Many people will have heard of the Viking Fire Festivals held in Shetland in the dark winter months, the most famous Up Helly Aa, as they are known, is in Lerwick the capital of Shetland. Up to 1000 Guizers hold aloft fiery torches and chant as they march through the winding streets to where the Galley lies waiting. With military precision, and not much health and safety, they fling the torches on to the boat setting it on fire. It is an incredible spectacle and there is nothing quite like it. BUT did you know that we have our very own Viking Fire Festival right here in Norfolk!
Sheingham is holding The Viking Festival in February half term this year the 10-17th February. The events are free.
The festival ends with a parade of marauding vikings carrying torches to set fire to Sheringham’s very own Galley Boat on the beach. Something you are not wanting to miss!
So in June we went to our first Happening! And it Happened in Cromer.
A Happening is a performance, event, or situation considered art, usually as performance art. The term was first used by Allan Kaprow during the 1950s to describe a range of art-related events, often spontaneous. To outsiders they may appear random or just plain daft but always thought provoking
The Cromer performance was a re-enactment of a 1967 happening and was directed by arts writer and academic Sarah Lowndes, who has recently moved to Norfolk with her husband, Turner Prize winning artist Richard Wright
The Sea Concert (The Panoramic Sea Happening) by Tadeusz Kantor was first staged at Osieki on the Polish coast, with conceptual artist Edward Krasiski, who also dressed in a black tailcoat and conducted the waves from a stepladder while being watched by spectators in deckchairs.
So we wandered along the beach feeling a little self conscious to be honest. But soon we were joined by a lot more people. Some deck chairs were unfolded and lined up, flapping in the wind and a podium was dragged into the sea. As the tide lapped up against the podium our conductor arrived, looking respendent in black tail coat, carrying a baton. Everyone watched as he climbed the steps and began conducting the sea!
Children splashed about in the waves and people sat having a drink in the deck chairs watching. It was all very exciting and….well different! Definitely Not Normal for Norfolk.
Worstead Village in Norfolk has aways fascinated me. It is the home of the original Worsted fabric. a strong woollen cloth, woven here by the Flemish settlers who settled here in medieval times.
Some of the prosperous Merchants houses still survive today as do some of the original weavers cottages, with their large rooms, big enough to house the 12 foot looms of their trade. Weaving ceased here in the late 1880s when the large commercial clattering mills of the industrial North took over the once peaceful trade of weaving. Plentiful supplies of coal fuelled the huge weaving sheds, taking the production of cloth to another level.
At the centre of Worsted village is the church. It is enormous. An impressive building with wonderful huge windows. I sat for ages inside watching the beautiful changing light from all sides. It was quite magical. A lot of the Victorian pews have been taken out so the sense of space is enchanting. I don’t know anything about church interiors but this one just sung to me. The paintings on the screens, the gargoyles and the most incredibly long ladder I have ever seen. It truly looks like a stairway to heaven.
I guess it is for cleaning the massive windows, and it looks as if it has been there a long time.
Each year Worsted hosts a village festival which is very well attended. It showcases many rural past times plus lots of good food and music. This year it is on the 29/30th July and is well worth a visit.
There is a village trail you can follow which allows a glimpse into the village’s historical past. The village pub with it’s enigmatic name The White Lady serves great food and prides itself on serving well kept beers and ales. Worth a stop off for lunch!
The fastest crumbling coastline of our island shores is giving up it’s secrets. We have all heard of The Jurassic Coast in Dorset but the finds that are being unearthed along The Deep History Coast of Norfolk are surpassing everything. The soft cliffs between Runton and Happisburgh, taking in Cromer, Overstrand and Mundesley are revealing that Norfolk was once connected to the continent with forests, woolly mammoths, sabre toothed tigers and spotted hyenas roaming the area. Rare fossils of the above have all been discovered. Including the famous almost complete skeleton of a Steppe Mammoth found in West Runton in 1990.
The gradual coastal erosion and significant tidal activity over the past decade have revealed the era to be of a more historical significance than the sites in the south.
Very exciting plans for the future to allow visitors a more hands on and interactive experience, so we can see that landscape as it once was through touch points, and virtual reality technology is ongoing
The project is being led by curators at Norfolk Museums Service (NMS) with the help of regional tourism experts and county council staff responsible for Norfolk trails,
One of the most incredible discoveries were the fossilised footprints of the earliest know human beings, 850,000 years ago! These were uncovered by a particularly high tide causing international excitement. Nothing this early had ever been discovered outside of Africa. Flint tools dating back 550,000 years ago have also been found in the cliffs.
