Jam packed with history, Norwich makes a great short city break

Norfolk’s county town, Norwich, is one of Eastern England’s quirkiest cities: it isn’t everywhere that would ask Ed Balls to teach Santa how to dance Gangnam Style but that says a lot about the city’s sense of humour.  Its mediaeval streets and historic buildings nestle within a bend of the meandering River Wensum.  Norwich is compact and walkable, making exploration on foot a pleasure.  Our Norwich Club Site is a gentle half an hour walk south of the city centre with bus connections nearby.  Below we’ve compiled a list of some of the top rated attractions with something for everyone.

Colman’s Mustard Shop and Museum

The distinctive yellow and red labels see on jars of Colman’s famous mustard grace many a dining table across the UK.  The company’s shop and museum can be found in the Art Nouveau Royal Arcade.  Opened in 1973, it was designed as a replica of a Victorian store.  It was only intended to be a temporary fixture on the Norwich shopping scene while the company celebrated its 150th anniversary year, but it proved so popular that it never closed.  Inside you’ll find an extensive range of products for sale and also exhibits showcasing the history and production of one of the country’s most popular condiments.

Norwich Cathedral

Construction of  Norwich Cathedral began in 1096 and work was eventually completed in 1145.  The traditional flint and and mortar popular in these parts was faced with cream coloured limestone, making this one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.  The cloister is second in size only to Salisbury.  We recommend attending one of the cathedral’s free tours which run from Monday to Saturday.  As you step out into the grounds, look out for statues of the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Nelson, the grave of World War One nurse Edith Cavell and the Jubilee labyrinth.  Look up and you might also catch a glimpse of the peregrine falcons which nest in the cathedral’s spire.

Canoe trips on the River Wensum

The River Wensum loops clockwise around the eastern edge of the city centre and once would have played a role in the defence of the city.  The oldest river crossing is thought to be Fye Bridge which was the site of a ducking stool, used to punish lawbreakers and undesirables.  A walk along the river banks is a pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon but to really make the most of the riverside location you should take to the water.  Weston Canoes offer “Pub and Paddle” excursions which depart from the Red Lion pub near the train station.  There are three routes to choose from, the shortest of which is an easy two hours’ paddle with rest breaks built in, following a route that passes the cathedral, football ground and Colman’s mustard factory.

Cow Tower

English Heritage is responsible for the upkeep of Cow Tower, which was built at the end of the 14th century as an artillery blockhouse to support other defensive structures within the city.  There are several clues to its use if you look carefully at its architectural details, including splayed gun ports and a height sufficient to overlook the higher ground on the opposite bank of the River Wensum.  And what of its strange name?  There are likely to have been cows in the vicinity as the surrounding meadow known as Cowholme would have once been used for the grazing of livestock.
The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts

Norwich’s western suburbs provide the riverside setting for the SCVA at the University of East Anglia.  Housed in an impressive structure designed by acclaimed architect Norman Foster, it features sculptures by Henry Moore and works by Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon, many of which were donated by Lord and Lady Sainsbury.  Alongside the permanent collection, the SCVA hosts regular special exhibitions.  Much of the collection is free to view and it’s an easy journey from the town centre on the No. 25 bus.

Strumpshaw Steam Museum

With 26 engines, the oldest dating back to 1898, Strumshaw makes a great visit for steam fanatics and history lovers. The museum is home to a variety of steam engines, cars and tractors, making a great day away from the campsite for the whole family. As well as offering an insight into the history of steam engines, Strumpshaw museum goes back years. The museum is currently owned by the grandchild of the museums brainchild who passed the museum onto his son who continued to add to the collection. The museum is open on Sundays during April – September and is worth a stop off if you’re staying in the city, it’s just an 18 minute drive from our Norwich Club Site.

Strangers’ Hall

The interlinked rooms of Strangers’ Hall offer a fascinating glimpse into how the wealthy lived during Tudor times and is a very well preserved building for its time.  Lavishly decorated with period furniture and antique textiles, the building was first erected in the 14th century and was home to the city’s mayor.  Highlights include the Great Hall, panelled Walnut Room and a 17th century knot garden as well as a collection of antique toys.  A five minute walk away you’ll encounter Elm Hill.  After a fire destroyed it in 1507 it was rebuilt and now its cobbles are flanked by a picturesque concentration of buildings dating from the same period. 

Norwich Castle

Tucked away from the East Anglian coastline, it might come as a bit of a surprise to find such an imposing castle, but what looks like a castle was actually a palace, and a folly at that, as it was rarely occupied.  Today, visitors come to admire the museum’s collection of art, archaeological finds and historic costumes.  If the works of art inspire you, sign up for one of the regular art classes which are open to visitors as well as local residents. Kids will love the dressing up box provided by the castle team which makes for a great photo opportunity! If you’re in a group you can find out more about the building’s previous role as a prison with a talk from one of the knowledgeable and friendly guides.

Camp close to Norwich

If you’re interested in any of the activities in this blog you can book your pitch on our Norwich Club Site here. This site is open from 31st March – 6th November and provides peach and tranquillity whilst being within and easy distance of the city centre. 

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