Monday, 12 December 2016

Edwardian Watercolour of Maids Head Hotel Returns to Norwich

Maids Head Hotel Norwich by Walter Hayward-Young (1908)
A framed Edwardian watercolour of the exterior of the Maids Head Hotel in Norwich, painted by Walter Hayward-Young in 1908 for a series of postcards of the hotel, has been discovered in a loft in Surrey.

Graham O’Connell, who lives in Frimley Green, Surrey, bought the painting 20 years ago in Camberley, along with a number of other paintings, drawings and documents. He was tidying up items in his loft, found the painting and decided to offer it to the Maids Head.

Christine Malcolm, General Manager, Maids Head Hotel said: “We are delighted that Mr O’Connell has given his painting to the hotel, which will be framed and put on display. It was one of a several watercolours of the Maids Head painted by Walter Hayward-Young for postcards. The collection also included one of the ground floor dining room (now The Yard Bar), the Snug and the Courtyard (now the Wine Press Restaurant), the Queen Elizabeth suite and a first floor corridor.”

Mr O’Connell suggested that the Maids Head make a donation to charity in return for his gift. A cheque for £50 has been presented to Hugo Stevenson, Community Fundraiser, Marie Curie Norfolk, the hotel’s charity for 2017.

Walter Hayward-Young (1868-1920) was a prolific poster and postcard artist. He is believed to have produced more than 800 watercolours for use as postcards and designed posters for the London Underground and UK seaside resorts.      

The Maids Head Hotel already sells reproductions of some of the Walter Hayward-Young postcards including the exterior view and The Snug.

For more information about the Maids Head Hotel see,
t.  01603 209955.

Boxing Day and New Year’s Day Guided Walks at Fairhaven Garden. Norfolk Broads

Head to Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden at South Walsham in the Norfolk Broads, for a guided walk in the garden on Boxing Day, Monday, December 26 and New Year’s Day, Sunday, January 1, both starting at 11am.

Garden admission, which includes the guided walks, is adults £6.50, concessions £5.90 and children £3.75 (under 5 free). The walks last 1½ hours and a complimentary mince pie and glass of mulled wine will be on offer in the tearoom at the end.

Highlights include the massive 950-year old King Oak and other ancient oak and beech trees and the views across South Walsham Inner Broad. Learn about the history of the garden, the collection of plants introduced by the 2nd Lord Fairhaven and the organic working methods still used today.

Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden is at South Walsham, nine miles east of Norwich, signposted off A47 at B1140 junction,, t. 01603 270449.

The garden is open daily all year; open 10am to 4pm during the winter (closed Christmas Day), free entry to tearoom, gift shop and plant sales. There is wheelchair access throughout the garden, including a Sensory Garden. Visitors requiring special facilities are advised to telephone in advance, mobility scooters available. Dogs are welcome on leads; small charge to cover poop scoop.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Curly the Sheep at The Book Hive Norwich

Henry Layte - Book Hive, Norwich
Thank you very much to Henry Layte at The Book Hive Norwich, now stocking Curly Sheep's Bad Hair Day

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Wymondham Abbey Advent Spiral December 12 to 16, 2016

Wymondham Abbey Advent Spiral
During the week beginning Monday, December 12, Wymondham  Abbey in Norfolk will have an Advent Spiral. In previous years this has proved very popular as a gentle meditation suitable for everyone. Visitors are invited to light a candle and carry it slowly to the centre of the Spiral and leave it at the manger.

The atmosphere is calm and reflective and it only takes a few minutes to walk the spiral – but most people stay longer. There will be places to sit and reflect. The beauty of the spiral and gentle music make this a ‘spa for the spirit’.

Throughout the week there will be special events to help with prayer and mindfulness. Opening times vary as follows: Monday, December 12, 2pm to 4pm, Tuesday, December 13, 10am to 8.30pm,  Wednesday, December 14, 8.30am to 8.30pm,  Thursday, December 15, 10am to 8.30pm and Friday, December 16,  10am to 4pm. A soup and roll lunch will be available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 12.30pm to 2pm; donations welcome towards the Abbey's support for those in need.

Services during Advent and Christmas include:
Children’s Christingle Sunday, December 11 at 3pm.
Town Carol Service, Sunday, December 18 at 6.30pm.
Crib Service, Christmas Eve at 4pm.
Midnight Mass, Christmas Eve at 11.15pm.
Epiphany Carol Service, 'Travellers from Afar’, Sunday, January 8 at 6.30pm.

For full details of all services, events and Abbey opening times see, t. 01953 607062.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Maids Head Hotel Marie Curie Norfolk Knobbler Cook Off

City College Norwich students Katie Carruth and Robyn Jackson, who won October’s Maids Head Apple Cake Bake off, returned to the hotel in Tombland, Norwich, on Monday to take part in a Marie Curie Norfolk Knobbler cook off to create a new dish for the hotel’s Wine Press Restaurant. The Maids Head also announced that Marie Curie will be the hotel’s charity for 2017.

