Norfolk caters for everyone, families, couples, campers, tourers, glampers, ramblers, cyclists, birdwatchers, sailors, foodies, kite flyers and history buffs and you can bring your dog too! With 90 miles of coastline with the 62 miles between Hunstanton and Sea Palling making the Norfolk Coast Path, there is a lot of debate as to the beast beach in Norfolk, the reason being there are so many to choose from. You can visit the traditional coastal towns of Great Yarmouth, Hunstanton, Sheringham and Cromer or visit the quieter beaches at Brancaster, Holkham and Wells-next-the-Sea where you see the brightly coloured beach huts along the shore. Holkham beach was voted the third best UK beach in 2014, three years on nothing much has changed and the beach is still very good.
Norfolk is home to colonies of Grey and Common seals and can be found near Hunstanton, Blakeney and Horsey. Grey seals pup between November and January while the pupping season for the Common seals is during the summer between June and August. During these times the it is not possible or advisable to get close to them as it is not safe due to protective mothers and territorial males. There are viewing platforms at Horsey to watch from a safe distance. However the best way to see the seal populations is on one of the many organised boat trips where you can see the seals in the water and on the beaches. Apparently the seals love it in Norfolk due to the shallow water and sandy sea floor which is ideal for giving birth.
There is so much more to Norfolk as well as the coast, history buffs will love exploring over 600 medieval churches, the Nelson Museum and Norwich Cathedral. But you don’t have to be a history buff to really go back in time, walk along the Deep History Coast in North Eat Norfolk between West Runton, through Cromer and ending at Happisberg and you will be walking along the same ground as the oldest recorded humans outside of the Rift Valley in Africa. Go visit the remains of the largest mammoth skeleton found in Britain at Cromer Museum as well as taking a look at the tools that these early humans used.
Nothing prepares you for the sheer scale and spectacular beauty of the 47-mile stretch of coast from Holme-next-the-sea right round to Cromer. Holkham beach is the star in this western half of the coastline, and a lure for location scouts: it’s appeared in (among others) The Eagle Has Landed, Shakespeare in Love and, most recently, the lTV1 drama Kingdom. it’s a knockout even on the dullest and dampest of days, when the palette of colours runs from dove grey to slate and the beach is perfect for long contemplative walks. But the rest of the coast is no less glorious: sand dunes, saltmarsh and nature reserves teeming with bird life predominate,
and there are plenty of coastal and rural footpaths to explore. Head inland to find equally rewarding landscapes. pretty sights and some excellent eating and drinking particularly in gorgeous villages such as the Massinghams, or East Rudham and the Creakes, or the six villages that make up the Bumhams, complete with six medieval churches. A couple of grandiose stately homes also demand attention.
This village on the estuary of the River Glaven used to be a busy port and is now a popular boating centre. The church of St Nicholas has a second tower which was used as a beacon for sailors. The marshy flats which extend north west towards Blakeney Point are rich in plant and insect life, and a ferry service sometimes runs to the 1000 acre Nature Reserve and bird sanctuary at the Point.
Early 17th-century Blickling Hall is a fine example of Jacobean architecture; it stands in formal gardens laid out by Repton and pleasant parkland where a crescent shaped lake has been enlarged to stretch almost a mile. The pyramid shaped mausoleum was designed by the Italian architect Bonomi in 1793 for the Earl and Countess of Buckingham. The State Rooms of the house have magnificent furniture and pictures, and the library contains the finest collection of pre-16th century books in England. The estate was once owned by the Boleyn family, and Anne was born and spent her childhood in an earlier house on the same site. The church of St Andrew, (originally Early English, but much restored in the 19th century) has a typically East Anglian octagonal font and contains a memorial to Anne Boleyn.
In a roughly triangular area between Lowestoft, Sea Palling and Norwich, over 30 Broads are joined by streams and rivers to create 200 miles of navigable waterways. Once thought to be the result of glacial action, the Broads are now accepted as the aftermath of centuries of widespread diggings for turf or peat. The five major ones are Wroxham, Barton, Hickling, Ormesby and Filby, and the chief rivers are the Bure, Yare and Waveney. Yachts and motor cruisers can be hired, and villages such as Potter Heigham and Wroxham cater for the needs of the holidaymakers.
Burnham Thorpe and Burnham Market
Lord Nelson was born in Burnham Thorpe in 1758, at Parsonage House (now demolished). He was a son of the rector. The church contains the font at which he was christened and also a lectern made from the timbers of the Victory. The church at Burnharn Market, an attractive little town, has unusual carvings of Biblical scenes on its battlement tower.
