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Pull on your winter boots and maybe grab your sunnies – because yes, we have enjoyed some sunny days of late. This month we’re mapping the city with our feet in our precious spare time, stretching our legs ready for the onslaught of the party season.
Wild and rough in winter, Mousehold Heath is a large area of woodland and heathland situated perhaps surprisingly, a short walk over the river from Norwich Cathedral. Its high position overlooking Norwich rewards walkers (after a steep ramble up Ketts Hill or Britannia Road) with some fabulous views, especially if you love sunsets. Park yourself on one of the benches with a flask of steaming coffee to take in the skyline and muse about the history of the area.
It was at Mousehold where the true story of Kett’s Rebellion unfolds in 1549. Robert Kett led an unsuccessful rebel army to battle in Norwich; his base camp of thousands set on the Heath. The tragedy ends with Kett’s capture and subsequent hanging at Norwich Castle.
In the latest CJ Sansom novel – Tombland, the lead character lawyer Matthew Shardlake -becomes embroiled in the story of Robert Kett getting caught up in the violent struggle for power between the rebels and the gentry. The tragic adventure takes place in Norwich around many of the city’s iconic buildings and locations including Norwich’s oldest hotel The Maids Head, where in the book Shardlake resides.
On Earlham Road, flanked by The Cathedral of St John the Baptist look out for Plantation Garden (£2 entry in an honesty box). We say look out because it’s well hidden, it’s all part of the fun – finding it. And what a treasure it is. Known as ‘The Secret Garden’ it’s a beautifully restored Victorian garden established over 100 years ago in what was originally a quarry. This Grade II, 3-acre listed garden holds charitable status and a place in the hearts of many locals. Its tranquil ambiance means it’s a haven for wildlife, with a lawn, gothic fountain, and woodland walkways – there’s a lot to take in considering its size. Wrap up warm and take a winter picnic (picnics aren’t just for summer) and some hot drinks. Or stay for a while then head to the café at the cathedral next door.
Not much further on from Earlham Road you’ll love one of Norwich’s best kept heritage parks – Eaton Park. A true community space, and popular haunt for locals. The planting is practically perfect and in autumn and winter is colourful and rich with acres of well-tended grass and magnificent trees. Eaton Park offers a plethora of really good things to do for all ages; it’s a multigenerational place to play and has something for everyone. Enjoy a large model boating lake, crazy golf, miniature railway, tennis courts or just relax and watch the children climbing and swinging in the play area. The fabulous park café is also a great place for a Sunday lunch with seating inside and out.
Not far on again and you enjoy the river and grounds of the University of East Anglia. This is walking territory in a wide-open space without shelter – so wrap up. In this space enjoy outdoor sculpture from names such as Antony Gormley and Thomas Moore as well as others on their ever growing sculpture trail.
The world-class Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is also located here. This enormous ‘box of art’ designed by Norman Foster, still looks today as futuristic as it did when it was built in the 70’s. If you appreciate art and design, this is the place for you.
Enjoy two great cafés and a stylish shop with free entrance to their collection of world art and artefacts spanning 5,000 years. The Sainsbury Centre also presents its own world-class touring exhibitions which are on for limited periods at different times of the year. It means there’s always something different to see.
Currently on: Doris Lessing at 100, Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things (until 15th December), Modern Landscape: David Hockney and Claude Monet (until 31 March 2020) and Sonny Assu (until 31 December).
On the East side of Norwich discover the gateway to the Broads National Park – Whitlingham Country Park (only 2 miles from the city centre). This hidden gem is acres upon acres (over 200 in fact) of countryside walks, cycling routes and an adventure playground as well as a visitor centre and café. If you are up for something more daring, they offer loads of on-the-water activities at the outdoor water sports centre.
Another place you have to look hard for. Marriotts Way is a cycle and walking route stretching 26 miles into the market town of Aylsham. Now this truly is the definition of ‘hidden gem’ because the entrance is just off a roundabout – where Barn Road meets Barker Street. Go from city to countryside in seconds. Following a disused rail track, this is a haven for wildlife and stunning foliage though all the seasons. You’ll also find art installations along the way.
Riverside Walk is a scenic link between the Marriot’s Way and the Boudicca Way. Nearly 2 miles long it is a scenic ramble following the course of the River Wensum through Norwich. Passing many historic buildings such as the Anglican Cathedral, the watergate of Pull’s Ferry and Cow Tower. On the way you encounter numerous bridges such as the ancient Fye Bridge where the city’s medieval scolds, strumpets and witches were once ducked.