Katie Carruth and Charlie Hodson in the kitchen
Robyn worked alongside Marcin ‘Magic’ Pomierny, Maids Head Head Chef and Katie was paired with Charlie Hodson, Norfolk Food & Drink Champion.  Each team had 10 ingredients to create and cook a dish in one hour; the main ingredient was the Norfolk Knobbler sausage, from Archer’s Butchers. Sausage sales are raising money for Marie Curie in Norfolk.

Marcin 'Magic' Pomierny with Robyn Jackson in the kitchen
Robyn and Magic produced Norfolk Knobbler sausage croquets with fondant potatoes, stuffed with Norfolk Dapple cheese and celeriac mousse, caramelised shallots and beetroot and cider sauce.

Katie and Charlie created Norfolk Knobbler rissole with herb potato rosti, beetroot and apple chutney, celeriac puree and a Norfolk Dapple tuile.

Judges Hugo Stevenson, Marie Curie Community Fundraiser, Jamie Archer, Archer’s Butchers, Sam Cossey, City College and Christine Malcolm, General Manager, Maids Head then tasted each dish, which was paired with Winbirri Pinot Noir from Norfolk.

Marcin 'Magic' Pomierny and Robyn Jackson with their winning dish
The judges chose Robyn and Magic’s Norfolk Knobbler sausage croquets, which will be on the Wine Press menu from Tuesday, November 29 for a week and will return to the menu for a month from January 2.  The Maids Head will donate £2 to Marie Curie for every Norfolk Knobbler dish sold in the restaurant.

The Norfolk Knobbler winning dish
Robyn Jackson, City College student said: “It’s amazing that the dish I worked on will be on the Maid’s Head menu. I am very happy. It was a great opportunity to work with Magic. He gave me lots of ideas.”

Christine Malcolm, General Manager, Maids Head Hotel said; “ We are really pleased to be working with Marie Curie. Our cook off with the City College students was an excellent way to launch our partnership. I would also like to thank Charlie Hodson for supporting today’s Norfolk Knobbler cook off. Robyn and Magic’s dish, just had the edge on Katie and Charlie’s. Congratulations to both teams on their excellent work against the clock. We will be developing a range of food related fundraising opportunities with Marie Curie. Our staff will be getting involved in sporting fundraising challenges as well.”

Hugo Stevenson, Community Fundraiser Marie Curie Norfolk said: “We are absolutely delighted that the Maids Head has chosen Marie Curie as its charity for 2017. It is wonderful that we are going to be working together to raise money to help support our local nurses, who provide care in Norfolk.”

Hugo added: “Both teams did incredibly well this afternoon, developing the Norfolk Knobbler from every day dining to fine dining.”

The Norfolk Knobbler combines Archer’s traditional Norfolk pork sausage with Candi’s Chutney’s parsnip and chilli chutney. Tim Allen of Morley Farm, South Creake supplies the pork for the sausage.

Maids Head Hotel, t. 01603 209955,

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Meet Father Christmas at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden Norfolk Broads

Father Christmas arriving at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden on his lawnmower 

Father Christmas will be visiting Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden at South Walsham in the Norfolk Broads (NR13 6DZ) on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 December, 2016. He will arrive on his lawnmower on both days at 11am, then will head down to his woodland yurt tucked away among the trees and will stay there until 4.30pm.

You can also meet reindeer Comet and Blitzen and have a wander through the garden, before returning to the tearoom for hot chestnuts, hot chocolate, mulled wine and some seasonal fare.

There will be live music near the tearoom over the weekend featuring Broadland Youth Choir, Hemblington Harmony Community Choir, Broadland Brass and Wensum Valley Handbell Ringers; also visit the elves' workshop with free Christmas crafts and face painting.

Tickets are £6.50 adult, £5.90 concessions, £7 per child to visit Father Christmas and receive a present (includes garden entry). Booking is essential to visit Father Christmas. Buy tickets here or t. 01603 270449.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Advent Moving Feast at Norwich Cathedral and the Maids Head Hotel

Marcin ‘Magic’ Pomierny, Head Chef Maids Head Hotel, The Dean of Norwich, the Very Reverend Jane Hedges and Chris Hedges in the Priors Hall 
The Maids Head Hotel and Norwich Cathedral are combining to stage a special Advent Moving Feast on the evening of Saturday, November 26, 2016.

The Dean of Norwich, the Very Reverend Jane Hedges and her husband Chris Hedges, are hosting the first course in the ancient Priors Hall, before guests are escorted across Tombland, to the equally historic Maids Head Hotel, for the main course and dessert. Diners will also be regaled with historic tales of the Priors Hall, Cathedral Close, Tombland and the Maids Head Hotel during the meal.