What an incredible place to visit and discover for yourself.
So wouldn’t you like to follow in the footsteps of the earliest tourists to Norfolk and discover this wonderful coastline for yourself?
Norfolk is gearing up for the seasonal festivities with some truly unique and varied events, for young and old!
My absolute favourite Normal for Norfolk event is the Wells Christmas Tide. The effort that goes into this spectacular is wonderful. Father Christmas arrives, to great excitement, by boat, up the wild and windy estuary from the sea. He is accompanied by an elf, usually, and a bell. There is wild expectation of who will be the first person to spot the little light getting nearer and nearer to the shore. Once Father Christmas is recognised a huge cheer goes up and the crowd wave and shout. The fireworks then start with a great bang, it is all very exciting! He gets closer and closer ringing the bell and then he lands on the harbour wall and alights from his boat. From then on he is accompanied up the street with a lantern parade to his grotto, where pre booked children can actually get to speak to the big man himself. It is a wonderful sight.
Another Normal for Norfolk Christmas tradition is in Overstrand, where father Christmas tours the village in, yes you guessed it, a fishing boat, pulled by a four by four. He visits all the areas of Overstrand on his journey, accompanied by carol singers and children with lanterns. It is very surreal but huge fun. It also raises money for the village events over the year, which are pretty good!
The North Norfolk Railway based at Sheringham has the brilliant Santa Specials on the steam train. This is a VERY exciting experience. grown ups are served mince pies and sherry and the children have cakes and soft drinks. The magical journey through the countryside to Weybourne is thrilling with the steam train chugging along the coastline. All this coupled with the anticipation of meeting Santa! The squeals from the train are very loud! Once you arrive in Weybourne, Father Christmas will be waiting by the fireside to greet the children and no doubt give out a nice little gift.
For something again truly magical visit Blickling Hall. They really know how to do Christmas there. It is run by The National Trust. This years dates are 25 – 27 November & 2 – 4 December | 11am-8pm
The sight of the trees in front of the hall is a magical one and this year it won’t disappoint with 24 trees lining the drive. Including the house and gardens, there are 50 Christmas trees lit up, with over 19,000 lights decorating them. The smells of Christmas past will waft from the kitchens where traditional treats will be being made. You will be able to sample these in the tea shop after your visit!
Today was quite magical. It is the end of the third week of October, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and it is warm. The outside was calling, after all you have to take advantage of anything above 10 degrees in October. I headed for Felbrigg Hall. It is probably my most favourite place to visit, in any season, but Autumn is especially wonderful
The House itself is owned by The National Trust and woods are free to enter all year around, subject to a parking fee of £2.00 (free if you are a NT member) You never see many folk in the woods, it is peaceful and the wildlife I saw today was amazing. Squirrels hunting and clambering about in the trees, Jays, Woodpeckers and all manner of birdlife carousing in the trees, mushrooms and toadstools poking up from the leaf mould, a deer here and there peeking shyly out from the dying bracken. It was all just very magical.
The trees around the house are quite dark, yews and firs. They look quite menacing to my over active brain today. A bit like entering Narnia before the house comes into view through the trees. They give way to the more soft and rustling beeches, just starting to turn a russet brown which will soon turn to the magnificent copper and fiery hues of late autumn. I wondered who C L was, they carved their initials into one of the beech trees in 1959
The Hall itself is not huge, it is a manageable size house, one you could almost imagine living in yourself. Being always curious of doors marked private I booked myself into the Cellars and Attics tour, which was fascinating. At one point you could peer up at the people walking in the state rooms through the cracks in the floorboards, the dust falling into your eyes. What an exciting place to be! The attics had a bit more sinister secret to tell. One of the bedrooms was decorated in a rather vivid green printed wallpaper. It was said that the two occupants of the room, spinster sisters of the owner, developed a terrible illness and subsequently died. It was later discovered the wallpaper was printed using arsenic! The attics house all manner of boxes and cupboards. I wanted to open all of them! Redundant taxidermy, trunks with clothing in, and countless paintings and old photographs. It is currently being sifted through. Who knows what treasures they might unearth.
The Orangery outside is again a very tranquil place with evidence of passed prized specimens. At the moment there is a large model of the hall, it looks decidedly haunting!
Last pitstop before heading the the tea room was the second hand book shop. Not as vast as the one at Blickling Hall but equally as fascinating. I bought three books including a wonderfully illustrated first edition on London for £1!
