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As the only city in England set within a national park, it’s no surprise that Norwich has more than its fair share of greenery and nature – not to mention an entire river running like a vital artery through its centre.
In fact, Norfolk as a whole is filled with nature spots – woodlands, wild meadows, wetlands and then, of course, there is the Broads National Park spreading its wonderfully wet and wild tentacles into the county. Want to know the best parks and gardens to visit and walks to do? Read on for our recommendations.
Whitlingham Country Park
Take to the water in a breezy fashion at Whitlingham Adventure. You can embrace the latest water trend by hiring a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) for £15 (better still, bring your own). Or for something a bit sturdier, three of you can fit into an open canoe for £20. Available from April to October, you’ll have to reserve your craft first. Then again, why not stay on dry land and navigate your way around the park by hiring a Beryl bike, e-Bike, or e-Scooter at Whitlingham?
Entrance to Whitlingham Park is free, with parking via pay and display (£4 for three hours, £6 all day).
One of the best places in Norwich to see a beautiful sunset against the city’s inspiring skyline, Mousehold Heath is just a short walk from the Cathedral grounds and over Bishop’s Bridge. This lovely heathland has wild meadows which are perfect for picnicking in, and woodland to explore when you fancy some time out to bask in nature’s beauty.
Try your hand at some fun crazy golf at Eaton Park’s popular 18-hole course. Or head to the boating pond and marvel at the mastery of the replica miniature models people bring along. There might even be a naval regatta going on if you’re lucky. And if you’re at Eaton Park on a Sunday, then hop on board the miniature railway for a speedy one-kilometre whirl of the park. Afterwards, enjoy a snack and drink in the dog-friendly café at the grade II-listed rotunda in the centre of the park.
Crazy golf is £5 (Adults), £4 (Kids 8-16/OAPs/Students) and £3 (Kids 3-7). Miniature railway is £1.50 (Adults) and £1 (Kids).
Lovely Chapelfield Gardens is the ideal spot for sunning yourself, large enough to hide away in and ideally placed to have a rest after shopping at Chantry Place. Lose yourself in the scent and glory of the many beautiful flowerbeds, or enjoy an ice cream from the nearby food stand.
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
Stay outdoors and enjoy a wander around the 350-acre Sculpture Park at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts with its fabulous mid-century and contemporary offerings from the likes of Henry Moore and Antony Gormley. You can always admire nature by taking a stroll around the lake at the University of East Anglia too. Entry to the Sculpture Park and permanent collections at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is free. Parking is free (ask for a pass at reception), but spaces are limited.
Sitting slap bang in the centre of the city, there’s Castle Green. This is somewhat of a hidden gem, but it’s worth the short climb up the hill to get here. Seat yourself on one of the three terraced lawns and enjoy views of the Castle and the city. There are plenty of trees, blooms and a fountain to admire, while young kids can tire themselves out at the play park.
If the city is proving a bit too noisy and heated, then head for the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. Not only does the Cathedral have its own lovely garden cafe, but just past the Cathedral you’ll find a gap in the stone wall through which you can pass and emerge into The Plantation Garden. There you’ll encounter what we’re sure you’ll agree can only be described as a city oasis. Lush green grass, imposing trees, colourful blooms and several architectural treats lie in wait. The peace, serenity and trickling water all add to the feeling of calm you’ll experience. Entrance to the Gardens – which are open all year round – is just £2 (adults).
The Broads National Park
The Broads National Park is an iconic part of the Norfolk landscape. Stretching from the Coast all the way to Norwich itself, there’s so many gorgeous waterside villages you can visit to take in the beauty of the water and the lush greenery that surrounds it. But the best way to get a real Broads experience is to go out via boat. Head to Broads Tours in Wroxham to hire a day boat and get out on the water, where you can cruise along taking in the scenery (and spotting some wildlife too!) Boats can be hire from as little as £19 per hour.
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden
From wild swimming to paddle boarding, canoeing and undertaking a spot of wildlife photography – it’s all going on at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden. This beautiful stretch of Lakeland and greenery can be enjoyed year-round, and special activities can be booked in advance. Entrance to the Water Garden is £7.95 (Adults) and £4.15 (Kids aged 8 to 16) if booked online prior to visiting.
A great location in which to see nature and wildlife while relaxing in glorious surroundings, Pensthorpe is a beautiful park with several areas to explore. The Wave Garden, with its lake, is the ideal picnicking spot, while the Glade Sculpture Garden enchants kids and adults alike with its giant dandelion and blue/green flower sculptures. Explore the wildflower meadow by following the boardwalk trail over the River Wensum’s floodplain. There’s a café and shop in the park and no charge for parking. Entrance costs are £13.95 (Adults) and £12.95 (Kids aged 3 to 16)
Holkham Hall & Estate
Get out of town for a bit and visit Holkham Park which is located on the North Norfolk Coast. While out walking or cycling the park, you’re sure to encounter lots of nest boxes and habitat piles. You might also see the odd deer bounding about in the woodland. Then again, why not just relax, bring out a bottle of fizz and enjoy a picnic by the lake? Entrance to Holkham Park itself is free. There is a charge for the Hall. Parking is £5 per day, redeemable against a £30 purchase in the shop.
If you fancy the beach you can visit too as Holkham Beach is one of the best in the country. With it’s own car park (we suggest getting there early, it gets very busy in high season) perhaps stay on the beach in the morning and follow up with the country park in the afternoon.