Norwich and the Norfolk Broads
This year's three-day parish tour took forty-seven members of the congregation and friends to somewhere nearer home than usual – Norwich and the Norfolk Broads. This trip proved no less interesting or enjoyable than our European trips of past years. On Thursday 8th October we drove off in our Woottens coach in the capable hands of Brian, our very friendly and extremely competent driver. We made a lunch stop in the university city of Cambridge. The more energetic spent the time viewing various colleges and churches or shopping while others spent their time on the banks of the River Cam watching the punts taking visitors to and fro.
On arrival in the city of Norwich we collected June our city guide who gave us a very informative and humorous view of life in the city, both past and present. We viewed the prison, once the home of Lester Piggott and more recently Ronnie Biggs. Locally, the prison, formally the army barracks, has the reputation of housing only prisoners of more mature years! We passed some of the many churches in the city, some of which have been made redundant and are now used as art centres and in one case a puppet theatre. Many, of course, are still used for worship. The city centre was much bombed during the war and we passed the site of the Wincarnis factory, which was bombed one night and the famous tonic ended up running along the road into the drainage system. After checking into the Maids Head our hotel for the stay, we had time to wander around the city. The Anglican cathedral, right opposite our hotel was a favourite destination along with the castle and market. That night we ate in our hotel as a group enjoying a very good meal.
Friday found us making an early start to the market town of Aylsham to board the Bure Valley Steam Railway for our nine-mile ride to Wroxham, often referred to as the 'Capital of the Norfolk Broads'. There was time before we boarded for a look around the workshops and sidings. The railway is narrow gauge and the carriages are proportionately smaller which meant that some of the taller members of the group had to curl themselves into our reserved carriages for the journey. The nine-mile ride took us through fields and woods as well as three small stations. At Wroxham, we watched our engine 'Spitfire' being turned around on the turntable for its return journey and then boarded our coach for the short ride to the Broads for our cruise. The Broads were busy with pleasure craft of all types, enjoying the late summer sun. There is wildlife of all sorts both on the water and on the banks. As well as cormorants, herons and various varieties of ducks a kingfisher was also seen on one of the banks. There are, judging by the number of fishermen about a large number of fish swimming around, although nobody reported witnessing a 'catch'!
We had free time on our return to Norwich for some more sight seeing in the city itself. The cathedral was again a popular destination, made even more so for the harvest display of flowers, vegetables fruit and all manner of seeds and grain being set out for the following Sunday's Harvest Festival. There was even a pen ready to house some lambs for the service. The cathedral has a tranquil, peaceful atmosphere and contains some beautiful stained glass as well as some interesting memorials and other items. The roof has over one-thousand sculptured bosses, more than any other medieval cathedral. One particular item that provoked a great deal of interest was the font which must be unique. It is made from copper and was originally used in the production of chocolate at the local Rowntree chocolate factory.
For the best view of the city and surrounding countryside you needed to visit the castle, which stands guard on a mound in the heart of the old city centre. The castle was built as a royal residence, but for much of its life was used as a prison. A guided visit to the battlements was a must. Here you can see in all directions for about fifteen miles and have breathtaking views of both the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals as well as the market place and the numerous churches in the city. If you had the right guide you might also have heard a story about Caley's, the local chocolate makers being bombed during the war and the liquid chocolate ended up running along the road into the drainage system. Sound familiar? Still it's a good story, whatever ran into the drains! There was still time for visits to the market, the Royal Arcade for the Colman's Mustard shop or a quiet walk along the banks of the river Wensum, before returning to the hotel to prepare for dinner. While some stayed in the hotel others ventured to other establishments, including Delia Smith's restaurant at Norwich Football Stadium.
The last day took us to the royal family’s Norfolk retreat at Sandringham. A leisurely walk around the estate was breath taking with the leaves on the trees just taking on their autumnal hues. Some of the group took a ride around the grounds on the land train leading to an encounter with the royal gun dogs being exercised. The train stopped so they could chat with the keeper and see the dogs close up. The inside of the house is something of a revelation if you are used to great stately houses, as this is very much a comfortable 'lived in home'. Although, you do have to concede that most of us do not have medieval swords and armour as well as a large number of shotguns exhibited on the wall. These items are balanced by the charming sketches of members of the family displayed on the same walls. The room attendants were at great pains to explain that Sandringham is not a royal residence owned by the state, but a home owned by the royal family, as are all the furnishings and objects in the house. The museum was well worth a visit. Here there is a display of motorcars used by the royal family from the first car owned by a British monarch, a 1900 Daimler Phaeton, up to recent times. Next door there are a number of horse drawn vehicles used up until quite recently to accompany shooting parties at the various royal estates. The next part of the museum displaying some of the stuffed and mounted trophies from safaris and shooting expeditions is probably not to everyone's taste, but it is an interesting, if macabre glimpse of a bygone age.
No visit to the royal estate would be complete without a visit to the church of St Mary Magdalene, more commonly known as Sandringham Church. It is here that the royal family worship when they are staying in the house, a short walk away. As you would expect the church contains more royal memorials than any other parish church. There are many artefacts displayed given to or by the royal family. Visitors from St Michael's will feel an affinity for this church as they also have an appeal for the restoration of their organ!
It was homeward bound after this visit and everybody agreed that this had been a very interesting and rewarding trip .
back to top