This weekend I headed east – to the pastoral land of Norfolk! Due to its proximity to the sea, the landscape is very flat, but very fertile. Some of England’s finest farming and agriculture comes from the Grade 1 arable lands of Norfolk. What immediately struck me was how green everything is!
Our base camp for the weekend was the lovely Norfolk Mead Hotel. Tucked away down a leafy lane in the halcyon town of Coltishall, this stately old house dates to the 1740s. The impressive brick exterior has gracefully withstood the tests of time, and historic period features abound throughout the renovated interior.
After breakfast, we braved the light morning drizzle and took the short drive to Blickling Estate. This great old Jacobean beauty occupies over 4,000 sprawling acres of exquisitely manicured gardens and parkland, and is the former home of the Boleyn family. You might have heard of their daughter Anne; King Henry VIII left his first wife to marry her and the result was the English Reformation – the Brits breaking off from the authority of the Pope. Sadly, Anne failed to conceive a male heir and the King had her beheaded – I guess that’s what happened in the days before “irreconcilable differences”!
There was no honorary sign there for my visit: Beware of American girl! I set loose on the property to peruse the hedges and topiaries of the formal parterre, and then sneak into the reflective Doric temple, the Orangery, and even the secret garden!
We even came upon a very curious-looking tree we’d never seen before. If anyone knows what this tree is called, let me know because I’m absoluteld stumped (no pun intended)!
The very lucky neighbors of this estate are the wonderful folks at the Buckingham Arms pub. This place does a roaring trade at the weekends – we were lucky to score this table made from a repurposed antique sewing table. I went for the haddock & crab rarebit – kind of like an open-faced cheesy crab bread.
Don’t tell my fiancé, but I noticed a very handsome chap making eyes at me as I ate my lunch…
Before heading back to the hotel, we took in a delightful little exhibition about the Royal Air Force during World War II. During wartime, the RAF operated a command station from Blickling Estate, where the No. 114 Squadron were based. The exhibition gave a glimpse into their make-shift command station and humble living quarters.
The volunteers there were kind enough to give me a crash course in Morse Code and I learned my first signal – “SOS”. You press the little lever making long bleeps (dashes) or short little staccato bleeps (dots). It boggled my mind to think this is how the armed forces used to communicate, hunkered down in a clandestine outpost in rural Norfolk.
It was rather apt that we made a stop here at a time when this country was celebrating Remembrance Day. In America we call it Veteran’s Day, but the sentiment is the same – celebrating the sacrifices made by the fallen, and all those who so bravely served, during the two great wars.