Norwich - an appreciation

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"A fine City", Norwich proclaims itself, and with good reason. The second city in England in the Middle Ages - and the second richest, thanks to the wool trade. And when the wool trade moved away during the Industrial Revolution it couldn't afford to rebuild in the latest style and so has bequeathed us a legacy of superb historic buildings that give the place a "continental" feel. "A church for every week of the year and a pub for every day" is its other proud boast. More medieval churches, they say, than any other city in Europe. Many of them redundant, of course, in this secular age, but reinventing themselves as arts centres, galleries and theatres - including a splendid puppet theatre. The pubs serve some of the best Real Ale in the country, like the award-winning Fat Cat with its peculiarly Norfolk atmosphere. For we're far enough away from London and the cloying South-East to maintain a distinctly regional character.

And yet Norwich has a cosmopolitan air to it. In its heyday it traded with the Hanseatic ports of Northern Europe and attracted Flemish and Dutch artisans and merchants to set up businesses in the city, building fine merchants' houses that survive today as museums, gentlemen's clubs and an excellent cinema, showing films from all over the world.

Royal Arcade, NorwichThe University of East Anglia, one of the most prestigious in England, is a major contributor to the intellectual life of the city. It adds youthful vigour to what could otherwise be a sedate and ageing population. It sponsors lectures by well-known speakers on a wide range of topics as well as attracting famous pop groups. The campus, complete with its own “Broad” (Norfolk for lake), provides both a stimulating and relaxing setting and the students certainly liven up the town at night.

UEA claims to have the sunniest campus in Britain, and moving here 7 years go we were pleasantly surprised to wake up in the mornings to clear blues skies. The prevailing westerlies tend to blow themselves out before they hit Norwich. Mind you, when the wind blows from Siberia we’re the first to feel it. We’ve had snow every winter since we’ve been here! But it doesn’t linger.

Norwich scores highly on every indicator for quality of life, low crime, etc. People are friendly and still have time for you – even “incomers” like us. The rush hour lasts all of 20 minutes, and drivers “let you in”. There’s a natural courtesy here I thought we’d lost after 34 years in the Home Counties.

Iron warehouse, NorwichCome and see us – preferably in a couple of years when the last single-carriageway stretch of the A11 is dualled. Or there’s a fast 2-hour train service from London Liverpool Street. Coming from abroad? We have a friendly little international airport, a short 40 minute hop from Amsterdam. The lovely North Norfolk coast is less than an hour away by car, and the famous Norfolk Broads are even closer. You can hire boats by the day or the week and really get away from it all. The wildlife is fabulous.


Feature written by Euan Pearson

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Other Members' Thoughts - 4 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    over 6 years ago
    It is many, many years since we last visited Norwich. I'll always remember on one visit there was a strog smell of chocolate cake everywhere we went. It took us several visits before we managed to find the cathedrl as there are so many splendid old churches...
  • DRSask
    over 7 years ago
    I spent a week in Norwich in 2010 and in addition to the museums and medieval churches, I found a mecca for shopping. I had no idea about the quality of shops until I arrived and was very pleasantly surprised. Right in the centre of town is the Market Square next to St Peter Mancroft church. Within the pedestrianized shopping area you will find not only the market but also Jarrold’s Department Store on London Street, Gentleman’s Walk and Royal Arcade (home of Colman’s Mustard Shop and Museum), The Mall Norwich by the Castle, Norwich Lanes, Chapelfield Shopping Centre, St Stephens Street, Timberhill and high street shops such as Marks and Spencer and Debenhams, both flagship stores. Jarrold has been in business since 1823, has twice won the UK’s Independent Department Store of the Year Award and it is easy to see why. It has 5 floors and 3 restaurants, one of which overlooks the Market. It is one of those stores, like Jenners in Edinburgh, that has been there it seems forever and the architecture in the old building is worth a visit in itself. Chapelfield Shopping Centre is a modern mall with more high-end stores than the Castle Mall such as its anchor store House of Fraser and smaller shops such as Hotel Chocolat and Zara. The real treat for me however are all the little boutiques along London Street such as Bowhill and Elliot for shoes, in The Lanes such as Under the Guildhall, along Guildhall Hill and Lower Goat Lane, and further afield on Elm Hill and Upper St Giles Street. Whatever you are looking for, large or small, household, clothing, accessories, jewellery, sweets, shoes, hip or vintage, you will be able to find it here. The shopkeepers were also very helpful in pointing out where you may be able to find what you need if they do not have it themselves, as they know each other’s wares very well. There are other shopping areas I did not make it to that are a bit further from the city centre but still within walking distance: Anglia Square, Cathedral Retail Park and Magdalen Street.
  • SilverTravelUser_3689
    over 7 years ago
    Would so love to visit norwich soon it sounds like a swell city to spend a few days... xx
  • Bamboo
    almost 8 years ago
    It is well worth visiting some of the excellent museums and galleries in Norwich, including the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (on the UEA campus); the Castle Museum, which houses extensive history, archaeology, art, ceramics and natural history galleries; and the recently refurbished Bridewell Museum which documents life and industry in the city.