Even people who have lived all their lives in North Norfolk come across places they didn’t even know existed. So what hope does your average visitor have of getting to know this large and varied county? Especially when the natives tend to play things pretty close to their chests.
To try and help our Kett visitors, we’ve chosen five places which don’t shout about their existence, but which are true Norfolk gems:
Hidden away in rural North Norfolk, Wolterton Hall is a grand country house a little frayed around the edges, which speaks to you of past glories and grandeur. Visitors can park near the house and walk around the surrounding fields and parkland (designed by Thomas Ripley), with the best view being from the far side of the lake looking toward the house. Once you have wallowed in Wolterton’s decayed splendour, lunch at the nearby Saracen’s Head is recommended. Also owned by the same family, Mannington Hall Garden is also well worth a visit.
The RAF Air Defence Museum
From the Second World War right through the Cold War, this station at Neatishead in Norfolk played a vital role in the secret Air Defence of this country, and even today its role is ‘to provide radar, ground-to-air radio and data links coverage as part of the UK Air Surveillance and Controls System’. The museum uses a combination of a guided tour and a large number of themed rooms and many of the exhibits are ‘hands-on’. Visitors can join in and experience life as a Fighter Controller or sit in the cockpit of a Jaguar aircraft. People who have been describe it as ‘a surprise waiting to be discovered’, and have praised the knowledge and enthusiasm of the volunteers.
Earle Arms, Heydon
Heydon is one of the most attractive (and privately owned) villages in North Norfolk, and its chocolate-box good looks mean it has been used as a back drop for both TV and film. The pub, the Earle Arms, overlooking the green, is right in the middle of the village and has a reputation for its seafood (‘pier-fresh’), local beer and friendly service. Look out for the host of racing prints and memorabilia.
Walled Garden at Houghton
Houghton Hall in itself is a treasure, but whatever you do don’t forget to visit its Walled Garden. Originally the kitchen garden for the house, the 5 acre area was mostly fallow and neglected, until in 1996 it underwent a programme of redesign and regeneration, with such success that in 2007 it was named Historic Houses Association and Christie’s Garden of the Year. Different areas include an Italian garden with pleached lime trees, a 120 yard double herbaceous borders, a rose garden with 150 varieties, parterre of box hedging and much more. Don’t miss the Waterflame fountain!
Norfolk is famous for its windmills and Bircham Mill is one of the best, looking now as it would have done over 100 years ago. You can climb ladders right to the top for a breaktaking view of the sea, make your own bread in the bakery, meet their sheeps and watch the milk being made into cheese, pet the animals and then enjoy delicious cakes and pies at the café. A great way for young and old to spend an hour or two absorbing a piece of Norfolk heritage.