October’s hidden gem - Aylsham
Published: Tuesday 23rd Oct 2018
Written by: Georgia Dawson
Aylsham is our October hidden gem. Located 10 miles from the Norfolk coast and 12 miles from the city of Norwich, Aylsham is a traditional unspoilt market town, nestled in the picturesque Norfolk countryside. Aylsham is situated beside the River Bure and is one of only five Cittaslow towns in the UK. Cittaslow, the slow food movement, represents the quality of life in Aylsham, bringing the community together. To become awarded the Cittaslow status, a town must meet a particular criteria, including provision of visitor welcome facilities, provision of people-friendly infrastructure and promotion and support of local produce and products.
Aylsham is a charming town to visit, with its historical buildings, traditional market place which is owned by the National Trust, a vibrant town centre and a real sense of community and togetherness.
Aylsham's wonderful market place is surrounded by traditional 18th century houses. In the 1300s, the market town was famous for its linen and textiles before it went on to become a major wool and textile producing area. In present day, the delightful market place is home to weekly markets on Mondays and Fridays and offers a large range of shops, pubs and tea-rooms, including G.F. White Butchers, Bread Source, Lavenders Blue and Biddy’s Kitchen.
G. F. White Butchers are a traditional family butchers, Purveyors of Fine Meats, based in Aylsham and they specialise in meat, game and poultry. Meat has been their business for three family generations and they were named the best in the UK a few years ago. With so many different cuts of meat and even more ways of preparing it, G. F. White Butchers are always there to help; just give them a call, tell them what you’d like to cook, how you want to cook it and how much you’d be happy to spend, and they will recommend the best meat solution for you. They are open 8:30am – 5pm Monday to Friday and 8:30am – 1pm on Saturdays.
Bread Source is an independent, artisan bakery based in both Aylsham and Norwich. Selling freshly baked pastries every day, Bread Source specialise in simple, honest produce made with care and skill. They use their very own mill in Horsham St Faith to produce their own flavour and are incredibly passionate about every detail involved in crafting every single loaf. As well as selling bread, pastries, buns and sandwiches, Bread Source also offer a wonderful selection of coffees and teas. Bread Source in Aylsham are open 8:30am – 4pm Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 8:30am – 2pm Wednesdays, 8:30am – 1:30pm Saturdays and are closed Sundays and Mondays.
St Michael’s Church stands in the centre of Aylsham and towers above the surrounding shops and cafés. In 1372, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, inherited the Manor of Aylsham from his grandmother Queen Isobel. The 4th son of King Edward II was already very wealthy and provide money to the citizens of Aylsham for the construction of a new church. The church was built upon the site of a older, smaller church and was dedicate to St Michael and All Angels.
The full construction took place between 1300s – 1800s, with the church growing in size over the years. In 1900s, major changes were made to the church due to the work of Rev. Edmund Yates. These changes included installing a new chancel door, removing the galleries and replacing the original high box pews with the current ones.
Nowadays, major fund-raising events have allowed the Aylsham & District Team Ministry to change and update the appearance of parts of the church. These updates have included installing a small kitchen, disabled toilet and children’s corner into the church and the West end floor has been raised to allow level access from both doors, complete with a ramp. The pews have been removed from the North aisle and the North Transept was cleared in order to create beautiful open spaces for exhibitions and worship groups. Recently, a fantastic new computerised lighting system, including 18 chandeliers and targeted spot lighting, has been installed.
Aylsham is home to the northern station of the Bure Valley Railway, a narrow-gauge steam railway which takes between the market town and the Broadland village of Wroxham. The Railway is built on the old track of the former Great Eastern Railway between Wroxham and Aylsham. Originally opened in 1880, the line survived for passengers until 1952 and for carrying freight until 1982, when it was formally closed by British Rail. However, 8 years later, on 10th July 1990, the Bure Valley Railway was opened due to a partnership between local government and the private sector.
When the Railway opened in 1990, they only had coaches and one diesel locomotive, which was used to the create the line. Nowadays, the Railway has a wonderful collection of some of the largest and most powerful 15-inch gauge steam locomotives ever built, which have been specifically built for the 9-mile route between Aylsham and Wroxham.
A single journey between Aylsham and Wroxham takes 45 minutes and along the way are wayside halts, stopping at Brampton, Buxton and Coltishall. You can hop off the train and explore the area, before simply waiving down the train driver to pick you up.
Tickets for the Bure Valley Railway are:
Adult (16+) single £8.50
Adult (16+) return: £13.50
Adult (16+) return & cruise: £21.00
Child (5-15) single: £5.00
Child (5-15) return: £6.50
Child (5-15) return & cruise: £13.00
Family (2 adults and 2 children) return: £35.00
Dog single: £2.50
Dog return/return & cruise: £3.50
The wonderful Woodgate Nursery is a traditional plant nursery just outside the market town of Aylsham. With over 700 varieties of plants, including alpines, climbers, ferns, herbs, herbaceous perennials and ornamental trees, you will be spoilt for choice at Woodgate Nursey. The knowledgeable staff are always happy to help you choose your perfect plant and to give advice.
As if a beautifully large range of plants isn’t enough, Woodgate Nursery also offer an on-site café, Purdy’s Tea Room, where you can find delicious coffee, tea, light lunches and cake. Perfect for post-shopping sit down, Purdy’s Tea Room also use local produce when available. Woodgate Nursey is open from 9am – 4pm in the winter and 9am – 5pm in the summer.
Moon Beam is on one level and offers cosy, comfortable accommodation. Sleeping 2, this holiday home is ideal for a romantic retreat to the peaceful Norfolk countryside.
The Old Stables
Sleeping 2, this 18th century converted stable is the perfect base from which you can explore the beautiful Norfolk countryside and coast. The Old Stables is situated next to the owner's home on the outskirts of the attractive market town of Aylsham.
This wonderful early Victorian Grade II listed brick and flint terraced cottage in the market town of Aylsham sleeps 2 and is within easy walking distance of the town centre.
Sleeping 2, this gorgeous grade II listed, brick and flint cottage is next door to Parke Cottage (above), ideal for two couples travelling together while enjoying their own space.
Harvest Moon is a cosy, comfortable cottage which sleeps 3. Surrounded by picturesque countryside, this holiday home is complete with a four poster double bed, original beams and electric effect wood burner.
Mash's Row is a delightful brick & flint terraced cottage built in 1845. Sleeping 4, this property is within easy walking distance of the town centre and provides comfortable, attractive accommodation.
Sleeping 4, Warren Cottage is a detached property on the Warren House estate. Guests have private use of the onsite indoor heated swimming pool for two one hour slots for a weekend break and four one hour slots for a seven night break as part of their relaxing countryside holiday
3 Pound Lane
3 Pound Lane is a charming red brick mid terrace cottage five minutes' walk from the town centre. Sleeping 4 and welcoming 1 dog, the cottage has been sympathetically refurbished and now provides all the modern comforts whilst retaining the original character.
Half Moon Inn
This former 18th century coaching inn oozes character, with low ceilings and exposed beams. This property can be booked alongside Harvest Moon and Moon Beam (both above). Sleeping 6, this property is ideal for a family break way to the Norfolk countryside.
Sleeping 16, Warren House is a character property standing in the grounds of Warren House Estate and surrounded by mature woodland. The house is wonderfully spacious, with a lovely entrance hall that has a striking modern staircase leading to the first floor where you will find the games room.