December 12 2013 Latest news:
Friday, August 23, 2013
To many, the West of Norfolk may mean little more than negotiating the Hardwick roundabout while on the way out of the county at the beginning of a holiday.
But for those who take a turn into West Norfolk and the Fens there is an area bursting with heritage and tradition to be discovered.
The area has been called home by the likes of Oliver Cromwell, George Vancouver and numerous royals and has a rich and interesting history.
As well as boasting the Queen’s Sandringham Estate, where visitors can walk around the grounds or take a tour of the house, West Norfolk is also home to Oxburgh Hall and Houghton Hall while Peckover House, and its beautiful gardens, can be found in Wisbech.
Teresa Squires, the National Trust’s general manager for Oxburgh Hall and Peckover House, believes that West Norfolk and the Fenland area has a distinct feel which draws visitors to it.
“There is a strong tradition of independence, it is a very distinct area which is completely different to anywhere else,” said Mrs Squires. “It’s almost like going to a new country. If you haven’t been before, there is a sense of exploration and adventure.
“Often people stop off on their way through to the coast and come and make a day of it.”
The area also boasts one of the best pints around from a Georgian brewery which still produces ales for 36 pubs.
Elgood’s Brewery, in Wisbech’s North Brink, still operates in the traditional way in which it was started over 200 years ago.
As well as supplying a number of local pubs it opens its doors for visitors to tour and its gardens for guests to relax and enjoy a brew.
Kate Pateman, secretary to the director of Elgood’s, believes that the area is unfairly forgotten.
She said: “I think it’s one of East Anglia’s best kept secrets. When people find it they want to come back and they go and tell their friends about it.”
While tourist attractions have seen a slow beginning to the year, since the weather warmed up there has been a rapid increase in visitors across the region.
National Trust manager Mrs Squires said: “As it has stopped raining things have picked up.
“Oxburgh Hall has been really, really busy – the place is buzzing.
“I would say we are on for a record year and we are well up on where we were this time last year.
“The feeling from the ground is very positive, there has been a great resurgence in home-grown tourism.”
The historic town of King’s Lynn has long been a focal point for tourists who come to discover more about the town’s maritime past.
As well as a number of museums, the town has some fine old architecture including the Custom House, Guildhall, St Nicholas’ Chapel and the Corn Exchange.
True’s Yard Maritime Museum tells the story of some of Lynn’s former inhabitants in its glory days as one of the most important points in the country.
Museum manager Lindsey Bavin said: “History is one of our biggest attractions. We have some fantastic buildings here in King’s Lynn. For example, there’s the Custom House and the Guildhall. There’s also St Nicholas’ Chapel which has a spire which was designed by the same architect (George Gilbert Scott) who designed the St Pancras Station Hotel – it’s magnificent.”
Lynn isn’t just known for it’s seafaring history and old buildings as it has also become a centre for the arts.
The Corn Exchange sells about 100,000 tickets for shows every year while the King’s Lynn Festival has become well respected nationally and brings some world class acts to the town.
This summer has seen the hugely successful Houghton Revisited exhibition, held at Houghton Hall, extended due to popular demand.
The exhibition features masterpieces from artists including Rembrandt, Velasquez, Poussin, van Dyck and Rubens.
The exhibition reassembles the art collection created by Britain’s first prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, whose descendents still reside in the stately home.
West Norfolk’s Tourist Information Centre has received a number of requests from overseas with a particular interest in the Houghton exhibition.
West Norfolk is also home to Denver Windmill, near Downham Market, a Grade II* listed building which includes in its grounds its own bakery and cafe.
Run by Samantha and Graham Styles it is hoped that the mill can be restored to full working order in the future.
Mrs Styles said: “We tend to attract people who are interested in windmills and those who are interested in baking.
“We’ve got a lot to offer with the bakery, cooking classes and we have four holiday lets which we are currently renovating.”
Further down the A10, built on the highest land in the Fens, you will find the cathedral city of Ely.
Ely Cathedral is recognised as one of the finest cathedrals in the country.
William the Conqueror began its construction in 1083, however it was not completed for a further 116 years. William I was not the only historical figure to leave his mark on the city as Oliver Cromwell once called it his home.
The house he and his family spent 10 years in has been turned into a museum and visitors can take tours with guides in period costume to give the experience an authentic feel.
• PLACES TO VISIT
Sandringham House – A little less than 10 miles from King’s Lynn, the Queen’s Sandringham estate has been the Royal Family’s country retreat since 1862. Visitors can take a stroll through the gardens, look through the museum or take a tour of the house itself.
Peckover House and Oxburgh Hall – The west of the county contains two of the National Trust’s Norfolk stately homes.
Peckover House, a Georgian town house, is known for its two-acre gardens which contain 60 species of roses.
The 15th century home Oxburgh Hall has a long history, having once played host to Henry VII and his Queen and also contains tapestries created by Mary Queen of Scots.
True’s Yard Maritime Museum – The Lynn-based museum, above right, gives an insight into the lives of the fisher folk living in the town’s old North End. Located on North Street, the museum contains stories from some of the characters who lived there as well as artefacts from their lives.
St Nicholas’ Chapel – Located around the corner from True’s Yard is St Nicholas’ Chapel which is the largest chapel of ease in England. With the building’s striking architecture, the now defunct chapel has become a venue for concerts and exhibitions.
Elgood’s Brewery – As well as brewing for a number of pubs around East Anglia, Elgood’s Brewery also opens its doors to visitors with tours of the site as well as its extensive gardens where visitors can enjoy a drink and a bite to eat.
Houghton Hall – Another beautiful Norfolk home, Houghton Hall has hosted the hugely popular Houghton Revisited exhibition. The exhibition aims to recreate the art collection of former Houghton resident Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister.
Ely Cathedral – Originally commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1083, the cathedral wasn’t completed for more than a century. It now stands proudly over the city where it has become known as the ship of the Fens as for centuries it has been a distinctive landmark against the low lying fenland.
King’s Lynn Festival – The King’s Lynn Festival is held across a number of historic venues in the town and brings top acts from a range of musical genres to Lynn. Taking place during the summer, the festival began in 1951 with the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, as its patron and has gone on to become well respected within the arts community.
Church Farm – Found in Stow Bardolph, near Downham Market, Church Farm is home to many rare breed animals including pigs, sheep, cows, donkeys and horses. As well as the chance to get to know some of the residents visitors can also enjoy the tea rooms, take a walk of the grounds, and enjoy indoor and outdoor play areas.
Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum – Social reformer and artist Octavia Hill was born in Wisbech in 1838 and the house in which she was born is now a museum which celebrates her life. Octavia Hill went on to be a founding member of the national Trust as well as campaigning for social housing.
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