There’s plenty of entertainment and fun in The Famous Five, a much-loved British children’s series which featured in many of our childhoods! The series centred around Georgina (aka George) and her cousins Julian, Dick and Anne – and, of course, Timmy the dog! In a nod to the popularity and success of this series in its 75th year, we’ve created the ultimate guide (and we’ve had some fun here ourselves!) to having a truly Famous Five experience in Norwich…
Image: Enid Blyton
Image: Cryptic Escape
If you’re a character in most of the Famous Five Books, you’ll probably find yourself kidnapped by smugglers or locked away somewhere, with only a penknife to hack through the ropes and a piece of chalk to ensure you don’t get lost on the way out. Recreate this (well, sort of) by volunteering yourself to be locked in a room (it’s fun, we promise) with Cryptic Escape. You’ll have 60 minutes to solve all the puzzles, break the codes and find the hidden objects to ensure you can escape! Suitable for groups of between 2 – 5 people, it’s perfect for a Norwich-based Famous Five adventure!
After hopefully escaping the clutches of Cryptic Escape’s Green Beard or Dr. Lev Pasted, depending which escape room you pick, head out with what the group (who we’ll assume are still your friends, even after all that against-the-clock tension) to do some real treasure hunting. Highlights for antique hunters in Norwich include St Gregory’s Antiques & Collectables, Maddermarket Antiques, or the Goat Lane Fair every Thursday, all nestled in the Norwich Lanes. The market is a great place to search for bargains, too. We’d also recommend Magdalen Street for hidden gems including Loose’s and the aptly-named Aladdin’s Cave, or South Norfolk’s pretty market towns Loddon, Harleston, Diss and Wymondham; they’re great for out-of-the-city treasure hunting. Make sure you pay a visit to The Cornucopia, if you head to Harleston!
Image: The Undercroft at The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell - photo by Norfolk Museums Service
Any Famous Five reader will notice the abundance of secret passages and caves which face the five at every turn. Norwich has its own versions, and plenty of them – undercrofts. Some of these were rumoured to be connected at some point, enabling people to walk from point A to point B underground, and there are a few of which you can visit – though no longer follow to another location. Head to The Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell on 27 May to take a tour of their undercroft - but make sure you book! There’s also the Undercroft gallery space, next to the Market, which hosts a range of exhibitions, and The Grosvenor Fish Bar have a great undercroft where you can eat your fish ‘n’ chips! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for Heritage Open Days, when many more of the city’s undercrofts which are otherwise closed to the public open for visits!
It should also be noted that the Famous Five have had various encounters with monkeys – there was Mischief in Five Go to Demon's Rocks, a small brown monkey on the group’s caravan roof in Five Go Off In A Caravan, and a monkey which arrives with the circus in Five Are Together Again! Now we can’t promise (or even suggest) that Norwich’s streets are paved with monkeys, but if you do want to see some monkeys/apes (and other animals) we suggest taking a trip to Amazona Zoo, Banham Zoo, Africa Alive and Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens.
Image: some of the glamping yurts at Waveney River Centre
Pack up your clothes, a camp stove, and the slightly random essentials which the five always seem to have on them - we’re thinking notepad and pencil (because what child doesn’t carry a notepad and pencil around with them?) and the aforementioned chalk and penknife, just in case. Then beg, borrow or steal (…no, don’t steal) a dog like Timmy, and set out on a caravanning adventure!
Waveney River Centre has oodles of space to pitch your tents. They also have other options such as glamping in their Escape Pods or shiny new yurts (photo above), or, if you’re thinking ‘to hell with camping, give me a proper bed any day’, then don’t worry - you can still have your Famous Five experience; just go for the home-from-home style in one of their holiday lodges. Situated right next to the Broads, you can fish (Alf the fisherboy can show you how), frolic and eat tongue sandwiches (to be explained later on) to your heart’s content!
Reedham Ferry Touring Park also offers a great location for camping, and is lovely and quiet situated right along the river Yare. There are plenty of camping facilities and well-behaved dogs are welcome free of charge, so there’s no need to sneak Timmy in.
Image: illustration by Jumara of the Famous Five at Norwich Castle, plus Alf the fisherboy and - of course - Mischief the monkey!
When planning a day out in the style of the Famous Five, we suggest going somewhere excessively hard to get to – a deserted island would do nicely thank you! Kirrin Island – and, of course, the associated Kirrin Castle - appear in many Famous Five stories, but for something a little more attainable why not visit Norwich Castle; now a museum and art gallery, it’s a great place right in the city centre to learn more about Norwich and its history. You can take a choice of tours (down into the dungeons, anybody?) and afterwards enjoy great views out over the city from Castle Mound whilst you enjoy a snack.
Alternatively, head to a lovely B&B - the five were headed to Blue Pond Farmhouse in Five on a Hike Together. We suggest booking a stay at Byfords Posh B&B, Church Farm Guest House, East View Farm Holiday Cottages (self catering), Beaufort Lodge Guest House or Barn Court, and there are plenty more accommodation options on our website. Once you’ve settled in it’s time for food…
Image: Tasty treats await you at the Britons' Arms
Yes, this is a made-up book title, surprisingly enough… But if there’s any essentials needed for a Blyton-esque picnic, it’ll be those tongue sandwiches, ginger beer, and more ginger beer! You’ll also need someone like George’s mother Fanny, who seems to live for the opportunity to bake some baked goods, “handing around plates of her nicest scones and teacakes” (Five Fall Into Adventure) at every opportunity. If there’s no one to whip a batch up for you, and you don’t fancy emulating the typical ‘perfect housewife’/ househusband of the 1950’s, then never fear – pick some up, ready-made, from Jarrolds, Britons’ Arms, Café Britannia, The Assembly House (their Afternoon Tea is great, if you’re eating in), or Café Marzano in The Forum. Other picnic-perfect treats are waiting for you at Delice, The Refectory at Norwich Cathedral, Louis’ Deli, Amaretto Delicatessen, Norwich Market, Logans, or from the café at the St John Baptist Cathedral. Take them to the Plantation Garden, Norwich Castle gardens, one of the city’s lovely green parks, or outside of the city in the Broads to Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden.
George did say “I don’t know why, but the meals we have on picnics always taste so much nicer than the ones we have indoors” (Five Go Off In A Caravan). Rebel against Blyton’s kid-friendly storylines and pick up an alcoholic beverage to enjoy whilst on said picnic (don’t tell Fanny…!)
Image: the coastline at Cromer
There’s no shortage of beautiful coastline in Norfolk; head over to Cromer and enjoy fish & chips, amusements, long stretches of beach and plenty of heritage! Alternatively try Sheringham or Wells-next-the-Sea (which is also home to Holkham’s breath-taking stretch of beach).
Find out more about the area’s lovely coastal areas on our website.
Greater Anglia have Advance fares from £9 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Greater Anglia also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.
East Midlands Trains runs services from Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.
Flights into Norwich served from Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, Aberdeen, Jersey*, Guernsey* and Amsterdam.