Due to continuing Covid Restrictions on travel to Belgium we have put together a U.K. group Tour based in Norwich for four nights, five days at the Best Western George Hotel which will explore Norfolk, the broads and its breweries by coach. We are asking only for vaccinated Travellers to join us so that all Travellers will know that their fellow passengers are also vaccinated. We won’t be filling the coach to capacity as hotel rooms are limited.
Why Norfolk, Siobhan?
Well, we spent a week in a cottage in Norfolk in June 2021 and really loved it. My sister knows the County pretty well, and took us to some great places, so we thought we’d do the same for our Travellers.
11.00hr The whole group meets at our base for the next four nights and five days at the Best Western George Hotel. Our first visit of the Tour which is beautiful Norwich Cathedral. We can go and see Dippy the Diplodocus who is on tour from The Natural History Museum in London and is currently residing in the nave of Norwich Cathedral*. You can have time to look around this stunning edifice or you can hang out with me. One of Norwich’s most famous people is Julian(a) of Norwich, a 1300s religious hermit who lived for years in a cell attached to a church, apart from one companion, a ginger cat who is shown in a stained glass window dedicated to her in the cathedral. I can show you where it is and tell you lots of other tales connected with the cathedral about Lord Horatio Nelson, Nurse Edith Cavell and the birth of the rude V-sign. If you prefer, there is a lovely Refectory Café for a coffee (and cake, if sustenance is required) or loads of pubs nearby…but wait for it…
14.00hr We’ll meet up at the magnificent Erpingham Gate in front of the Cathedral and we’ll amble to the Wig & Pen, a seventeenth century black and white pub which has been in the Good Beer Guide for twenty-one years uninterrupted. They do food including doorstep sandwiches. Remember Norwich is, or was, famous for Colemans Mustard. Then we’ll saunter to nearby The Adam & Eve, said to be the oldest pub in Norwich, which apparently slaked the thirst of the Norman stonemasons who spent fifty or so years building Norwich Cathedral from 1096. Pretty place, Dutch gables, nice flint walls. Ask me about Norfolk flint and its use as a building stone through the ages. Do. To finish off the afternoon we’ll wander over to the impressive riverside Ribs of Beef pub and I can show you the site of ye olde Ducking Stool and tell you why the River Wensum caused Norwich to be by-passed in the industrial revolution and become Britain’s best-preserved medieval city. If you want something to eat in the middle of the day The Wig & Pen is probably a good choice, but the others do food as well.
18.30hr Our last stop, The Ribs of Beef is about half an hour walk through town to our hotel, which you can do if you wish or I can get taxis for anyone who would like. Those of us who need to can then check in at the hotel, freshen up and go for an evening on the town at leisure, armed with a copy of Siobhan’s Norwich Pub Guide & Map. There are some belters in this City. Four nights is not enough. The George Hotel is about a 20 min walk from the city centre but there are loads of pubs nearby which do food or you can order dinner in the hotel if you book in advance.
09.30hr Following our buffet breakfast at the hotel* we head off on our 49-Seater Galloways coach (with toilet) which joins us with our driver this morning for the rest of the Tour. This is a bit of an earlier start than the other days, as we need to fit in with the steam train ride, our first stop.
10.15hr Arrive at the historic market town of Aylsham and park up at the railway station for a nostalgic train ride on the Bure Valley Railway*. This is Norfolk’s longest narrow gauge railway which runs between Aylsham and the bustling town at the heart of the Broads, Wroxham.
11.00hr We have tickets booked on one of their little steam locos. The nine mile, 45 minute trip runs through the pretty countryside following the meandering River Bure valley through meadowland and ancient pasture. Along the line are wayside halts (we don’t stop!) serving the picturesque Broadland villages of Brampton, Buxton and Coltishall. The carriages and locos are small sizes and are delightful. We had a pint-sized black and red loco called the John of Gaunt, but they have several. You may be able to see the little diesels in the sheds at Aylsham too. They also have a very good shop full of model railway trains, tracks, tiny people, milk churns, green sponge to make trees and mini tins of humbrol paint.
