One of the (numerous) things Norfolk is praised for is its beautiful countryside, particularly some wonderful gardens. For those of us who don't have our own huge outdoor space to cultivate - or for those of us who just can't be bothered - take a wander around these gems and enjoy the result of hours of careful work, without even lifting a finger!
Here's our top 10... weed 'em and reap! (Sorry...)
Let’s start in the city centre; you can’t fully explore Norwich’s gardens without venturing into one of the Norwich’s two impressive cathedrals. St John Baptist Cathedral on Earlham Road have some wonderful sheltered gardens to complement the Gothic beauty of the Cathedral’s architecture, so make sure you see the beautiful Rose memorial garden and gorgeous flower beds, all planted and tendered by volunteers and community groups.
Moving towards the picturesque Tombland area of the city, Norwich Cathedral also has an impressive outdoor space to enjoy; stroll through the labyrinth and cloisters, explore the Cathedral’s green spaces and make sure you have a walk in the lovely herb garden, which is full of medicinal herbs traditionally used by Benedictine monks to make ointments and remedies. Breathe in that rosemary and mint and transport yourself back to the 12th century! The Cathedral Close makes a very pretty walk too, so take some time to wander around before you leave.
One of the oldest buildings in Norwich - Strangers’ Hall - is stuffed to the brim with history, and if you venture behind the house you’ll find an equally intriguing knot garden ready to be explored (try and view it from an upstairs window in the main building to really appreciate that intricate design!) Filled with lavender and dating back to the 17th century, it’s a lovely place to relax in on a sunshine-filled day.
One of our favourite gardens in Norwich, and one that’s still a bit of a secret (well, sort of) is the beautiful Plantation Garden. There’s a tranquillity there which means you’ll struggle to believe that this three acre heritage garden is nestled only 600 yards from the city centre – but it is! Converted from a former chalk pit over 100 years ago, it has been steadily improved over the subsequent years and today boasts features including woodland walkways, beautiful flower beds and lawns as well as our favourite part: an impressive, striking gothic fountain in the centre of the gardens made from recycled material. Plus, if you visit on a Sunday you can enjoy tea and cake on the lawns, Downton-Abbey style!
Free to enter and hosting events throughout the year, Chapelfield Gardens sit about 2 minutes’ walk from the centre of the city and is the perfect place to head to when the sun’s out. Don’t miss the free bandstand concerts on a Sunday, the Spiegeltent (part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival) and various fairs throughout the year. There’s no need for an event to keep you occupied though - just sit on the grass and enjoy a good book and some people-watching!
In the heart of the Norfolk Broads sits a gem of the countryside: Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden. Here lies 130 acres of beautiful woodland which opens out onto the broads, just waiting to be explored - take a boat trip (April – October) past the ancient ruins of St Benet’s Abbey or partake in a spot of bird-watching. There are plenty of fun events for all ages taking place throughout the year too, so keep an eye on our website to stay in the know!
Holkham Hall is situated in a beautiful sprawling estate surrounded by 3,000 acres of parkland; visit during the summer and enjoy a peaceful walk through 6 acres of walled gardens (or if you don’t fancy walking you can hire a bike instead), as well as checking out the greenhouses, ‘arena of plants’, vegetable garden and newly planted vineyard - fancy!
With some truly magnificent outdoor spaces, including a working walled kitchen garden with fruits, vegetable and flowers, Raveningham Gardens is a must-visit. More recent additions include a herb garden, lake, botanical garden and a ‘Time Garden’ inspired by Sir Francis Bacon’s essay. Spot the sculptures by Susan Bacon as you walk around!
Open between Easter and October each year, Somerleyton Hall and Gardens has an impressive outdoor offer with a walled garden full of beautiful greenhouses (designed by Joseph Paxton, a gardener who also designed Crystal Palace!) and an impressive yew hedge maze which was planted back in 1846 – how long will it take you to get out? If you fancy something a little gentler, take a wander around their pleasure gardens to see beautiful flowers and trees, taking some time to appreciate Head Gardener Anna Outlaw’s work in making it the beautiful area it is today.
Why not combine parkland areas with exciting animals! At Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens you can see tigers, pandas, gibbons, meerkats and crocodiles (among other species) as you wander around; the Tiger Tree Walk’s raised walkways are amazing and ensure you’ll get up and close to the tigers – whether you want to or not!
For more information and to plan a trip to Norwich go to www.visitnorwich.co.uk