East Anglia


East Anglia’ is that region in the south east of England which sticks out into the southern corner of the North Sea, facing the coast of Holland. It includes the English counties of Norfolk (originally the country of the “north folk”) and Suffolk (where the “south folk” lived) along with Cambridgeshire and Essex. In the 5th century AD this area was occupied by the Angles, an Anglo Saxon tribe from Angeln in the north of what is now Germany. The unifying of these north and south folk created the Kingdom of the East Angles, providing the region with its modern name. Today there is a ‘University of East Anglia’, a TV company called ‘Anglia’, and a newspaper named ‘East Anglian Daily Times’. The region has its own train company called ‘Greater Anglia’, and an official tourist website. Although Essex is relatively near to London, much of this region is still rural and its economy based on agriculture: the climate is one of the driest in Britain, and a large amount of the food for the south of England is grown here, some of it on land reclaimed from the sea with the help of Dutch technology. As in most regional areas of England, a local accent and dialect still survives in places, providing a link to the language of the original inhabitants.

Although there are not many sheep around in East Anglia nowadays, the prosperity of this region was based on wool in the Middle Ages, and most of the churches and other old buildings were financed by this once valuable trade with Europe. Norwich, the chief town of the County of Norfolk and the only city of any size in East Anglia (at one time it was the largest city in England after London), has many fine buildings, including 32 medieval churches, and a great cathedral. For those interested in history or architecture – and photography – one of the best things to do is to spend an hour or two wandering round the fairly small old city centre, where you will find over 1,500 historic buildings.

Things to see in Norwich
Norwich Cathedral is the most complete cathedral of the Norman period in England, and visitors in search of spiritual or architectural inspiration can visit it free of charge. Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery is an historic building in its own right, but it also houses some excellent collections of art, natural history and archaeology. Other art galleries and museums include The Bridewell Museum with its collection of historic objects and machinery, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, and the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection.

Norwich Market is one of the most famous permanent street markets in Britain. Its 190 stalls are open every day except Sunday, selling food of all types, clothes, wool, books and refreshments. The traditional flat bottomed boat used all over East Anglia is the ‘punt’, a craft powered by one person standing on the back and using a pole to push the punt along in shallow waters. You can take a one-hour tour of Norwich on the River Wensum by punt (don’t worry, there’s a chauffeur to do the punting, and tell you about the historic sights at the same time). Tours go every half hour from Friar’s Quay.

Norfolk is a county that most English people who have never been there think of as flat and dull. While it is true that a lot of it is low lying and the county has a low population density, only 155 people per square kilometre (401 per square mile), it does have hills, particularly in North Norfolk, and some of the finest tourist destinations in Britain. The Norfolk Broads national park, for example, is a network of 63 lakes and 7 rivers near to the east coast which offers over 200 km (120 miles) of waterways ideal for boating holidays. Norfolk also has miles of unspoilt beaches, beautiful forests and heaths, and some internationally important nature reserves.
The north Norfolk coastline has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and with a number of small fishing ports it is famous for seafood such as crab and lobster. The Peddars Way and North Norfolk Coast Path is an award-winning national trail along this beautiful coastline – you can also hire bikes at several points along it. North Norfolk also has a number of fascinating and historic stately homes open to the public, which can be explored on bikes through the relatively flat and largely traffic-free countryside. Holkham Hall, Blickling Hall, and the Queen’s estate and house at Sandringham are all open to the public, as are Houghton Hall, Oxburgh Hall and Felbrigg Hall.

Holkham Hall
Although built in the 1750s, Holkham Hall is still lived in by Viscount Coke’s family today; the 250,000 acre (1,000 square km) estate is open every day in summer, and they open their house to visitors on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. There is museum of historic objects and the history of farming, a walled garden and children’s woodland adventure play area. Visitors are welcome to walk or cycle in the 3,000 acre (12 square km) deer park to see the lake, ice-house, Coke family monument and the obelisk; there is no charge for entry to the park – you just pay to park a car. The estate is on the National Cycle Network and bike hire is available. As Holkham Hall is one of the ten Treasure Houses of England group (meaning they house some of the most important collections of art, furniture and porcelain in the world), visitors get reduced-price entrance to the other nine, such as Chatsworth, Blenheim Palace and Woburn Abbey.

Her Majesty the Queen also allows free access every day of the year to her 20,000 acre (80 square km) park at Sandringham, where visitors can go inside the church where the Royal Family worships at Christmas, and explore the Visitor Centre and grounds on foot or by bicycle. The House, Gardens and Museum are open from Easter to November. At least half a day is required for a visit to Sandringham, and there is plenty to see and do for a whole day. There are restaurants and an excellent gift shop, and visitors can buy produce of the estate farms.

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