I would throughly recommend you visit the Hall, there is also a perfect walled garden, which really comes into its own in the spring time.
Not many folk will know but living in Cromer we are close to an international airport. No, not Norwich, but Northrepps International. This rural, well run and supported private airfield is owned by Chris Gurney, who also acts as chief air traffic controller.
Having watched the microlights, small planes, and para gliders fly overhead at the weekend I just happened to make a flippant remark to Mike, my partner, ‘I really should do that one day’
Now Mike, is like an elephant, he never forgets. We do go up to the airfield regularly as you simply cannot beat one of Cherry’s fry ups on a Sunday morning (trust me it’s the best breakfast on the coast, try it The Cabin Crew Diner) Kevin, who takes up passengers in his microlight was bustling about as usual. Whist I was ordering our breakfast I noticed Mike talking to him, my heart sort of flipped a little as I had an idea about what. The next thing I knew I was booked in, I had to go back and get my camera and put some trainers on, but I was taking off in less than 30 minutes. No time at all to panic or get stressed.
Kevin was brilliant, calm and organised. We got strapped into the machine and suddenly we were bumping along the grass runway. I tried to make some intelligent conversation about, how it worked etc, but I felt myself tensing up and wondering what the heck I was doing.
I heard Chris telling us to take off at our leisure. Then…….we were up!
The movement of the microlight took a little bit of getting used to, its a bit like a motor bike, you got to relax and go with it. Kevin flew us towards Overstrand where we live and we circled a few times. I was absolutely blown away by the completely different perspective you get of a place from the air.
The countryside is beautiful, you can see the criss crosses of the hedges, the tops of the trees and the layout of the villages below. But nothing prepared me for the coastline. I felt as if I was flying over some Caribbean beach. The sea was so blue, all different shades. I could quite clearly see the edge of the famous chalk reef, that harbours all the wonderful crabs and lobsters Cromer is famous for. The pier at Cromer looked magnificent. In the far distance we could see Scolt head and the swirling sands.
All too soon my 30 minutes was up. We headed back to the airfield. My fears forgotten, elation at its highest.
If you get an opportunity to do this, grab it with both hands, take your camera, but don’t forget to take in the moment too and gaze out at the birds eye view of this beautiful part of England.
Being someone who has to always ‘live on the edge’ not in the sense that I am an adrenaline junkie, but in that I have to live near the sea, I was intrigued by Manonabeach.
To explain a little further!
A few years ago a very enthusiastic gentleman burst through our office doors explaining he was stopping random strangers on the beaches of Great Britain and beyond and asking them the question “What does the beach mean to you?” He would film their response. I think at the time we did not really understand the concept and my boss listened politely and he disappeared. I never forgot his enthusiasm for life and all things beach and I stumbled upon him on Twitter having launched my own business Crabpot Cottages. His website now is a cornucopia of delights, with beautiful photography and a plethora of vignettes filmed on the beach, asking beach goers the question ‘What does the beach mean to you?” It is a must visit website for anyone interested in our beautiful and varied coastline.
You don’t ever see The Man, he remains an enigma, a voice, which makes it all the more intriguing. He simply films a snap shot of a particular beach, selects a random stranger and listens. The love for our beaches is clear. Everyone filmed has a story to tell, and it is fascinating. Memories come flooding back, childhood, family, holidays, reflection, passion, isolation, freedom every emotion it seems is bought out by a walk on the beach.
So I asked myself the question, ‘What does the beach mean to me?”
Having lived all my life within a few miles of the beach, and having a father who comes from the Shetland Islands I think it is completely in my blood. I almost get slightly anxious if I have not been ‘to the edge’ in a while. The beach has always been a place of safety, of retreat in bad times. A haven in fun times. A thinking space, a creative space, somewhere to clear my head. To just sit and be. It is my go to place. I have so many memories of the beach it is hard to pick out my favourite times, but I think the time my fiancé and myself bought two comfortable chairs, and took them down to the beach for the first time is certainly one of them. We are getting on a bit and the rug on the sand was just not cutting it anymore, so we invested in the chairs. We always BBQ and have a bottle of fizz handy and on this occasion we took our wet suits and had a moonlight swim, which was magical. After the swim, BBQ and fizz we fell asleep in the chairs, it was a warm balmy night, and I woke up to a pitch black sky filled with stars, three hours later. We somehow gathered all our stuff together and walked home feeling elated and alive.
