8 things that Norfolk is famous for
- Credit: Antony Kelly/Archant
From stunning coast and countryside to delicious food and drink, these are the things that put the county of Norfolk proudly on the map.
Think of Norfolk and The Broads will instantly spring to mind. Its 125 miles of picturesque navigable waterways, have drawn visitors to our part of the world for centuries.
It’s astonishing to think that it was man-made.
Originally medieval peat diggings for fuel, they flooded in the 14th century, creating the magical wildlife haven that we enjoy today.
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The tourism industry as we know it began in the 19th century as pleasure boating began to grow in popularity.
Today, the best way to enjoy this beautiful and unique wetland is still from the water, whether you’re on a day trip, a boating holiday or, as is becoming increasingly popular, exploring by kayak or paddleboard.
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Norfolk has 90 miles of gorgeous coastline.
And whether you’re looking for wild, windswept wilderness or a bucket and spade day on the beach, the county has it all.
Holkham beach is regularly voted one of the best beaches in the country, and its neighbour, Wells, is famed for its colourful, traditional beach huts.
Snettisham and Titchwell are great for birdwatching, or if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, Hunstanton is a centre for kitesurfing and Cromer has its own surf school.
The rockpools of West Runton, where the oldest and most complete mammoth skeleton to be found in the UK was discovered, is great for fossil hunting.
And if you’re looking for a traditional seaside day out, complete with chips, doughnuts and 2p slot machines, then Great Yarmouth, with its golden sands, really lives up to its name.
Its big skies
Whether you’re by the coast, in the countryside or in the heart of Norwich, you can enjoy Norfolk’s famous big skies and stunning views.
Head to Mousehold Heath in Norwich for the most astonishing view of the city.
From St James' Hill you can drink in the splendour of the city's most famous buildings, including the cathedral, the castle, City Hall and ancient churches.
In the Broads, surrounded by flatlands and marshes, Berney Arms Mill is a quintessential Norfolk scene.
And in north Norfolk, Beeston Bump offers magnificent views down the coast – to Blakeney Point to the west and Cromer church to the east.
Its food and drink
What’s on the menu in Norfolk?
Top of the list has to be Cromer crab.
The season starts in April, and the chalk reef off the coast provides the ideal conditions for these crustaceans to thrive.
Heading west around the coast, Stiffkey is famed for its cockles, or Stewkey blues as they’re known, while Brancaster is the destination for mussels.
And to accompany them, you’ll be wanting some samphire, or sea asparagus as it’s also known, which is foraged from the salt marshes.
Norfolk is, of course, also synonymous with turkey, while the Brecks is fabulous for game.
For a simple but delicious lunch, pile up your plate with Norfolk-made cheeses such as Mrs Temple’s Binham Blue and freshly baked bread and wash it down with some Norfolk brewed beer – north Norfolk is excellent for malting barley.
Enjoy mint sauce with your Sunday lamb?
There’s a good chance that the mint was grown in Norfolk.
And, of course, while it is no longer made in the city, one of the country’s most famous condiments, Colman’s Mustard, was based at the Carrow Works in Norwich – and the mustard seeds are still grown here.
Norfolk’s variety of different types of habitat make it a birdwatching hotspot, with enthusiasts drawn from all over the country to its famous nature reserves, including Snettisham, Welney, Titchwell and Cley to name just a handful.
Norfolk is known for bitterns, marsh harriers and stone curlews, but wherever you are keep your eyes and ears out.
Even in the heart of Norwich you might see the peregrines doing their aerial dance around the cathedral spire, or the flash of turquoise of a kingfisher along the riverside walk.
Norfolk is a county of literature with internationally acclaimed creative writing courses at UEA, the National Centre for Writing on King Street, and Unesco accreditation.
Writers who have helped put Norfolk on the literary map include Anna Sewell who wrote Black Beauty in Old Catton, near Norwich, Philip Pullman who wrote the world-famous His Dark Materials trilogy and was born in Norwich in 1946 and Julian of Norwich whose account of her religious visions was the first book by a woman to be published in English.
Thomas Browne, was a doctor, scientist, philosopher and historian as well as a writer. His statue presides over Hay Hill in the centre of Norwich and he is responsible for many words which are still in use today, including disruption, electricity, exhaustion, ferocious and ultimate.
Rebels and revolutionaries
“People in Norfolk do things different” is an old county saying.
Arguably its most famous rebel was Robert Kett who, in the summer of 1549, led a revolt against wealthy landowners who were refusing to allow access to common grazing land.
Kett was a yeoman who was targeted by a group of rebels who were destroying fences.
Kett became their leader and he and 16.000 recruits from city and county set up camp on Mousehold Heath.
On July 29 they took the city and on August 1 defeated a royal army which had been sent to end their occupation.
On August 29 the rebels were defeated at the Battle of Dussindale.
Kett was captured and tried for treason.
He met his end on December 7 that year when he was hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle.
There is a green plaque dedicated to Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States,
on the Thomas Paine Hotel in White Hart Street in Thetford. The plaque records the important part the author of The Rights of Man played in American politics, inspiring the rebels to declare independence from Britain in 1776 with his Common Sense pamphlets, and the role he played in the French Revolution.
There is also a statue in the town.
Elizabeth Fry, the 18th century prison and social reformer who campaigned for more humane treatment of prisoners was born and grew up in Norwich.
She opened a night shelter for the homeless, set up a training school for nurses, and brought up 11 children.
And Edith Cavell the nurse from Swardeston who was executed by the Germans in 1915, who helped Allied servicemen escape German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, is buried in Norwich.
‘Very flat, Norfolk’ wrote Noel Coward famously in the play, Private Lives.
However, that’s not quite true – as any cyclist who has tackled Norwich’s gruelling Gas Hill Gasp as part of the city’s Lord Mayor’s Celebration will tell you.
The highest point in East Anglia is Beacon Hill, or Roman Camp as it is also known, on the north Norfolk Coast.
Standing 103 metres above sea level, it’s the pinnacle of the Cromer Ridge, which was formed around 450,000 years ago when an ice ridge about a mile thick retreated.
While it was a lookout point around the time of the Spanish Armada in the late 1580s, to date there’s been no evidence of a Roman settlement and it’s thought it was given the name to attract tourists.
There is great walking in the area – and it’s an excellent vantage spot to enjoy Norfolk’s aforementioned big skies.