Seven Days in North Norfolk and Half a Book

View from Blakeney Hight StreetAfter our long railway jaunt around central Europe earlier in the year H and I both fancied settling in one place for a week. Despite having spent three enjoyable holidays in North Norfolk in four years, we’d not been back in almost a decade: a return visit seemed ideal. We set off on one of those gorgeous autumn mornings, arriving in Blakeney in the late afternoon only a little discombobulated by the ‘axe-throwing escape rooms’ sign just outside Kings Lynn.

North Norfolk is famous for its big sky stretching out over theView out over North Norfolk marshes marshes to the sea. On a clear night the stars are spectacular, something we never see at home thanks to all that ambient light thrown up by the town. It’s also home to lots of pretty villages, many with delis offering treats, plus the small town of Holt which still boasts a proper department store. None of your brand concession nonsense at Baker and Larners.

Beach Houses WellsWe already had a catalogue of walks in our heads, the favourite of which for me is a circular hike beginning at Wells-next-the-Sea continuing to Holkham and back up the beach past Wells’ colourful beach huts whose numbers seemed to have expanded greatly since our last visit. One of the joys of this walk is watching lots of happy waggy dogs cavorting on the beach although they, like us, were having a bit of trouble with the buffeting wind.

By mid-week the bluster was in full-swing so we took ourselves off inland to Hindringham Hall’s Hindringham House gardensgorgeous gardens, far more lovely than we were expecting with its beautifully ordered kitchen garden, groaning with produce, and autumn crocuses scattered across lawns surrounded by a moat.

Inevitably there was a wet day but I’d wanted to visit the Sainsbury Centre at UEA in Norwich for Arcade Norwichsome time. The collection is housed in Norman Foster’s first building, still looking good despite its fortysomething years. Only a smattering of artefacts is on display from the vast collection but it’s beautifully curated. My favourite piece was a miniature Peruvian lama fashioned in silver c. 1400-1532. The afternoon was spent wandering around Norwich which is far enough away from anywhere else to have retained its character. It even has a little outbreak of Art Nouveau.

And the book? Sad to say that not nearly as much reading was done as either of us had hoped thanks to our cottage’s crepuscular lighting, clearly not designed for readers. I did manage to get stuck in to Emma Flint’s Little Deaths set in ’60s New York. Based on a true crime, it’s the story of a double child murder told from the perspective of the children’s mother whose apparently louche lifestyle puts her in the frame and the rookie reporter who shoulders his way into covering the crime and becomes obsessed by her. Not usually my cup of tea but it’s deftly handled and engrossing.

An enjoyable break, then, despite the blowing about by Storm Ali. I’m enjoying the current spell of sunny autumn days before knuckling down to winter. Long may it last.

32 thoughts on “Seven Days in North Norfolk and Half a Book

  1. Rebecca Foster

    I’ve been on a boating holiday in Norfolk but have never made it to Norwich. It sounds like quite a special place. I’ve seen some artefacts from the Sainsbury Centre via Rebecca Stott’s pictures on Twitter.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’d thoroughly recommend a trip to Norwich. It’s a little far away from Bath but I’ve visited it several times and loved it – nicely individual. Thanks for the Stott tip. I’ll take a look.

      Reply
  2. Liz

    Norfolk is a lovely part of the world – so glad you had such a nice time. I always overestimate how much reading/knitting/painting etc I will get done on a holiday, so I am not at all surprised to hear that you find the same!

    Reply
  3. Simon T

    So many good secondhand bookshops in Norwich! And a really brilliant one in.. Yarnton? Something like that. As you can see, my last trip was mostly about book shopping… but I did stay in a beautiful thatched cottage in a tiny village.

    Reply
  4. Kath

    I’m glad you had such a lovely week away with plenty of walks and (sometimes very) fresh air. And after a summer of seeing the piles of books which people have been taking away on holiday, it’s a relief to see that you managed part of one. I rarely read much on holiday, happy to be out and about instead or watching that part of the world and its people go by.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thanks, Kath, and it was very fresh indeed! It’s true that I usually take far too many books away with me, particularly this time as we were loading up a car rather than hefting them around on trains.

      Reply
  5. JacquiWine

    Not an area I’m particularly familiar with, but it sounds lovely! I’m glad you were able to get out and about a fair bit in spite of the very windy weather. It’s a great time of the year for lots of walks in the countryside.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thanks, Jacqui. It’s quite a long way from anywhere – nearly 6 hours in the car for us but worth it. I’m determined to make the most of autumn before the winter hatches get battened down.

      Reply
  6. Nicki Piano

    We stayed in North Norfolk in April – we had one day of 18C, quite hot walking, another that was cooler, then rain and fog. I actually managed 5 books, buying three at Waterstones in Kings Lynn when I realised that the two I had brought would not keep me going! This was unusual for a holiday though. A couple of weeks ago we were in a cottage in the Malverns which was lovely, but not great on the lighting. It occurred to me that it might be an idea to bring a lamp on future trips – along with everything for the dog, and the dog preferring to have the back seat of the car to herself!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’ve only visited in September but had wondered about the spring. Lovely wild flowers in the marshes, I imagine. Our cottage was a bit too bijou to have proper reading lights. I occassionally entertained myself wondering what the fisherman, his wife and their (probably) many children would think of the accoutrements! I can see the dog might take umbrage ay having *her* space invaded!

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Funnily enough I think you might find some of it familiar, Cathy. I almost used the word ‘strand’ instead of beach for that stretch from Holkham to Wells! I particualry liked the feminist thread that ran through Flint’s novel – all those conclusions jumped to and gossiped about, and her difficulties with motherhood.

      Reply
  7. Naomi

    I especially love those colourful beach huts.
    I was expecting to hear that you were too busy having fun to read… Too bad it was more to do with poor lighting! It sounds like you had a nice time, though, and I always enjoy hearing about your trips!

    Reply
  8. kimbofo

    Sounds like you had a lovely break. We stayed in Blakeney many years ago now and we loved the quiet solitude of it all. I remember buying quite a few secondhand books at Cley Books (near the windmill); I wonder if it is still there.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      We didn’t see much of Cley this time so I’m not sure about the bookshop but I don’t remember it from a decade ago when we stayed in the village. So many glorious walks to be had from there although it was a wee bit too windy for that last week.

      Reply
  9. buriedinprint

    I love the way your photos are nestled into your commentary. It feels very cosy and makes me feel like that’s the way of the vacation as well. Like others have said, I’m always surprised by how little I read when I’m away from home (which isn’t often and never for long); I wonder if one does need a holiday from reading, too, even though one doesn’t tend to think of it that way. The llama is delightful: that’s just the kind of object to which I’m drawn in museums as well. Next time I will take a photo!

    Reply

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