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Norfolk Flag

Famous for its 85-mile stretch of open coastline that includes an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the unique Broads National Park, and some of the county’s finest beaches, Norfolk has more than enough to tempt tourists and visitors. Norfolk also has the history, heritage, and culture to go with it, making it an unmissable county that’s well worth exploring.

Days out in Norfolk

As a mainly rural county, Norfolk enjoys plenty of open countryside together with its coastal area of outstanding natural beauty. With the towns of Great Yarmouth, Thetford, and King’s Lynn, and the county town and city of Norwich, there’s a great choice of places to visit and attractions to see for a day out.

The city of Norwich has a vibrant cultural scene and lots of history too. Its collection of 12 heritage sites, known as the ‘Norwich 12’, includes some of the county’s most famous places of interest, historical sites, and architecturally significant buildings.

These include the Norman architecture of the magnificent 11th-century cathedral, the nearby Norwich Castle, with its art, archaeology, and natural history collections, the ornate 15th-century Guildhall, and the Art Deco grandeur of the City Hall. A guided walk or tour around any, or all, of them, is heartily recommended.

There’s much to see and do outside the city centre. Great Yarmouth is a seaside favourite with its Pleasure Beach and rides and attractions for all ages. The Time and Tide Museum offers a history of the town through the ages, and a visit to the Sea Life Centre to discover the wonders of the underwater world is not to be missed. The beaches at nearby Caister-on-Sea and Gorleston-on-Sea also have acres of golden sand to enjoy, too.

In Thetford, one of the main attractions is the 46,000-acres of man-made lowland forest. Home to the Lynford Arboretum for extensive wildlife and birdlife, and Great Hockham for walking, horse riding, or picnicking. Don’t miss Thetford Castle Mound in the town – a unique piece of ancient history.

The Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a scenic landscape of protected coastal marshes, cliffs, and countryside – a wonderful area to explore on one of the many walks. Just as famous for its nature and wildlife as it is for its network of man-made waterways, the wetlands of the Broads National Park pulls in tourists from all over the world for a boating getaway.

Topography, geology, and climate

Together with its southern neighbour of Suffolk, Norfolk is a largely low-lying county with a relatively flat landscape. Its long coastline and open countryside provide a diverse mix of land types and soil qualities with different fertility levels, split into three main areas.

The far west of Norfolk features naturally wet, peat, loam, and clay soils, as well as some sandy soil in the north and fen peat soils in the south. Large areas of sandy Breckland soils around Thetford turn loamy and lime-rich towards the north.

In central areas, soils are largely a mix of base-rich loam and clay and slightly acidic loam and clay, with free-draining, but mildly acidic loam and shallow, lime-rich soils in the far north. In the east, free-draining, slightly acid loam soils cover large areas with naturally wet loam and clay soils around the Broads.

Much like Suffolk, the mild and warm climate of summer can lead to some extremes in winter. Summer temperatures can average at around 20ºC (68ºF), while winter temperatures average at around 2ºC (35ºF). Norfolk can be a fairly dry county overall, with more rain in the hillier west. Annual rainfall across the county averages around 675mm (26”).

Norfolk’s parks and gardens

In addition to Norfolk’s beautiful coast and countryside, the county has a fine choice of excellent gardens to visit. Offering peace, tranquillity, and a relaxing day out, each garden offers gardeners and horticulturalists an inspirational scene, as well as giving families a chance to enjoy nature at its well-tended finest.

West Norfolk

The Gooderstone Water Gardens, near King’s Lynn, is a beautiful haven for garden lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and anyone looking to spend a couple of hours surrounded by nature. This former damp meadow has been transformed into a glorious, six-acre water garden. With four ponds, bridges over tranquil waterways, and a trout stream, they’re surrounded by mature, water-loving trees, shrubs, and wild foliage as well as more formal areas with beautiful colourful borders.

Another great choice in King’s Lynn is Houghton Hall and Gardens. Beyond the 18th-century Palladian-style house, the surrounding 1,000-acres of parkland was redesigned by naturalistic landscape garden designer, Charles Bridgeman. However, the stunning 5-acre Walled Garden is the jewel in the crown. Divided into ornamental garden rooms, you can enjoy the rose parterre with 150 varieties, an Italian garden, and Mediterranean garden, as well as fountains and contemporary art.

Pensthorpe Natural Gardens, near Fakenham, combines stunning wildlife and natural lakes with impressive gardens. The one acre Millenium garden is filled with bold, colourful perennials for a naturalistic, meadow feel. The Wave garden is an award-winning area with simple plantings, wild foliage, and native oaks, while the Corten Infinity garden includes vibrant colour and bold plant schemes with walkways around an eco-friendly play area.

Near Swaffham, West Acre Gardens is a beautiful, old walled garden that features informal displays of some of the best in all year-round colour and interest. Alongside excellent mixed borders and a lovely blend of specimen plants, grasses, and shrubs, you’ll find both a Mediterranean garden and a Shade garden. Wherever you look, you’ll find plenty to enjoy and inspire.

East Norfolk

In the heart of Norwich, you’ll find The Plantation Garden – a 3-acre, grade II listed, English Heritage registered community garden run by volunteers. With an Italianate terrace leading down to well-kept, formal beds and borders alive with colour, pathways lead you round, allowing time to explore the surrounding terrace wall and Victorian-style greenhouse. A hidden gem and a haven for wildlife – and peace and quiet.

Almost in the middle of nowhere, the Old Vicarage Garden in East Ruston is an extensive garden covering over 30 acres. Inside this sheltered oasis, you can explore the beautiful rose garden, exotic garden, a desert wash with Californian plants, and a Mediterranean garden as well as wider parks and walks. A real joy and definitely a ‘must visit’.

Hoveton Hall Estate just outside Norwich includes beautiful gardens consisting of several areas, each with an appeal of its own. With the estate covering over 600 acres, it’s the 15-acre public gardens that are of most interest. A mix of informal areas and formal gardens, its highlights include the walled Spider garden with fabulous beds and borders, the Old Kitchen garden with lawns, herbaceous borders and central Knot garden, and a stunning Magnolia garden and lake. There are also woodland walks and wider parkland to enjoy.

Although Peter Beales Roses in Attleborough is primarily a nursery selling every variety of rose a gardener could want, inside there’s a stunning, 2-acre garden filled with a wide variety of plants, beds, and borders. Prepare yourself for a glorious display of contemporary rose varieties mixed with older, unique, and rare varieties and highlights include the four arched walkways covered with climbing rose varieties that get better every year. A labour of love that should not be missed.