11.45hr We detrain at Wroxham Rail Station where our coach will be waiting to pick us up and take us to our next stop just a few minutes’ drive into Wroxham, famous for swan and chips. Fish and chips. And swans, separately. A town where almost every business, mysteriously, is owned by the Roys…Roys of Wroxham Food Hall…Roys of Wroxham Garden Centre…Roys of Wroxham Petrol Station…Roys of Wroxham Toys…you get the picture. Do not upset The Roys.
13.00hr We make our way over Wroxham bridge, park up and wait to embark on the Cordon Rouge Boat for a relaxing two hour Boat Tour* into the heartlands of the broads, up the River Bure past Wroxham Broad, Hoveton Broad, Salhouse Broad onto Horning Reach. The Cordon Rouge is a double decker open topped passenger boat with a lower saloon with upholstered bench seating and stools around 13 circular tables. Oh, and there is a bar on board with tea, coffee, cake. And beer. There is a commentary from the skipper and we’ll hear about how the broads were formed, all about the reeds and their uses, the birds and wildlife (we saw some Egyptian Geese on our cruise in June). We might even see the Ice-Cream-Man-Boat and the lovely Norfolk Wherry boats which are different to the Thames barges we see at Maldon in Essex. We will pass George Formby’s house on the waterside outside Wroxham, apparently he loved it here.
15.00hr We disembark the Cordon Rouge Boat and board the coach for the short journey to our next stop,
15.30hr The White Horse Inn country pub in the tiny village of Neatishead on Barton Broad. The pub is in the Good Beer Guide and offer Woodforde’s flagship beer Wherry plus half a dozen real ales. There is apparently an in-house brewery which you can see behind glass from the restaurant. We can eat here, but they would like us to pre-select our meal. You might have time to saunter down to the staithe which is a word in the north and east of England for a waterside landing stage for loading/unloading cargo boats, and you’ll see this word everywhere around Norfolk, most often on Staithe Road signs.
18.00hr Leave White Horse Inn, Neatishead.
18.30hr Arrive at The George Hotel, Norwich.
10.00hr Following breakfast* at the hotel we head off by coach.
10.30hr Arrive at Potter Heigham Bridge over the River Thurne, known as the scourge of pleasure cruisers on the Norfolk Broads. I seem to remember me and Podge tackling this in a boat years ago. It's an amazingly old stone Medieval three arch survivor dating from 1385 and famous for the middle arch being so narrow that only small cruisers can pass through, and then only at low water, usually with the help of resident pilots shouting from the boatyard next to the Bridge, for a fee. This is one of the oldest bridges in Britain which traffic still passes over. It is said that in 1742 Lady Carew and her daughter Evelyn were abducted on Evelyn's wedding day by a phantom coach driven by skeletons which caught alight as it rattled over the bridge.
11.00hr Leave Potter Heigham bridge.
11.15hr Arrive at Horsey Windpump*, a National Trust listed building which is a land drainage windmill in the village of Horsey near Great Yarmouth built in 1912 on the foundations of an older one. Land drainage was and is important to the Broads and this is how it was once achieved. It’s been struck by lightning and damaged by storms several times and is now being repaired so it can function again. When we climbed inside to the top in June Swallows swooped past us to feed their chicks in nests inside the mill. Those who would like to can climb the several steep ladders to the top for fine views over the Broads or have a tea or coffee* in the café at the bottom and listen to the reeds rustle and watch the boats bobbing under the big Norfolk skies.
12.15hr Leave Horsey Wind Pump.
12.25hr Arrive at Horsey Gap. There is a large car park here and a bit of a sandy walk through the sea defences gap up a slight incline through the gap but once you get to the sea the walking surface is better and flatter and hopefully we will be rewarded with a sight of seals! We first visited here in June this year and were rewarded with crashing waves onto a surprisingly sandy beach. Then little dark heads with big glistening eyes started bobbing up in the surf, staring at us. My first wild seals! Grey and Common/Harbour Seals! There are a great many of these lovely spotted creatures off the Norfolk coast. They are curious so bring your binoculars to get a good look back at them. From November to January the Grey Seal colony heads on to the beach here to give birth to seal pups creating a beautiful local attraction for many wildlife enthusiasts, but access is restricted when they are pupping.
