be a great shame, for this little village is full of character, tucked away from the busy Norfolk coast near the seaside town of Hunstanton.
Its pretty white-washed 17th century coaching inn, The Gin Trap, is an award-winning, dog-friendly pub with immaculate cosy rooms. Famed for fantastic local produce washed down by hearty local ales and gins, the pub’s name doesn’t actually come from a delectable G&T. It’s refers to the fearsome metal jawed trap once used to snare animals. Thankfully these brutal traps have long since been banned. Phew!
The Gin Trap is very close to Ringstead Downs, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserve.
This 6.9-hectare (17 acre) wooded valley is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, where chalk stone was carved out by glacial meltwaters when the last Ice Age receded. The valley has never been ploughed, so it’s incredibly rich in biological diversity and is now the largest surviving area of chalk downland in the county. Signs guide you to a secret chalk pit conservation area. Many local roads are named Chalk Pit Lane, testament to the former local industry.
In autumn Ringstead Downs are sprinkled with starry purple gentians and bush crickets sing to the year’s last warmth before winter reveals the valley’s unique architecture. Skeletal trees cling to the steep sides and high in the clear air, red kites wheel and the buzzard’s plaintive cry evokes Norfolk’s ancient wild spirit.