Caister on Sea
In ancient times, before nature redesigned the coastline, Caister was a Roman port. Caister Castle was built in 1432 by Sir John Fastolf, the model for Falstaff in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV. In real life he had command of the archers at Agincourt. In the castle grounds is a fascinating motor museum and the tree walk from Battersea funfair was re-erected here in the 1970’s.
Here can be seen a full scale reconstruction of an Iceni encampment showing how the tribe of Queen Boudicca lived 2000 odd years ago. A museum in one of the old cottages fills in some of the details.
Like so many resorts, Cromer was a” small fishing village until the 19th century, when the railways brought sea fever to Britain. You can still see the original cottages clustered around the church of St Peter and Paul,-the tower of which, 160ft high, is the tallest in the county, and there are several fine Victorian hotels, a pier, and a small zoo. A former Cromer lifeboat coxswain, Henry Blogg, saved so many lives that the lifeboat is named after him. Crabs are a popular local delicacy.
Narrow, twisting streets, lead enticingly off the triangular market place, at the top of which stands the 15th‘ and 16th-century St Mary’s Church, where John Skelton, poet and tutor to Henry VIII, was once rector. The town has an attractive Victorian Shambles, and a wealth of Georgian and earlier buildings. The 18th-century Lacon’s Maltings and the ancient timbered Dolphin and Greyhound Inns represent both ends of the brewing process.Five miles west is Redgrave, Where Sir John Holt, who inspired abolition by declaring free a Virginian slave brought to Britain, is buried.
Now one of Britain’s most popular seaside resorts, the town was for centuries a centre for the herring fishing industry. These days the harbour is used mainly by cargo ships and vessels servicing North Sea gas and oil rigs. 5 miles of sandy beach provide safe bathing, and the numerous entertainments include tvvo piers with theatres, a leisure centre and a pleasure beach. The town became a resort in the 19th century, but it suffered badly from air raids in World War 11, so much so that a 1969 film version of Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, which has many scenes in the town, had to be filmed in Southwold. Nevertheless, several fine old buildings survive in Great Yarmouth including the birthplace of Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty. Her half-timbered house opposite St Nicholas’s Church (said to be England’s largest parish church) is now a museum. The Elizabethan House, the Tollhouse and the Old Merchant’s House are also interesting historical museums. Other attractions include the House of Wax; the Maritime Museum for East Anglia and the Merrivale Model Village.
Not graves at all, the 350 holes in the ground and the labyrinth of tunnels that bear this name are in fact the largest prehistoric flint mines in Europe. Using tools made from deer antlers, Neolithic man extracted flints and exported them throughout the south of England to be used for arrowheads and axes. One of the shafts can be explored; although it is lit: a torch may still be useful.
Heacham was the birthplace of John Rolfe, famous for tobacco cultivation in Virginia and for his marriage to the Algonquin Princess Pocahontas (Rolfe’s first wife and daughter died in a series of tragedies in the colonies). The young Pocahontas returned with her husband to Norfolk, where she gave birth to their son Thomas. Pocahontas died soon afterwards before returning to her native land. Her son however was brought up in Virginia and the family flourished. Heacham Hall, a Georgian mansion incorporating the old family house, was built in the 18th century, but was destroyed by fire during World War II but the parish church and the village have many reminders of Pocahontas. The wife of President Woodrow Wilson traced her ancestry back to Pocahontas whose great granddaughter married Robert Bolling of Virginia. Norfolk Lavender, the largest growers and distillers of lavender, with fields covering over 100 acres, are based at Caley Mill, on the main coast road.
Elegant Georgian houses cluster round Hingham’s two squares evidence of former prosperity as a market town. Many people emigrated from this area in the early days of the Massachusetts colony. One, the Reverend Robert Peck founded Hingham’s namesake in Massachusetts. In the market place a granite boulder from America.
Built by William Kent in 1734 for the 1st Earl of Leicester, this vast Palladian mansion is set in magnificent landscaped parkland. The house has a marble hall and the magnificent state rooms with their fine furnishings contain works by Rubens and Van Dyck. The 1st Earl’s nephew, Thomas Coke, carried out his pioneering agricultural experiments on the estate and his reforms played a significant part in the Agricultural Revolution.
Eighteenth-century Houghton Hall, approached from the village by a long avenue through beautiful parkland where a herd of white deer roam, was designed for Sir Robert Walpole, England’s first prime minister by Colin Campbell and Thomas Ripley and is one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in England. State rooms contain interior decorations and furniture by William Kent and there are many family portraits and exquisite porcelain. Traditional heavy horses and Shetland ponies can be seen in the stables.