13.00hr Leave Horsey Gap.
13.15hr Arrive at The Star Inn, Lessingham which is a pretty white painted traditional country pub which was the local CAMRA Rural Pub of The Year 2017 and has Woodforde’s and Lacons beer (an old Great Yarmouth brewery and beer recently reborn) and others. They do food between 12.00hrs – 14.15hrs and close at 15.00hrs so you could eat here, or if this is too early for you, you could eat at Hill House Inn, Happisburgh which we will visit a bit later.
15.15hr Leave The Star Inn, Lessingham.
15.35hr We take an afternoon stroll (whilst the pubs are shut!) around the beautiful How Hill which encompasses an area of Broadland, a thatched house (mansion), a marshman’s tiny house (Toad cottage), a secret garden, a tea room, the River Ant, and Hitlers Oak. How Hill is a country house built in 1905 by Norwich architect Edward Thomas Boardman, who wanted a country retreat for his family, so he bought 800 acres of marsh, pasture and farmland bordering the River Ant north of Ludham and built an imposing thatched house on a knoll of glacial sand and gravel fifty feet above sea level, one of the highest points in the entire Broads district. The family used it as a holiday home but it became the family home in 1918. Mr. Boardman planted two garden areas. The formal gardens, to the front of the house, which we’ll see and at the foot of the hill are the celebrated secret gardens, a series of inter-connected ponds and channels surrounded by raised peat beds. This is where, in June we saw the famous and startling Norfolk Hawker dragonfly with its bright green eyes. I’ll take you on a mini tour of this strange little place.
16.45hr Leave How Hill.
17.15hr Don’t worry, back to the beer again, but we have to wait for them to open – this isn’t Belgium! Arrive at Hill House Inn & Dancing Men Brewery, Happisburgh. This is an old coaching inn with a microbrewery on site offering up to six beers all from this brewery. The pub say they do food from 18.00hr to 20.30hrs if you want to eat here. This is an old and interesting building in an old and interesting village. Hill House originally comprised three Tudor cottages from 1540 which got knocked into one and became a coaching inn on the coast route between the big ports of Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth. Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle holidayed here in 1903 and found the inspiration and wrote here the Sherlock Holmes story, 'The Dancing Men' which is now the name of the pub Micro Brewery. Pub accommodation is supplied in a 1901 signal box behind this pub. It is said that this was built as part of a planned but never completed expansion of Great Eastern Railway from North Walsham to Great Yarmouth. It is not stated exactly why the signal box was built before any railway had been laid! Ask me about the “MORGANS” lettering above the front door found in 2018. Oh, and the 800,000-year-old fossilised footprints found on Happisburgh beach in 2013.
19.00hr Leave Hill House Inn, Happisburgh.
19.45hr Arrive at The George Hotel, Norwich.
10.00hr Following breakfast* at the hotel we head off by coach.
10.45hr Arrive at National Trust Felbrigg Hall at Felbrigg*. This unaltered 17th-century house is noted for its Jacobean architecture and fine Georgian interior. It is not a vast stately home, but more of a squires country house, which was in the Wyndham/Windham family for generations. The last of the family to live at Felbrigg was Robert Ketton-Cremer, known as The Last Squire, who died with no heirs in 1969 so he bequeathed the house and grounds to the National Trust. The large collection is original to the families who made Felbrigg their home, creating layers of a very personal history and giving it a ‘lived in’, comfortable feel. The National Trust have slightly different opening hours for different parts of the estate as follows, so, we’ll do the house last! We can see: • The walled garden with its giant working dovecote and scratching chickens • The Victory V shaped lines of trees, a war memorial planted by the last squire behind the house in memory of his brother Richard killed in Crete in 1941. • The huge woodlands are a site of special scientific interest and we may not get time today, but we’ll get as far as we can! • The original Gothic interior library commissioned by William Windham II in 1752-5 housing the 5000 books collected on his Grand Tour of Europe which is haunted. • The Great Hall with its stunning stained glass windows. • The Chinese Bedroom and its nodding mandarins. • The Dining Room with Queen Mary's teapot. • Some original nineteenth century cased taxidermy, a special subject of interest for me!
