2013-10-10

Home Sweet Home

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A little look at Norfolk and the English Countyside I grew up in. With added ghost stories and horses. Also there's a cat.

 

The cool thing about a blog is that it’s MINE and unlike Facebook, I’m not shoving stuff in people’s faces left and right.  You guys choose to come here and read this or alternatively you have the right close the tab with an echoing scream of "TOO LONG DIDN'T READ".  As such, I feel much more comfortable being totally self indulgent, waffling on and posting hundreds of pictures.

So this is a bit of a personal one.  Having been back to England this past year, I have a ton of pictures and a bunch of thoughts to spew forth onto the Internet. So I thought I’d talk a bit about my home and where I’m from.

I was born in the city of Norwich.

Norwich is in the county of Norfolk in the east of England (for those none-UKers, county is like a district). I lived there until I was 4. I then moved to the Isle of Wight until I was 11, before moving to Norwich again just in time for high school (oh the FUN). So I really had two homes growing up and the Isle of Wight will have its day in the sun blogosphere when I can get back there to photograph it. But for now we're focusing on Norfolk.

Norfolk is known for several things:

Farming
Peculiar accents
Alan Partridge.

Sexy, eh?  Like all teenagers, I was pretty keen to leave and conquer the world. Something happens during your twenties though. With a bit of distance (and the separation from your mothers home cooked meals), you grow to appreciate the place you grew up and did your learning.  And I now love returning home and introducing Matt to the places that played their part in my history. Even if he cannot understand what ANYBODY is saying. Not kidding about that accent.

So here's some pretty pictures which will hopefully spread the notion that perhaps the place of my birth is not so boring, and actually quite lovely. And to those of you reading this who shared the Norfolk part of my life with me, hopefully it'll help us appreciate that we actually grew up in a pretty beautiful place.

 

Blickling Hall & its Headless Inhabitants

Every kid that grew up in Norfolk has been dragged to Blickling Hall on a Sunday afternoon. It's also the kind of place you go to on school trips and you spend all your lunch money on souvenir pens and magnets.

It's a beautiful huge old house dating back to 1616. Before then, the building that occupied this land was owned by the Boleyn family. It's fairly widely "believed" that Ann Boleyn haunts the place. It's said that on the anniversary of her death every year she arrives at the hall, carrying her own head in a coach driven by a headless horseman. Why on earth the horseman has to be headless I don't know. Maybe they thought it would make her feel better to have a fellow headless dude along with her for the ride? It seems pretty crap that she has to carry her own head around in the afterlife.  But whatever.  We missed the anniversary of her death by a few weeks so there were no Boleyn Ghost Hangs unfortunately. Catch you next time, Anne!

Cliff Richard was actually about to perform a concert in the house grounds the following day. Which is arguably a more terrifying prospect than a headless queen ghost.

It is an epically creepy place in the winter though. The building is surounded by huge grounds and one particularly dark blustery afternoon in the middle of winter, we got a little lost walking through the gardens. As the evening approached and the winds started to pick up, we bumped into a mausoleum and I think that was the point at which my sister refused to come on any further Sunday afternoon walks with us.

 

Thanks for ruining my shot AND giving me the stink eye, sir!

 

...yeah, I'm just going to throw in a circle sometimes to mess with your head.

These sheep were high on something. They were running in packs and leaping all over each other.

Sheringham

Sheringham is on the North Norfolk coast and a place I spent a lot of time as a child. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all lived in Sheringham and it's still one of my very favourite places on the planet. Unfortunately, I only had one evening up there on this trip so I don't feel I adequately photographed its greatness. Just a couple of shots of the boating lake by the sea. I really have nothing but happy memories of Sheringham. And the Seafare chipshop has FANTASTIC squishy chips that demand to be eaten out of a paper bag whilst you're looking out to sea. They are seriously nom and second only to the Lucy's chips off Norwich market. 

 

Cromer

Cromer is one of Sheringham's neighbouring towns.  We had a school trip out there once and my friend and I got lost and were late back to the bus. GENUINE mixup as to where we were supposed to be meeting but there were a multitude of detentions and apologies demanded which I still to this day feel was VASTLY unfair and really has tempered my feelings for Cromer. So that kind of haunts me a bit.  But I'm working through it with a counsellor.  Other than those rage-filled flashbacks, Cromer is a such a typical English seaside town, you've gotta love it.

Incidentally, if you've read the book 'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguroyou may remember that Cromer is the Norfolk town (and pier) that Ruth, Kathy and Tommy visit. The movie adaptation of the book starring Keira Knightley was not actually filmed in Cromer which I think is another great injustice. *shakes fist at Keira Knightley* 

Norwich

Norwich! A Fine city! The centrepiece of Norfolk!  During the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important places in the kingdom.  I totally knew that off the top of my head and didn't at ALL lift it from Wikipedia.

