25 x free things to do
Published: Saturday 22nd Apr 2017
Written by: Lucy Downing
A fun day out doesn’t have to cost the earth. Of course, Norfolk has many excellent museums and attractions you really must visit. But for those days when the purse remains stubbornly closed, here are 25 ways to enjoy a day, nature’s way, in Norfolk…
Grab a net, line, some bacon and a bucket and head to Blakeney or Wells-next-the-Sea. Just be gentle when you return them to the sea – they’re not keen on being dropped from a height, preferring to be gently released back into the lapping waves.
West Runton is the best place to go rock-pooling in Norfolk. Catch it when the tide is on its way out and you’re sure to discover common prawns, sand shrimps, crabs, bright read beadlet anemones, limpets and blennies. Just be sure to be careful and respectful when handling and returning your magic finds.
3. Fossil hunting
With our coast’s deep history, you can find fossils if you look hard. However, West Runton, once again, is a sure bet if you fancy your chances of finding anything from echinoids and bivalves to mammoth skeletons and sabre tooth tiger remains! Be gentle on the chalk ridge though, which is fragile and irreplaceable.
Have you tried this yet? There are more than 2 million across the world, with plenty in Norfolk. It’s a great way of exploring Norfolk, using your mobile device to find the geo-cache. Children love it, and it’s completely free. Sign-up at geocaching.com and start hunting.
5. Cloud spotting
Do you know your cumulus from your stratus? Norfolk’s wide and sweeping skies offer the perfect opportunity for a fun educational day. Simply find an open grassy or sandy spot, spread out a picnic blanket, lay down and look up. Research beforehand – there are some great websites, apps and books available. Take a notebook and pencil too to jot down your findings.
6. Fortress building
We find normal sandcastles simply don’t cut it on Norfolk beaches. With sand the perfect consistency for construction, grab a proper garden spade and let your imagination run wild – moated forts, bridges, tunnels, cityscapes... the skies your limit. Just remember to post us a selfie! #norfolkcottages
When was the last time you collected shells to either create a mosaic on the beach or to display in a glass jar at home? The beaches at Brancaster and Titchwell are best – time it for when the tide is out to find common otter, cockle, whelk, limpet, banded wedge, razor and mussel shells.
No matter what time of year you visit Norfolk, there will always be something you can forage and turn into a delicious treat. Think elderflower wine, samphire with melted butter, freshly cooked cockles, blackberry and apple pie and mushroom risotto. And that’s just for starters!
We all know we should walk more, and Norfolk is the perfect place to get those legs moving. The coastal path stretches around almost the whole of the county, or you can explore footpaths including the Peddars and Marriots Ways. The National Trust estates are great for a meander, as are the many circular footpaths throughout the county.
If you prefer speed, then cycling is for you! Bring your own or make the most of the county’s many bike hire facilities, and then explore our pretty country lanes, the tracks from Holkham to Wells-next-the-Sea, the Norfolk Coast Cycleway and Thetford Forest.
11. Photography adventure
Too often, we are rallying around, too busy to notice what’s around us. Holidays are the perfect opportunity to don and camera (and the kids to take theirs too) and plan a day around what you need to take snaps of. You’ll build a great holiday album and really absorb the beautiful Norfolk landscape too.
12. Bird spotting
We are fortunate to have both RSPB Titchwell and Snettisham, as well as many other nature reserves including our cherished Wheatfen. The variety of birdlife throughout the year is astonishing, but come autumn and spring, you can stop and marvel at the impressive migrations of pink-footed geese. Simply breath-taking.
13. Play ball
Pack a ball (and a bat if the fancy takes you) and head to a nearby beach, park or village green. It doesn’t matter what size your ‘ballage’ is – everything from rounders to beach balls, and everything in-between, will ensure wholesome bonding fun.
Norfolk is renowned for its big wide skies and low levels of light pollution, making it ideal for stargazing. Stay up, look up and you will be treated to visions of the Milky Way, huge interstellar dust clouds and glimpses of our planetary neighbours. You might need a telescope.
Wild swimming is becoming rather fashionable of late, with the urge to dive into lakes, rivers and seas a healthy and invigorating form of exercise… and its free. Ensure the spot you pick is safe, and that you come well-equipped with towels and extra clothing. A flask is recommended for chillier months!
16. Go rope swinging
Hidden in the pinewoods, running behind the stretch of beach between Wells-next-the-Sea and Holkham, are ropes tied to the tallest trees. Positioned over sandbanks, they offer the perfect opportunity to try out your Tarzan moves and partake in a little chest-thumping and calling.
17. Fly a kite
Norfolk isn’t as windy as you might think. Nevertheless, it does offer some of the best kite-flying in the county. Go traditional with a Mary Poppins Diamond kite, or be a little more adventurous and try one tied to a buggy or board. The brave can book lessons with hunstantonwatersports.com.
18. Body surfing
Oh my, Baywatch has finally come to Norfolk! Our waves are perfect for bodyboarding, and any age can give it a go. A wetsuit will help you to stay in the water longer, as will water shoes for more delicate soles. Mundesley and Brancaster have excellent shops.
19. Nature trail
Planning one of these will keep little ones entertained for hours. Pick a subject (leaves, bugs, etc), plan one based on the alphabet or focus on a particular colour. The Norfolk Wildlife Trust organises a range of excellent nature events for school holidays.
20. Stone skipping
Surely all children should learn how to skim a stone before they reach their teens? We love to head to Cley which, with its pebble beach, is made for this sport. See how many bounces you can reach – the world record is apparently 76 meters and 88 skips. Good luck!
21. Visit the Forum
As UK residents we are all lucky enough to have access to our wonderful library system. However, not all libraries take the form of The Forum in Norwich. Designed by award-winning architect, Sir Michael Hopkins, this public Millennium building is an iconic glass landmark housing free exhibitions, events, activities, restaurants and shopping.
22. Gallery browsing
Our incredible vistas and landscapes, and the county’s rather arty vibe, means we have many outstanding art and craft galleries to while away an afternoon in. Headliners include Cley’s Pinkfoot Gallery and Made in Cley; Holt’s Red Dot, Bircham and Adrian Hill Fine Art galleries, Blakeney’s The Flint Gallery; and Burnham Market’s Fairfax, Grapevine and Fish and Ships galleries. If this is your thing, be sure to visit during May and early June for Open Studios.
23. Gaming day
If you do come across a rainy day (which is rare given that Norfolk is one of the driest areas in the UK), most of our cottages come equipped with a range of board games. It’s surprising how much joy can be gleaned from a game of Monopoly or Cluedo in front of an open fire.
24. Visit some churches
Did you know that Norfolk has the largest concentration of historic churches in the world? More than 650 of them, in fact. Offering a fantastic tool for exploring the county. The most impressive is Norwich Cathedral, which houses delightful treasures including those from the Bishop’s Throne, and is second in scale to only Salisbury in terms of its spire height (315ft) and size of its cloisters.
25. Window shopping
Now, who doesn’t love a spot of window shopping? The beautiful boutiques, galleries and shops of Burnham Market and Holt are ideal. However, the likelihood is this pastime may not remain ‘free’, as temptation will most probably get the better of you.
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!