25 x winter marvels...
Published: Friday 6th Jan 2017
Written by: Lucy Downing
To celebrate our 25th anniversary, throughout the year we will be publishing 25 features on what makes Norfolk so special. To start things off, here are 25 things we love about Norfolk in winter.
People love Norfolk for its wild side, especially during the colder months - the empty beaches, rich nature reserves, beautiful areas of outstanding natural beauty and the county’s overall untouched, raw beauty. There’s also plenty of cultural stuff going on too.
Read on for our top 25 winter marvels…
1. Pink-footed skies
Alongside many other over-wintering birds, each autumn Norfolk welcomes masses of pink-footed geese with open arms. More than 100,000 grace our skies each winter from their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland. See them feeding throughout winter before lifting back to the skies to head home in early spring.
2. Seal spotting
Hop on a boat at Morston and head out to see the seals at Blakeney Point. Winter is a special time, when you can see the newly-born seal pups – all fully and white for the first few weeks. Horsey, on the East Coast, is also a fabulous place to park-up and walk out to see the seals basking on the sands.
3. Stargazing at night
Norfolk is renowned for its low levels of light pollution and incredibly dark and wide skies, making it an ideal location for star-gazing. Simply wait for a clear night, pack a hearty supper and flask, pick your spot (perhaps a beach) and settle down at dusk for the biggest light show on earth.
4. Snowdrop walks
There is no better time to explore Walsingham Abbey than during early spring, when the snowdrops are fully out in bloom. Open daily from Monday 30th January to Sunday 6th March from 10am-4pm.
5. Bird spotting
Believe us, when we say this isn’t just for old folks or bird fanatics in camouflage. Not only are birds wonderful to watch, but it is a proven fact that bird-watching is beneficial for your health. It gets you outside in the fresh air, involves walking and lowers stress levels whilst giving you time to reflect too. So grab those binoculars…
6. Pantomime antics
Come December and January and the county is awash with spectacular pantomimes to enjoy. Top of our picks is the Norwich Theatre Royal panto – currently Jack and the Beanstalk (reviewed by The Stage as one the UK’s best pantos), with the 2017/18 set to be Sleeping Beauty. Tickets are on sale for both – visit theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk for more info.
7. Night hikes
Do you dare walk out after dark? If you fancy the thrill, Sheringham Park runs these during full moons throughout the year. They also run adder adventures, tadpole watch days and bat walks for those who like something a little bit different.
8. Alpaca trekking
Oh yes, that’s right – you can enjoy an unforgettable experience trekking alpacas along the bridleways and coastal paths at Wells-next-the-Sea and Stiffkey. Visit alpacatrekking.co.uk for more information and to book
9. Go wild in the woods
With the hedgerows and trees stripped bare of their leaves, winter is the ideal time to spot the county’s wild mammals. Badgers, hares, deer and more are out there for those that keep their eyes peeled.
There’s nothing more satisfying than preparing a scrumptious meal from food you have collected yourself. Try your hand at cockling or pick mussels, oysters and whelks from the rocks, forage (carefully) for velvet shank copes mushrooms or scour woodland floors for wild garlic. What you can discover obviously changes throughout the year, so why not alternate the season in which your visit Norfolk to open-up your foraging opportunities.
11. Local shellfish
If you’d prefer someone else to harvest your shellfish, then book a table at The White Horse in Brancaster Staithe and relish their plump Brancaster mussels and oysters in the comfort of their cosy restaurant that overlooks Scolt Head Island.
Norfolk might not quite be Hawaii, but our waves are nevertheless fantastic for surfing. East Runton and Cromer are hot spots, where you can also hire equipment and book into classes with the excellent Ben at Glide Surf School.
13. Wild swimming
Ok, so this might not be for anyone, however swimming outside in natural environments is a growing trend. It’s free, there’s no chlorine and no lockers or changing rooms to navigate. The River Bure at Lamas is a popular spot, as is our 93-mile coastline. Just remember a wetsuit, towel and dry-clothes!
14. Park runs
Just because you’re on holiday, it doesn’t mean you can’t pack your trainers and head out for a run at the weekend. The estates at Holkham and Blickling, as well as Sheringham Park (renowned for being one of the hardest in the UK) host park runs every Saturday at 9am.
15. Den building
What more could a child ask for than the freedom to build a den like a real explorer? The Canoeman in Coltishall runs day courses, BeWILDerwood has an excellent den-building area and the staff at Blickling Hall have created some perfect places within the grounds.
16. Rock pooling
Donned with rubber footwear, awarm coat, a bucket and net, head to West Runton for a fun day of rock-pooling. As well as plenty of sea creatures, you’ll no doubt discover some fab fossils too.
17. Riding a horse on Holkham beach
No matter whether you’re bringing your biggest pet and horsebox with you on holiday, or wish to hire a horse during your stay, the wide-stretches of sand at Holkham are perfect for a freeing gallop. Parking for horseboxes is available on Lady Anne’s Drive.
18. Walking the coast path
You can make this your holiday challenge, or spread it out over a few years. No matter how you decide to approach it, walking the coast path is one of the most rewarding ways to discover the changing landscapes, coastal villages and locals of our spectacular coastline here in Norfolk.
19. The Hippodrome Christmas Spectacular
The UK’s only surviving permanent circus building, come winter The Hippodrome Circus puts on one of the biggest water shows you will ever witness. Perfect for children and adults alike, it’s a show you will never forget.
Although thought of as a summer sport, you can still get wet and wild out on the water in Norfolk during winter. Take the Norfolk Frostbite Sailing Club as an example. Based on the River Yare in Thorpe St Andrew, they meet every Sunday morning between October and May. Swallows and Amazons – watch this space!
21. Watching the sun rise
If you’re not an early bird and prefer the comfort of a warm bed (and who doesn’t when they’re on holiday!), winter is the perfect time to watch the sun rise. The East Coast is the perfect spot – particularly Great Yarmouth with its rolling dunes and piers.
22. Thursford's Christmas Spectacular
Running almost three months from November to January, this show has just celebrated its 40th year. Packed with dancing, singing and entertainment, it promises to dazzle and delight.
23. Pensthorpe Natural Park
Wildlife enthusiasts will adore the estate, which also has red squirrels and sheep alongside their rich birdlife, whilst children will relish Hootz House – a natural, indoor play experience like no other. Perfect for one of our rare wet days.
24. Husky rides
Down near Thetford, Forstal Siberian Husky Rides offer 3-hour experiences, where you can truly see the power and athleticism of these wonderful dogs. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they can pull!
Ok, so we mention this quite often, but how could we not include this as one of our wild winter marvels. All you need is a bucket, net and some bacon or fish and you’re away. The perfect activity for a couple of hours before heading to a café or pub to warm up! Our favourite spots are Blakeney or Wells-next-the-Sea.
I enjoy walking along Norfolk's beaches with my family and dog, theatre trips, dancing, laughing and knocking up a scrumptious feast for friends using local produce finished with a tipple of Norfolk Saffron's King Harry orange and saffron liqueur!