Worn out, with health issues and disillusioned with the way things were going in his line of work my boyfriend made the tough decision to retire early, giving up a salary most of us can only dream of in order to pursue his lifetime’s desire of moving to North Norfolk.
Until I met him my knowledge of Norfolk consisted of a wild weekend at a caravan park in Caister with 18 plus, many moons ago and a week with my kids at Pontins near Great Yarmouth. Pontins was truly grim and full of burger munching tattooed parents yelling ‘Chelsea,’ ‘Ryan.’ I came away from Norfolk thinking, never again; just get me out of this flat, culture less, dull, county.
My boyfriend, a graduate in Ecology at the University of East Anglia in Norwich describes North Norfolk ‘as the land that time forgot.’ North Norfolk is cut off from the rest of the country and without a motorway beyond Norwich few venture further up, unless they’re visiting the Broads. The north coast and inland for some ten miles is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful, unspoilt regions of England. It’s truly breathtaking. The lanes aren’t crammed with caravans and cars in the summer, because most people have gone to Devon and Cornwall or the Lake District. It’s no wonder therefore that my boyfriend, his head full of fond memories of carefree days spent roaming the county, as a student, couldn’t wait to return to the county of his youth. And Norwich, the county capital, according to a recent poll is number two in the league of the most desirable places to live in the UK. The facts, I guess speak for themselves if you’re also thinking of relocating.
My boyfriend’s conveyancer tried to put him off relocating to Norfolk. “It’s far too cold up there” he said and asked “are you a Remainer or a Brexiteer?” “Oh” he said with alarm on hearing that my boyfriend had voted remain. “You’ll be in a minority up there.” 71 percent voted Brexit across Norfolk, perhaps not appreciating the benefits of EU membership, but it was a different situation in Norwich where most voted Remain.
Life in North Norfolk is like stepping back into the 1950s although things are changing. With so many Londoners buying second homes up there boutique restaurants have replaced pot stews in dreary pubs and quaint delis sell an array of local hams and mouthwatering cheeses. Unfortunately house prices are rising as demand increases for second homes in this region.
The pace of life is much slower. Nobody rushes anywhere or to do anything. You step down a few gears, start to unwind and before long you’ve become as slow as porridge. I like Hilary Mantel’s description in her memoir of life in Norfolk: “In the post office on a Saturday they discuss rainfall – not enough to wet a stamp I once heard a man say. They talk about whether they have put the heating on or switched it off and they crawl the lanes in their Morris Travellers. They go into their houses on Christmas Eve and lock the doors. They leave their windfall apples and overproduce of vegetables outside their doors in baskets for anyone to take and sell bunches of daffodils for pennies.”
It’s a fallacy that Norfolk is flat. If you think that then you haven’t ventured far enough into the county. The Fens are flat but travel twenty or thirty miles further north and the countryside becomes undulating and wooded. Hilary Mantel says “Our long drives about the county, lost in winter lanes, our limp salads in village cafes, our scrambling in overgrown churchyards made me think deeply about this territory.”
I would add to Hilary’s description: partridges and pheasants in lush fields splashed with wild flowers, an array of colour. A gaggle of ducks waddling across the road, a few hares jumping by the verges, book sales in the churches and teas at the vicarage…
The beaches are the most stunning you will find, I believe anywhere in England. Vast sandy expanses seem to stretch to infinity, flanked by pine wooded areas and under the canopy of a wide painters’ sky. The Telegraph recently awarded Holkham the 8th best beach in the country. It writes: “This is the landscape of dreamy childhood holidays: wide skies and long stretches of golden sand. Build a castle, fly a kite or simply dash to the water’s edge and enjoy a leisurely dip in the calm, glassy-surfaced water. Seasoned beach-users suggest wearing surf shoes to avoid weaver fish stings. Keep an eye on the tides.”
Here’s the link to Hilary Mantel’s memoir that features Norfolk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Giving-up-Ghost-Hilary-Mantel-ebook/dp/B003062GNA/
And also here is the link to my latest book ‘Holiday’ which also features Norfolk and the wonders of bird watching in this county where over 420 species can be seen.