13.00hr Leave Felbrigg Hall.
13.15hr Arrive at the seaside resort of Cromer. Here’s some things you need to know about Cromer.
Noel Coward in Private Lives said “Very Flat, Norfolk”. Cromer is not, as you will see. Cromer is a seaside town situated at the top of quite steep cliffs. It has enormous beaches with pristine sands and a Victorian pier that is home to the last end-of-pier theatre in the country. The promenades are lovely and there are lots of sets of steps and lifts in some places. The beaches are backed by luscious green cliffs which are grazed by a herd of huge horned shaggy Bagot Goats. I do hope you get to see them. They have been employed here each summer since 2016 by North Norfolk District Council to graze the slope and keep the vegetation down on the sharp incline on the western side of the Esplanade. It is difficult and expensive to do this by machine and it is estimated they save around £15,000 a year. The Bagot is believed to be Britain’s oldest breed of goat, are very hardy and easy to tame and have been hugely popular with residents and visitors. They have their own range of 'goats on a slope' branded merchandise of tea towels, mugs and key rings, which can be bought from the North Norfolk Visitor Centre off Louden Road.
In 1933 Albert Einstein probably popped into Cromer for a few necessities whilst he was living in a wooden hut for a month just outside the town. The celebrated German physicist was brought here under tight security to live in a small hut after fleeing Nazi Germany. There is a blue plaque on the New Inn Pub nearby.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took a golfing holiday in 1901 in Cromer at the Royal Links Hotel and it was in the private sitting room that he was told local tales of a hideous black hound (Black Shuck) that roamed the North Norfolk coast. Legend has it that the tracks of a ghostly hound ran through Mill Lane past the old Links Hotel and over the hill into the grounds of Cromer Hall, a place to which Conan Doyle was a regular visitor, being an acquaintance of Lord Cromer. He used stately Cromer Hall and the dog legend, set it in Devon and it became The Hound of The Baskervilles.
When you stand at Cromer and look at the grey sea you’d never guess what’s down there. I wish I’d known when I stared out sipping my coffee on Cromer pier in June. It’s hard to believe it went unnoticed, but less than ten years ago the longest chalk reef in the world was discovered off Cromer just 25 feet under the surface. Dubbed ‘Britain’s Great Barrier Reef’ the Great Chalk Reef was created in dinosaur times 100-million-years ago. The reef is 20 miles long, one-and-a-half times longer than the Thanet Coast chalk reef in Kent, the former record holder. It is now a Marine Conservation Zone and has a total area larger than the Broads National Park. Imagine the reef is gleaming white with arches you can swim through and deep chasms made during the Ice Age, covered in colourful swaying plants and has one of the most diverse and spectacular arrays of sea life around Britain. The water is quite warm and is home to sponges, burrowing piddocks, sea squirts, anemones, starfish and brittlestars. And of course lobsters and crabs. That’s why Cromer is famous for the best crabs in the UK! The bed of the North Sea is mostly soft sand and mud, but the hard rocky chalk of the great Cromer Reef create a habitat that attracts all kinds of sea life which crabs like to eat.
In June we had a superb dressed crab salad at the Rocket House Cafe which has great views over the sea and is above the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum, named after the most decorated lifeboatman of all time who rescued a total of 873 people in his long, heroic career. You could visit here if you want to. We have free time to stroll around lovely Cromer. Probably see you in The Red Lion. The sell beers from Norfolk’s Grain Brewery who have a pub in Norwich, The Plough.
16.15hr Leave Cromer at an agreed pick up point.
17.00hr Arrive at the Fur & Feather Inn which is the brewery tap for Woodforde’s Brewery at Woodbastwick. This is a pub-restaurant and large shop selling brewery merchandise and beer. Such a nice setting - a red brick pub with a reed and sedge thatch with animals fashioned on the ridge. Their bestseller is of course, Wherry. They don’t seem to be doing brewery tours during the week at the moment so we’ll make ourselves comfortable in the nice bar and I’ll get everyone a flight here* – a taster tray of three beers which you can choose (or something else if you’d prefer!).
18.30hr Leave The Fur & Feather Inn.