It has been the scene of much soul searching, crying, educating, working and playing and getting ill at the riverside after combining alcohol and curlyfries - that wasn't on wikipedia but it should be. There's a load of history here. For both me and the city itself. We have a castle in which people used to be hung, drawn and quartered and then dangled from the top! Nice eh?  Pretty sure they don't do that any more. These days the castle is home to some extremely sad looking stuffed birds in a museum. But that's all part of it's charm.

We also have a man that is 300 years old (probably) who has been waving puppets around in the city centre for years (or during a particularly dark period, just flapping his hands up and down without any puppets on them). He's affectionately dubbed "Puppet Man" and I was pretty delighted to see he was still going on this trip back.

 

Norwich Cathedral has been around for over 900 years. It's seen quite a lot in that time.  Most notably, numerous christmas services I was forced to take part in. It was also recently used in the film Jack The Giant Slayer which you really shouldn't watch because it's a terrible film but if you DID happen to watch it, you should take note of how awesome the Cathedral looks. It has great Cloisters. And really, who doesn't love a good Cloister?

I mean, if you're a cloister fan, that's some Cloister Porn right there..

Yes, of course there's a cat in this post. There he is. Right on schedule.

Cafe Nero is obviously a franchise and not specifically a Norwich cafe but this one looks out over city hall and has pretty cool light. So it's noteable. Also Cafe Nero do excellent hot chocolate (just on the off chance the King of Cafe Nero is reading this and wants to give me freebies)

PUPPET MAN! The guy on the right was having a little dance.  Both times I walked past, he was there bopping away. I hope these guys have the ultimate bromance.

Tombland is a cool area of Norwich with buildings that look like they might fall over. The buildings around here are built on top of plague pits where hundreds of bodies of plague-ridden victims were buried.  As such, the apartments are haunted as hell and they genuinely cannot get anyone to live in them.  Am I doing this tourism thing right?

These are some buildings near the cathedral.  They are cool and as far as I am aware, not haunted by any headless monarchs or plague victims.

Baconsthorpe

Ok I'm cheating a bit with this one because I'd never actually been here before this trip.  But it's a good example of the cool old buildings that are scattered across the Norfolk countryside.  We visited a couple of evenings.  Once to have a look round and a second time for my clever manfriend Matt to photograph my beautiful buddy Jude there. (you can check out his shoot with her here!).  It's a pretty cool spot with some pretty friendly horsies.

 

Ranworth 

Ranworth is a teeny tiny little village that is about 6 miles from the village where I used to live in. As such, it became a place where we'd cycle to on a Sunday afternoon with a picnic. It has a lovely little church with a claustrophobia inducing tower that you can climb in order to see the views across the countryside and the surrounding broads. For some reason as an 11 year old, the climb never bothered me. As a 30 year old, I found it a teeny tiny bit more disconcerting. It's worth it for the views though. 

The village itself is a ridiculously tiny place but is a popular stopping point with people boating on the broads (The Broads = a network of rivers and lakes that spider out across Norfolk and suffolk).  The general gist of boating on the broads is that you stop at each little village you sail past and go to the ever present pub. Then you drink too much and try not to fall in the water.

 

That spindly little ladder takes you into the belltower which has the trapdoor up to the roof. Many an unsuspecting person has soiled themselves when accidentally climbing down the ladder just as the bells go off. Not me though! Obviously. *cough*

  OK, enough gabbling.  Let's speed this up. Reasons to visit Norfolk, QUICK FIRE ROUND: 

 

Deer at Holkham Hall!

 Really, really green fields!

Bluebell Woods!

Coastal Erosion!

Rope swings!

Oil Seed Rape! Nasty on the hayfeverishnose, pretty on the eyeballs (actually it's pretty nasty on the eyeballs too. Ew pollen)

Pretty sunsets out in the fields.

ARCHES!  Crumbly and not so crumbly.

No but seriously. Arches are awesome.

And cool doorways!

And did I mention the GREEN FIELDS?

How about a lighthouse?

Alright, I'll stop there.

Thanks for joining me on this little jaunt through my history. Norfolk is a pretty place. Teenage me just needed to pick up a camera to admit it I think. There's a lot more to check out.  Tiny little fishing villages round the North Norfolk coast (noteably Wells and Blakeny), boat trips out to visit the seals, boat trips on The Broads, endless ancient ruins to explore, Christmas in the tiny village of Holt where they go ALL OUT with the Christmas decorations, the awesome trashyness of Great Yarmouth with it's rollercoasters and mini golf and ice creams and tea rooms.

To someone who's spent the last 9 years in New Zealand, I also have developed a great affection for Norfolk's tiny narrow country roads and hedgerows. In the summer, the grass and flowers grow up knee high either side of you. It feels cosy and homey and lovely.  Probably because it's my home.

Anyway. I hope you found something to like here.  I mean, Puppet Man eh?  There's no arguing there.

COMING SOOOOOON TO A BLOG NEAR YOU - reasons to love the Manawatu.  Yep, I moved from a place in England that other English people look down on to a place in New Zealand which New Zealanders look down on. So I figure I'll have a crack at talking about why the Manawatu has it's loveliness too.

I also have some more cats to show you.  Boy do I know how to leave you wanting more eh?

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