Free fun near Norwich for final fortnight

Here's how to have fun for FREE – every single day of the school summer holidays. ROWAN MANTELL brings you the third and final part of our fab guide to six weeks of summer freebies.


Fun days on the quays at Beccles and Morston.

Beccles Carnival runs all weekend, with a free afternoon of entertainment on the Beccles Quay from 1pm today.

There are contests for best dressed teddy bears, glamorous grans, bonny babies and children in fancy dress. Entertainment includes music and dance displays and there are plenty of stalls too. Tomorrow's events include a carnival procession from 1pm, and more fun at the Quay.

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At Morston, near Blakeney, a fun day runs from 10-3 on the quay including games and stalls.


Stories in the city and sport at a windmill.

Great Bircham Windmill is open, for free, from 10am to 5pm, every day.

The West Norfolk windmill is a working mill and includes a gallery, garden and musuem.

Today it hosts traditional sports for children – and parents.

There's plenty to see for free, but there is a charge to climb to the top of the mill..

The Yarnsmith of Norwich pitches his tent in Heigham Park, Norwich, every Sunday to tell stories of long, long ago. Hear tales of terrible Tudors, and mind-mangling riddles, at 11am every summer Sunday through to August 28.

Norwich parks are also the venue for free band concerts at 3pm each Sunday. Today the Dereham Band play the Mousehold Heath bandstand and on Sunday August 28 the Pavilion Brass Quintet will be playing in

Waterloo Park.


Film and fun.

Norfolk's proud history is the focus of a summer film show at Fusion, in the Forum at Norwich.

A selection of films celebrating Norfolk's heritage will be shown between 10am and 5pm.

Heritage Celebration opens today and runs until September 17. See films from HEART (Norwich Heritage

Economic & Regeneration Trust, )Dragon Hall, Friends of Norwich Museums and The East Anglia

Film Archive.

City playdays.

The summer series of Neighbourhood Playdays in Norwich parks and play areas ends this week. Today families living near Pointers Field are invited to join organised fun and games, including Punch and Judy, clowns, bushcraft and treasure hunting, between 11am to 2pm. The Neighbourhood Playdays are aimed at people who live nearby and take place at White Rose Close tomorrow, Heigham Park on Wednesday and Wensum Park on Thursday.

For full details of the all the Monday to Thursday dates visit


Going wild at Ranworth.

Search for boatmen, nymphs and water scorpions beneath the surface of Ranworth Broad.

This free two-part session includes an hour-long walk through some amazing wildlife habitats at 11am, followed by an afternoon of dyke-dipping with nets and trays, from 1.30-3.30pm.

No need to book, just turn up for the morning or afternoon session - or both.


Free city centre cinema.

The Big Screen on Chapelfield Plain, Norwich, has been showing family films on Wednesdays through the summer. Today's treat is Toy Story 3 – with showings at 10am, 12 noon, 2pm and 4pm.

Coming up next Wednesday – Tangled.


Get crafty in Harleston.

A family craft and story workshop at Harleston Library will include a guest storyteller, sharing the tale of Lazy Jack, and the chance to make a story sack to take home. The event, from 2-4pm, is free but families need to book a place through the Harleston festival box office.

Also today, and also in Harleston, Harleston's Big Draw is artistic fun for all the family. Professional artists will be on hand to help you create your own masterpiece between 10am and midday or 2-4pm at Harleston Gallery. Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Places are free but must be booked at the Harleston Gallery in Old Market Place.

The Festival also includes much more free fun, including music, art and even a ghost walk.


Outdoor theatre

The traditional summer season of free alfresco drama in Norwich's parks finishes today with Hiccup the Hippopotamus at Waterloo Park at 3pm. The drama is for youngsters from three upwards and creates a gentle jungle where the friendly animals try to help a hippo who hiccups whenever he gets worried.


Sainsbury centre

An unusual flint makes an unusual focus for holiday fun at the Sainsbury Centre all summer.

The eccentric decorated Guatemalan flint is the star of holiday activities for children this year – but there is plenty more to see at the Sainsbury Centre, on the University of East Anglia campus.

Its main gallery is free and there are also free creative activities for families to enjoy together all summer.

Drop in any day (except Mondays) explore, or pick up a special family booklet packed with fun facts, drawing, challenges and trails. Activities are designed by artists and Sainsbury Centre volunteer guides, and are inspired by objects in the collection.

The Sainsbury Centre is open daily from Tuesday to Sunday.


East Coast Truckers Convoy

A convoy of 80 lorries, thundering through Norfolk, is an awesome sight. When each of those cabs is carrying a very special passenger the convoy is even more impressive. The annual East Coast Truckers Convoy takes disabled children on a thrilling ride to the coast, where they enjoy a day at Pleasurewood Hills before parading noisily along Yarmouth seafront and then returning to Norwich. Crowds of well-wishers line the route out of Norwich and through towns and villages along the way.