To the locals the town is known simply as Lynn. Until the 16th century it was Bishop’s Lynn, the area belonging to the See of Norwich, but it was appropriated by Henry VIII at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. By that time it was a flourishing market town. The Tuesday and Saturday markets have gathered round the churches of St Margaret and St Nicholas since the 12th century. It was also fast becoming one of the busiest ports in England. The elegant 17th century Customs House, built by Henry Bell, architect and mayor of the town, indicates the status that the town had achieved by then. Prosperity really came, however, with the cornshipping trade of the 18th century, and the substantial Corn Exchange and elaborate merchants’ houses date from this period. The town’s historic buildings include St George’s Guildhall, faced with chequered flintwork, the largest surviving medieval guildhall in the country and now a theatre. Shakespeare is said to have played here. The Hanseatic Warehouses date from 1428. Thoresby College was founded in 1500 as a college for priests. The timber-framed Hampton Court is also interesting. Lynn Museum has interesting exhibits of local and natural history and the Museum of Social History concentrates on domestic bygones.
One of England’s most attractive provincial capitals, Norwich lies on the River Wensum, a compact cathedral city which bears the marks, in many fine and ancient buildings, of 1000 years of history. If a city can be said to have a colour, then that of Norwich is yellow from the mustard milled by Messrs Colman, whose quaint Old Mustard Shop in Bridewell Alley is a major tourist attraction and from the Norwich canary, a breed which the locals developed from the cage birds originally imported by the ‘strangers’, as the Flemish weavers who settled in the city were known: ‘Canaries’ is now the nickname of the Norwich football team.
The city centre is the wide, sloping market place, overlooked at one end by the stern keep of the Norman castle, raised high on a mound; at the other by the neo-Egyptian City Hall. It has a large produce market, around which is a network of charming old streets, alleys and arcades. Picturesque Elm Hill leads down to Tombland, the old market place, and two imposing medieval gateways give access to the Cathedral Close. The cathedral, crowned by a 315ft spire added in the 15th century, is surrounded by a large close, whose lawns run down to the Wensum at Pull’s Ferry, a 15th-century watergate, often painted by the artists of the Norwich School, whose leading figures were John Sell Cotman and John Crome.
The city has rightly made great efforts to preserve its past and has won several Heritage Awards but some of the new buildings are adventurous in design particularly those at the University of East Anglia, by Sir Denys Lasdun, and the gleaming aluminium clad Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, an art gallery and study centre designed by Norman Foster.
Surrounded by a water-hlled moat 15th-century OXburgh Hall (NT) appears as a romantic evocation of an idyllic past. Even when it was built for Sir Edward Bedingfield, the moat, drawbridge and magnificent brick gatehouse can scarcely have served a defensive purpose. Among the many interesting relics of the Bedingheld family are needlework wall hangings worked by the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots and her gaoler, the Countess of Shrewsbury.
Much of What we know of everyday life and business in the 15th century comes from the Paston letters, exchanged between members of this remarkable merchant family from 1422 to 1509. The mansion where they lived in the pleasant north Norfolk village is no more, but a great flint barn, 163ft long, stands as a reminder of their history. Memorials to some of the family are in the thatched church.
One of Britain’s ancient trackways,believed to predate the medieval period, Peddar’s Way runs from the Wash near Hunstanton, passing near Swaffham and across the Breckland to apoint just east of Thetford near the Norfolk and Suffolk border.
Particularly fne treasures in the parish church of this village between Ranworth and South Walsham Broads include a 14thor 15th-century painted screen and the Ranworth (or Sarum) Antiphones, an illuminated 15th century choir book of great beauty. From the church tower there are lovely views over Ranworth Broad. The Broadland Conservation Centre, on Ranworth Inner Broad, can be reached by a nature trail.
Those interested in the art of taxidermy can visit the museum at Pettitts Rural Industries, where there are often craft demonstrations too. The buildings are set in gardens where pheasants, peacocks and all sorts of waterfowl and game birds are on show. There are several disused windmills in the vicinity; 19th-century Berney Arms Windmill, in Havergate Marshes, 3 miles north east, is in full working order. It can be reached by boat from Great Yarmouth.
The centre of a barley growing and brewing region in the 18th century, Reepham has an attractive market square and many fine buildings as evidence of its past prosperity. Three churches once shared a common churchyard, although only two still stand. The nearby manor house contains a portrait of the Indian princess Pocahontas, who married John Rolfe, whose family built Booton church. 2 miles south of Reepham, the 50-acre Norfolk Wildlife Park has an extensive collection of European mammals and birds of prey in natural surroundings.
Sandringham House, built in the 19th century, is the Royal Family’s country residence. It was bought in 1861 by Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). The Norwich gates were,as their name suggests, manufactured in Norwich as a wedding present to the Prince from the County of Norfolk when he married Princess Alexandra in 1863. King George V and King George VI both died at Sandringham In the Church of St Llary Llagdalene, the Royal Parish Church, are a silver altar and memorials to Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, George VI and Queen Mary, some items presented by Americans. The estate includes a country park covering 300 acres. Vintage Royal Daimlers are on show in the Royal Car Museum, and there is also a Big Game Museum.