Summer is wonderful and I love sharing the beach with the holiday makers. That first burst of excitement as the children tear down the ramp onto the sand, bucket and spades in hand. Sandy picnics and cricket. Holidays are so important and we pride ourselves in helping make memories to last a lifetime in our properties.
Winter is a more private time, the beach is empty apart from a few hardy folk, but this is the elemental raw time in Norfolk. When the coastline takes control again. The wind rips your ears off, the sand blasts your face, the seals with their haunting call that sounds like children crying.
Manonabeach captures all of this and more, I am wildly jealous that I did not think of this concept as I think he has my perfect job.
If you can catch a wave in Norfolk you can catch a wave anywhere. So the saying goes in the surfing fraternity!
Ok so it’s not Waikiki or Newquay but Cromer has a flourishing surf culture which is growing every year. The Glide Surf School run by Benjamin Kewell was started up in 2007 and has gone from strength to strength, bringing this coolest of sports to the east coast. Surfing has been around on this coastline since the 1970s and Norfolk surfers are a pretty hardy bunch, they have the freezing North Sea to contend with, but with the advent of insulated and even heated wet suits they are out there in all weathers and seasons. The waves are less frequent than in Cornwall but when they come the die hard surfers arrive and the beach takes on a whole new look.
It is now quite Normal for Norfolk to see a guy or gal walking through Cromer carrying a surf board heading for the beach. The joy being a beach that is not crowded, plenty of open space and a great sense of camaraderie.
Lessons for the complete beginner are available at the school, and is perfect for children, although the day I went to take a look a group of ‘older’ folk were giving it a go and all had huge grins on their faces!
The experience of surfing can have an incredible effect on the lives of those who try it. The Glide Surf School has teamed up with the charities Surf Relief, Surfable and Lifeworks to offer any young person aged under 18 years with a recognised disability subsidised small ratio (pupil : instructor) surf sessions.
To further complement the surf school a really cool shop Wet Dog sells all you need to be a cool surfie. Advice on which wet suit to buy, and all the latest beach and lifestyle brands to choose from.
All in Cromer!
The surf school can be contacted on07966 392227/01263 805005
‘He knew what his boat could do and, as nearly as a man may, what the sea could do.’
Henry Blogg was probably the most famous lifeboatman that ever was. In his 53 year service to the RNLI he helped save 873 lives.
He was awarded three gold medals, and 4 silver by the RNLI plus the George Cross and the British Empire medal.
Henry lived all his life in Cromer, born to the sea, his stepfather was a crab fisherman and Henry left school at aged 11 to learn the ropes.
He served tirelessly until he was aged 71 over ten years over retirement age.
At the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th, lifeboats relied on the raw strength and courage of the oarsmen who rowed the huge heavy boats. They were launched from the beach and had to be dragged into the shallows.
Probably one of the most courageous and incredible acts of bravery by Henry Blogg occurred in the early hours of a cold and fierce January morning in 1917.
The Cromer lifeboat was launched to aid a vessel just in sight off Cromer, the Pyrin. The Cromer men rowed their boat through the breakers, succeeding in coming alongside the stricken vessel, and taking off her crew. They rowed back to Cromer. As they reached the beach the Swedish vessel the Fernebo struck a naval mine and was blown in half. The two halves drifted towards the beach.
English Heritage Blue Plaque for Henry Blogg
From one half, about 16 men set out in a ship’s boat. As they reached the edge of the breakers onto the beach, their boat was capsized. Teams of men, grasping each other’s arms, had walked into the water, and they were able to help the men from the boat, and aid them ashore. Meanwhile the lifeboat was rehoused on its trailer and was pushed again into the breakers, to launch to the other half of the Fernebo.
The ferocity of the sea threw the boat back onto the beach. This happened at least three times. It was not until midnight, under the light of searchlights from the clifftop, that the lifeboat finally reached the stricken half-vessel and took off its crew. Blogg had led his men for nearly 24 hours of heroic effort.
11 crewman were rescued from the shattered hulk of the SS Fernebo. Henry was awarded one of his gold medals for this action. Henry’s remarkable story and some wonderful artefacts are available to view in the Cromer RNLI Henry Blogg Museum and is well worth a visit. There is also a bust of Henry up on the cliff top overlooking the sea. His bronze nose shiny with all the people who have paid him a visit. You will often find visitors have left flowers or other little gifts on his statue. He is buried in Cromer Cemetary.
No holiday to Cromer is complete without learning about this true Norfolk Hero.