Norfolk boasts miles of stunning coastline, wonderful opportunities to spot wildlife and the incredible Broads – we asked PETE WATERS of Visit Norfolk to tell us what holidaymakers should be looking forward to in Norfolk in 2015.
Hi Pete, thanks for speaking to us. What’s new in Norfolk for 2015?
The new Sky Maze at BeWILDerwood takes adventure and playtime to awesome new heights… quite literally! The interwoven structure stretches nearly half a kilometre, weaving its way through the natural landscape, with connecting tunnels, walkways and bridges, cargo nets, spiral staircases and zigzag beams – all set in the beautiful Norfolk Broads.
‘Francis Bacon and the Masters’ at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich from April to July is a ground-breaking exhibition that brings together over 25 major works by Francis Bacon with those by old and modern masters including Rembrandt, Titian, Michelangelo, Rodin, Van Gogh, Picasso and Matisse, many of whom have never been shown before in the UK. This is a unique collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
Wolf’s Child between May 8-24 at the National Trust Felbrigg Hall is the world premiere of a new creation from WildWorks. Audiences will be taken on an immersive journey deep into the dark woods in this grown-up fairytale… as day turns to dusk they will encounter a world of shape-shifting animals and humans.
On May 23-24, Norwich’s Earlham Park hosts Radio 1’s Big Weekend, the station’s flagship event! The annual show is Europe’s biggest free ticketed music event and will be headlined by seven time Grammy winner Taylor Swift.
Sounds great. What are you most looking forward to in 2015?
The fact that the Norfolk Broads are now officially a National Park which means that, uniquely, Norfolk has the only National Park with a city in it. One moment, visitors can be enjoying the tranquillity of 125 miles of navigable, lock-free rivers – we call it Britain’s Magical Waterland – and the next they can be in bustling Norwich, with its great nightlife, medieval castle and cathedral, theatres and museums, and brilliant independent and high street shopping.
We like to celebrate the weird and wonderful. What eccentric events can you recommend in Norfolk?
If you want to have a dirty weekend in Norfolk then we’d recommend the Greasypole competition in the river at Blakeney in late July – the lower the tide the muddier it gets! Or how about the world snail racing championships next to Congham Hall in July – if the snails set out now they should just about arrive in time. Or how about exploring the Pingo Trail in the prehistoric Brecks, an eight-mile walk that takes in a series of circular lakes that were formed 20,000 years ago during the last ice age.
We love a great beach – where’s your favourite in Norfolk?
So many to choose from! On the east coast of Norfolk there’s wild Winterton with dunes and marram grass and close by is Horsey, where you can see curious seals. On the north coast there’s traditional Cromer and Hunstanton, huge Brancaster, but my favourite is Wells-next-the-Sea at low tide, where you can head past the 100 or so colourful beach huts and walk a mile out to the end of The Run where you’ll invariably be alone – turn around and you’ll see where Gwyneth Paltrow walked in the closing scenes of Shakespeare in Love.
What’s the one food or drink we must try in Norfolk?
Cromer crab, in a salad or sandwich. It’s just the tastiest, meatiest, most succulent crab you’ll ever have and that’s because the crustaceans feed on a chalk reef – yes, a reef! – about a mile offshore. The lobsters are pretty good too. Oh, and the mussels. And the oysters. And the samphire, otherwise known as ‘sea asparagus’. Come along to the Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival in May and taste them all.
We have three nights in Norfolk – what goes on our must-see list?
That’s not long enough to see everything Norfolk has to offer, but you have to spend a night out on the Broads, marvelling at the landscape – not many people know this, but the Broads were actually man-made, the result of medieval digging for peat, which was used as fuel.
A visit to Norwich is a must – it’s a great city for exploring, shopping and sightseeing – walk through the medieval cobbled streets by the river, visit Europe’s largest covered market, take in the collections at the Norwich Castle Museum and marvel at the Norman Cathedral.
Then north Norfolk for the wonderfully huge beaches, the seafood, the bird and seal watching, the stately homes, including the Queen’s Royal retreat Sandringham, stunning Holkham, Houghton Hall (built by the country’s first Prime Minister) and National Trust Blickling (ancestral home of Anne Boleyn) and Felbrigg.
Is there anything else you want to tell us about Norfolk?
Something we’re very excited to be developing in the next few years is Norfolk’s Deep History Coast, a 16-mile stretch between West Runton and Happisburgh, taking in Cromer with its lovely Victorian pier (home to the last end-of-pier theatre in the country).
Finds here have included the entire skeleton of a 600,000 year old mammoth, the oldest and best-preserved found in the world (it’s going to be assembled and displayed in Norwich Castle), a 500,000 year old flint axe which was the Swiss Army knife of its day, and 900,000 year old human footprints, the oldest evidence of man found outside the Great Rift Valley in Africa.
Norfolk can genuinely say that not only is it the cradle of British civilisation, but it welcomed the first tourists to this country!
All pictures credited to Visit Norfolk, except:
Wells-Next-The-Sea, picture provided by Karina Fuller
Runton Cliffs, picture provided by Haidee Bishop