The 26th annual convoy – and still the only event of its kind in the world - leaves Norwich County Hall car park at 10am and travels to Pleasurewood Hills via Carrow Road, Brundall, Acle and Gorleston. The return journey includes the now-famous parade along the Golden Mile in Great Yarmouth where many thousands of people turn out to see the spectacle between 6 and 6.45pm.

For full details of the route, the charity, and the incredible fund-raising feats of local lorry drivers, visit


Mobile arts emporium

Me and Er is run by artists Alison Atkins and Cordelia Spalding – from a horsebox equipped with everything visitors need to paint, draw, create a postcard or sculpt with clay, wire and other objects.

Everyone, of any age, is welcome to come and have a go at art as Me and Er tour Norfolk.

Today the Me and Er horsebox will be parked up at How Hill, near Ludham, from 11am to 3pm.

Harleston and Waveney Festival

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will be the (literal) high spot of a free family day at Harleston.

An RAF sea king helicopter is also on the guest list, weather and operational commitments allowing.

The family day comes at the end of more than a week of festival fun and runs from 11am to 5pm at Harleston Recreation Ground.

See vintage cars, tractors and military vehicles, Morris dancing, wacky races and kickboxing.


Summer cycling.

Norfolk is wonderful cycling country. Make the most of our flat(ish) lanes and wealth of pretty villages by enjoying a cycle ride. There are plenty of quiet routes – try the marked green lanes in North Norfolk or one of signed national routes that cross the county. The former railway line from Norwich to Reepham is particularly wonderful because it is traffic free. Another line, also traffic-free, links Reepham and Aylsham, and then trains and pedestrians are the only fellow traffic down the Bure Valley Railway path from Aylsham to Wroxham.

For lots more cycling ideas see or wich has some great rides ranging from the Fens to the Waveney Valley.


Final summer fireworks over Great Yarmouth

Fireworks have lit up the Yarmouth night sky, over the sea, every Wednesday of the school summer holidays.

The free firework extravaganza, includes two hours of music and entertainment build-up, at the Central Beach, from 8pm, with the grand firework finale at 10pm. But don't wait until dusk to visit Great Yarmouth – the famous golden sands are a wonderland of free summer fun all day long.

See August 2011 out with a bang at 10pm tonight. The perfect end to a great day in Great Yarmouth.


Free museums

All the shops are in back-to-school mode so it must be time for something at least a little educational. Norfolk has a wealth of fascinating free museums. Whether lifeboats float your boat, you are keen on mustard or get fired-up about fire engines – there is a local, free museum for you. Try the Fisherman's Heritage Centre on the seafront at Sheringham or the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum at Cromer. Try Norwich's Mustard Shop in the Royal Arcade or the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum in Dickleburgh, near Diss, or the maritime exhibition in the King's Lynn Tourist Information centre. There is also the museum with possibly the best name in the world – the only surviving town gasworks in England and Wales, complete with all the equipment it used to make gas from coal. Don't miss the Fakenham Museum of Gas and Local History if gasworks (or Fakenham) is your thing.


Wonders of the exotic east.

As a summer of free local events draws to a close there is no need to seethe while others drone on about their holidays far from the wonders of Norfolk. You can counter with your own travellers tales of pyramids and leaning towers.

In the parkland surrounding stately Blickling Hall, a pyramid looms in the woodland. Like its better-known cousins in Egypt, it was built as a tomb – but not for a pharaoh but for John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, and his two wives. While there is a charge for the mansion and gardens, a walk through the park to the pyramid is free.

For more information visit

The 'leaning tower of Lynn' was once part of a great monastery, built by the followers of St Francis of Assisi more than 700 years ago. It survived as a landmark to guide sailors into port when the rest of the monastery was destroyed but there were fears for its future until it narrowly missed out on an all-expenses paid re-fit through the BBC programme Restoration. All the publicity helped it win its own restoration programme and the surrounding gardens on the ancient monastery site, are now open to the public.



If you go down to the woods today you should have lots of fun. Norfolk has some fabulous forests which can be enjoyed for free. Most are ideal for picnics, walks, wildlife watching and general family fun.


Holt Country Park, just outside Holt, with its way-marked walks, sculptures, exercise stations and play areas.

Wayland Wood near Watton is idyllic today, but keep the kids close for this is the original setting of the tragic Babes in the Wood tale. There was once a real uncle here, who left tots to die in the woods so he could get his evil hands on their inheritance.

Foxley Wood near Fakenham is a surviving fragment of the ancient forest which once covered much of Norfolk.

Thetford Forest has miles of footpaths and cycle trails, plus picnic sites and play areas.

Sandringham Park offers many right royal rambles along paths and nature trails through 600 acres of mature woodland.


Dawn to dusk beaches.

Make the most of the final day of the school summer holiday and head for a sunrise to sunset day at the beach.

See the sun rise at 6.08am at Lowestoft (Britain's most easterly point;) enjoy a whole day on the coast and then head for Hunstanton (the east coast resort which famously faces west) for sunset at 7.41pm.