There are really two Sheringhams; Lower Sheringham, which is an attractive resort largely developed at the end of the last century, and Upper Sheringham the village. The beach is shingle, though sandy at low tide. Sheringham Hall, a Regency house built between 1812 and 1817, stands in beautiful parkland: the gardens are occasionally open, the house by arrangement only. The ruins of 13th century Beeston Abbey are nearby. The North Norfolk Railway Company has a display of steam locomotives and rolling stock at Sheringham station and trains are in operation at certain times in the summer season.
Swaffham’s legend tells of Jack the pedlar who dreamed that if he went to London he would be told where to discover treasure. Off he went and met a stranger who said that he had had a dream of great wealth buried under a certain tree in Swafiham. Jack hurried home, discovered the hidden fortune, and used it to build the north aisle of the church of Sts Peter and Paul. His generosity is remembered in the village sign, by a monument in the market place, and by several carvings in the church. Swaffham is a most attractive market town, its wide main square graced by many mellow brick houses.
Thetford stands in the centre of the ancient region of Breckland, on the edge of Thetford Chase Forest. The town was part of the Danelaw, and is alleged to have been the seat of the kings of East Anglia in 575. In the Domesday Book, Thetford was recorded as one of the five greatest towns in England. Its continuous history is preserved in the impressive collection of buildings from every period of British history to be found in Thetford. Its three-way bridge is an ancient crossing point of the Icknield Way, the oldest trade route in England. The most important sites are the remains of the Thetford Priory, and the motte and bailey castle. Many line buildings of the Elizabethan and Regency eras remain. Thetford was the home town of the political journalist and pamphleteer,Thomas Paine. A plaque commemorating his birth in 1737 was placed on Grey Gables by American servicemen stationed nearby after World War II. There is also a gilded bronze statue in honour of the writer.
Here you can see the result of one man’s lifetime enthusiasm in the Thursford Collection of steam locomotives, traction and fairground engines, and Wurlitzer and barrel organs. The musical instruments, from all over Europe, are almost all in working order, and are played at intervals. Musical evenings, with concerts on the Wurlitzer organ,
This marshland village is dominated by the impressive church of St Peter, the ‘Queen of the Marshes’. The interior is noted for a 17th-century screen which extends its full Width and for the 15th-century carving on its stalls and benches. An unusual feature is the ‘hud’ (or ‘hood’) a movable shelter once used at funerals which took place in bad weather.
In 1061 a shrine was built at Little Walsingham by Lady Richeld, commanded to do so in a vision. It was a major centre for pilgrimage numbering kings among its visitors – until the Reformation; the pilgrimage was revived in the late 19th century and the building of the New Shrine was completed in 1937. The ruins of the old priory, including a 15th century gateway, can be seen in the grounds of the modern abbey. Of the original shrine nothing remains. The restored 15th-century church of St Mary houses a Seven Sacraments font and an Epstein sculpture, ‘The Risen Christ’. Picturesque old houses surround the village square, and a nearby 18th-century Court Room contains the Shirehall Museum. Great Walsingham’s church contains magnificently carved bench-ends.
At Welney the Wildfowl Trust maintains a sanctuary for native and migratory birds which covers over 800 acres of the Ouse Washes. As well as a winter refuge for thousands of Bewick’s swans and several species of duck, it provides a spring nesting place for ruff, redshank, snipe and blacktailed godwit. The birds can be seen from the observatory or from hides.
Flemish weavers settled in East Anglia in the 12th century, and one of the techniques they introduced. to the wool trade was the production of a tightly twisted yarn for the manufacture of a firm, hardwearing cloth worsted, which took its name from this village at the heart of the industry. Until the coming of the Industrial Revolution weaving was carried out in the worker’s own home, and several weavers’ houses still exist in and around Worstead. St Mary’s Church dates from the 14th century, and its tower, rising over 100ft, reflects the prosperity of the weavmg era.
Country town (pronounced ‘Windham’) was originally part of a Benedictine abbey; it has a tower at each end and contains a fine hammerbeam roof and terracotta sedilia. Nearby stands Sir Thomas Becket’s Well, once a shrine frequented by pilgrims. The 14th-century Green Dragon in Church Street was one of the few medieval buildingsto survive the great fire that swept through Wymondham in 1615 and is among the oldest inns in the country. The timbered 17th century market cross raised on wooden pillars, stands at the centre of the town.
Have a look around the Queen’s retreat at Sandringham