18.50hr Arrive at the Fat Cat Brewery Tap on Lawson Road, Norwich. This is a brewery and pub, award winning, formed in 2005 with some help from a founder member of Woodforde’s. They also have connections with the lovely Fat Cat Pub in West End Street Norwich, The Fat Cat & Canary near the football ground in Norwich and the Fat Cat pubs in Ipswich and Colchester. Time for a quick beer and a look around.
19.50hr Leave The Fat Cat Brewery Tap.
20.00hr Arrive George Hotel, Norwich.
10.00hr Following breakfast* at the hotel we check out and set off on the coach for our last day of the Tour and spend the day in the big Norfolk seaside resort of Great Yarmouth. It may now be a seaside resort, but it was once centre of the world herring trade. So,
11.00hr We will visit the Time & Tide Museum* which is a paean to all things herring. Great Yarmouth was once fuelled by the herring trade, now all disappeared. It’s a great museum, where you can immerse yourself in the history of the ‘Silver Darlings’ and see and smell where the bulk of the world’s supply of herring were once smoked. In one day in 1907 fishermen brought into port 80 million herring. In ONE day!
13.00hr We’ll then slake our thirst with a beer* near the Museum at the Red Herring pub
We’ll then turn you loose in Yarmouth for a bite of something to eat and a wander. Some things about Yarmouth you need to know.
It is said that fish fingers were invented here in 1952.
The wooden rollercoaster at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach is the last one in the UK that needs a brakeman because there are no brakes on the track. Madness filmed their video for House of Fun on it.
Yarmouth was the birthplace of Anna Sewell, author of children’s classic Black Beauty.
Lord Horatio Nelson was born in Norfolk and after the battle of the Nile in 1800 he returned to Great Yarmouth where huge crowds unharnessed the horses from his carriage and hauled it to a pub on Church Plain, where the landlady begged permission to rename the pub The Nelson Arms. ‘That would be absurd,’ retorted Nelson, ‘seeing that I have but one’. He seemed fond of lost arm jokes. During his stay he received the Freedom of the Borough and at the swearing-in ceremony he was required to put his left hand on the Bible. The clerk said, ‘Your right hand, my lord,’ and Nelson replied: ‘That is in Tenerife’. You might get a look at Great Yarmouth’s Grade I listed Nelsons Column erected by the people of Norfolk to his memory and completed in 1819 , a full 24 years before the London one in Trafalgar Square which copied it and made theirs just a bit taller. You’ll be armed with a printed copy of my pub guide to Great Yarmouth and map and at:
17.30hr We’ll meet at an agreed point, probably in one of the pubs and be picked up by the coach and leave Great Yarmouth.
18.30hr Coach drop at Norwich Railway Station.
**Bittern sightings on Tour are not guaranteed as they are very rare indeed, though I did see one in flying over the reeds in June 2021. Just saying.
We regret that we need to charge a single supplement for travellers who require their own hotel room. This is because increasingly hotel room prices are quoted with very little difference between single person or two person occupancy. If you are travelling alone and want to share a room with another traveller please contact Siobhan as we are regularly able to pair up travellers in twin rooms to avoid the need for payment of the Single Supplement.
Hotel accommodation and breakfasts;
Hotel city taxes;
Luxury coach travel on a 49 seater coach with toilet;
All brewery visits, tours and brewery beer tastings;
Entrance fees to attractions, museums and historical sites;
All items marked with an asterisk above and on the individual detailed tour itinerary when issued;
Copies of Podge’s City Bar Guides and Maps for the town where we stay or spend some time;
Still and sparkling water on the coach;
Pick up from Ipswich (at bus shelter outside Crown House, Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park), Colchester (Southway Chapel St South Layby) or Chelmsford (The Woolpack, Mildmay Road). Arrangements can be made for different joining points.
Travellers are responsible for the costs of all food and drink apart from items marked with an asterisk on the detailed itinerary.
All itinerary times are approximate.
Personal Travel & Health insurance is not included in the Tour price but is required for all Travellers on Podge's Belgian Beer Tours.
If you have any questions or would like to join us please send Siobhan an email or call on 07722 724 558.
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