Simon Mortimer

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Planning to explore a new touring destination? Norwich is an unspoilt city with plenty of eastern promise

Who are you?

Simon Mortimer, Art Editor of Practical Motorhome, sister magazine of Practical Caravan. Equally at home designing pages or draining waste tanks!

Why are you a local authority on Norwich?

I'm Norfolk born and bred. I haven't lived there for about 20 years, but I make regular trips back to visit family and friends.

What do you love about it?

Norwich is a fairly large city of around 200k people, but remains largely unspoilt because of its location. It's not really on the way to anywhere, other than the lovely Norfolk coast!

What's your favourite place to visit in the area?

In addition to the delights of the city, basing yourself in Norwich gives great access to the rest of Norfolk, too. The wide, open beaches of the coast around Holkham and Blakeney are just a short drive away. Walking on these sandy stretches, it's hard to believe you're only 30 minutes from the city centre.

Don't forget to go seal spotting at Horsey Beach, and sample a crab salad at Cookies Crab Shop in Salthouse.

Which campsites would you recommend, and why?

Norwich Camping and Caravanning Club Site is perfectly positioned to explore the city. Take a short walk from the site and up the hill, and you are at the shops.

If you fancy a quieter time, simply stroll the other way to Whitlingham Country Park. The perfect place for getting back to nature and dabbling in some birdwatching.

What food and drink is the area known for?

Colman's mustard is the most famous food product, but Cromer crab is also unmissable. If you are after something more substantial, try hunting down a Norfolk dumpling!

Tell us somewhere that's great for food or drink!

Norwich is a student city, with the University of East Anglia at its heart, so finding somewhere to drink isn't going to be a problem.

However, I would avoid the area around the Prince of Wales Road, with its numerous clubs, because this part of the city can get a bit rowdy in the evenings.

Instead, you might like to head for the charming Pottergate and St Benedicts Street, well worth exploring. You'll also find one of Norwich's best restaurants, Benedicts, here.

Alternatively, if you're after simpler fare, you could do worse than visiting Norwich staple The Waffle House, on St Giles Street.

Where can you get spare kit?

Norwich Camping and Leisure, which is on Yarmouth Road at Blofield, stocks an extensive range of kit, very much aimed at caravanners and campers.

Where can you find the cheapest petrol/diesel in the area?

Asda on Hall Road, to the south of the city, is usually a pretty good bet. Otherwise, try Morrisons on Riverside Retail Park, which is close to Norwich Camping and Caravanning Club Site.

Where should you avoid when you're in the area?

Try to avoid arriving or leaving this part of the world at the same time as Norwich City are playing at home, because the snarl-ups will be widespread.

It's probably also a good idea to avoid the city centre at weekends, when the queues to get into local car parks can back up and cause problems.

If you are trying to skirt the city to reach the coast, use the southern bypass to head to Great Yarmouth, or follow the signs from Postwick to Cromer if you want to head for the North Norfolk Coast.

Share a secret highlight that only a local would know...

The flint mines at Grime's Graves, near Thetford, date from more than 5000 years ago. They have been brilliantly well preserved, so you can channel your inner caveman if that takes your fancy.

Elsewhere, for attractions of a more mechanical nature, give the Thursford collection a whirl - quite literally if you go for a ride on the gallopers. Other attractions include steam engines and a Wurlitzer. Thursford is also famous for hosting really spectacular Christmas shows.

Top five things to do in Norwich

  1. Visit the Norwich Lanes area of the city, where you'll find The Guildhall, England's largest medieval city hall and Strangers' Hall, a 14th century masterpiece. The Lanes is Norwich's independent enclave, brimming with character that has made it a past winner of the Great British High Street award.

  2. Don't miss Norwich Cathedral - indeed, you can't miss it; its spire, at 315ft tall, is visible for miles around and dominates the city skyline. Elm Hill, close by, is one of the most complete medieval streets in the UK, where you can see more medieval buildings than in the City of London.

  3. Visit the Castle Quarter, one of the oldest parts of the city. The castle was built by William the Conqueror when he invaded Britain in 1066, while Norwich Market, also in this district, has been trading in the same place for more than 900 years.

  4. Visit The Plantation Garden, a 3-acre, Grade II registered garden established more than 100 years ago in an abandoned quarry. What's all the more remarkable is that this garden is just 600 yards from the city centre. The garden is heavily wooded, with sunny glades to sit and enjoy the peace and tranquility of this little city oasis.

  5. Head out of town to the wide open beaches of the North Norfolk coast around Holkham, where you can also visit the historic Holkham Hall, and Blakeney, within both an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a National Nature Reserve. Both offer wonderful coastal walks.

When to visit Norwich

February sees a festival to brighten dark skies - the Love Light Festival offers light, fire and cultural art installations.

For real ale lovers, book ten days off in May to visit the city-wide Norwich City of Ale Festival.

One of the most colourful and traditional pageants of the city is the Lord Mayor's Celebrations, held over a weekend every July.

And, don't forget the Thursford Christmas Spectacular, a renowned full-on festive extravaganza that wows thousands each year; book early as tickets sell out fast.

How to get to Norwich

There are no motorways direct to Norwich.The A11 is the main dual-carriageway towards the city, which links to the M11 from the south and A14 from the Midlands. From the north, the A17 and A47 will bring you to the city ring road.


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