Chris Hedges is chef for the first course, producing a variety of soups with scones, before handing over to the Maids Head team led by Head Chef, Marcin 'Magic' Pomierny, who are offering a choice of main courses including Norfolk turkey, seared monkfish and roasted butternut squash. A selection of desserts is also on the menu including stem ginger pudding, orange & candied nut salad, Christmas ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Places are still available for the Moving Feast, for more information contact Maids Head Events t. 01603 272008,

The Dean of Norwich said: “Chris and I are looking forward to hosting our travelling dinner guests and to sharing with them a little of the history of Priors Hall. Chris loves cooking and entertaining and telling stories and he has some delicious soup recipes up his sleeve for next week.”

Christine Malcolm, General Manager Maids Head Hotel said: “We are delighted to be working with The Dean and her husband on this special Advent Moving Feast. It will be a wonderful evening of storytelling and excellent food.” 

The Maids Head has had a very long relationship with Norwich Cathedral. The first Norman Bishop, Herbert de Losinga, lived on the hotel's site. His palace eventually became the Murtel Fish Inn, which was the Maids Head’s predecessor. The Prior's Hall at the Cathedral dates from 1284 and the first official mention of the Murtel Fish Inn was in 1287.

Curly Sheep's Bad Hair Day – debut children's book from Norwich author

Curly Sheep's Bad Hair Day is a new children's book written and illustrated by Norwich author and artist, Sandra Derry. It is the first in a series of books by Sandra, who grew up on a farm, aiming to introduce children to countryside life. Curly  Sheep's Bad Hair Day is beautifully illustrated. It explains, in a fun way,  how and why sheep get sheared.

Sandra approached Kinsale Infant School for feedback, when she was writing the book and creating the illustrations.  The reviews from children at the school are included on the back cover.

To thank the children, Sandra visited Kinsale Infant School to present copies of the book to her band of reviewers.

Sandra Derry explained: “I grew up on Valley Farm, Henham, always surrounded by animals, mainly cows. I love all things farm and country and wanted to develop a series of children's books, which introduce young children to the countryside. Curly Sheep explains why sheep get sheared. I am working on the next book in the series called Molly Moo the independent cow.”

Sandra Derry with her review panel at Kinsale Infant School Norwich

“I would like to thank the children at Kinsale School for giving me feedback. It really encouraged me to keep going, finish the book and plan Molly Moo.”

Curly Sheep's Bad Hair Day, price £9.99, ISBN 9780995618701, is currently on sale at Jarrold Norwich, Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden at South Walsham, and is available from

Sandra is also an expert seamstress and is the author of Know Before You Sew. She is the sewing 'guru' for Let's Talk magazine.

Sandra is staging a solo art exhibition at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden at South Walsham in the Norfolk Broads from Tuesday, January 31 to Sunday, February 5. Her paintings all inspired by countryside themes.

Sandra Derry  'Great Trees' - part of her exhibition at Fairhaven Garden in January

Monday, 18 July 2016

Norwich Summer Family Staycation at the Maids Head Hotel

The Maids Head Hotel launched a new Norwich Summer 2016 Staycation package at the Royal Norfolk Show, with a ‘beach burial’, on the hotel’s stand.  Amy Elvin, the hotel’s wedding co-ordinator is pictured being buried by Carey Briggs from Pensthorpe Natural Park, hotel colleague Katherine Renhard and Louise Rout from Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden.

The Summer Staycation 2016 package gives families the opportunity to have a night in a family room in the oldest hotel in the UK and enjoy breakfast, plus an evening meal in the two AA Rosette WinePress Restaurant. 

Then they can explore one of four popular Norfolk attractions: Pensthorpe Natural Park near Fakenham, Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden in the Norfolk Broads, Merrivale Model Village on the seafront at Great Yarmouth or CitySightseeing’s open top bus tour of Norwich. Also included in the package is a delicious picnic to take on the day out.

Prices are from £205, more information here.

Maids Head Hotel t. 01603 209955,

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Wymondham Abbey Norfolk Medieval Evening

Wymondham Abbey
Head to Wymondham’s historic Abbey on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, from 5pm to 8pm, for an evening of 1107-style merriment. The Medieval Evening takes place in the church and churchyard off Church Street. It will be an evening of fun for all family, costing £5 for adults, for which you receive medieval money to spend at the event. Children get in free.

Falconry at Wymondham Abbey 
Explore medieval life and meet jesters, medieval villagers and more. There’ll be a falconer demonstrating one of the oldest hunting skills and a herbalist giving advice in the use of plants found in the Abbey’s herb garden. Try your hand at archery, partake of a hearty hog roast and sup an ale, while listening to merry medieval music.

Wymondham Abbey was founded in 1107, and dissolved as an Abbey on the orders of Henry VIII in 1538. The church was spared, and continues as the town’s Parish Church. The recently completed development project has given the church new modern facilities and allowed many ancient artefacts to be displayed.

For more details see 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

New at Fairhaven Garden St Benet’s Abbey Boat Trip and Tour - Norfolk Broads

St Benet's Abbey. Photograph by Stephen Mole
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden in the Norfolk Broads is running a new combined boat trip and guided tour around St Benet's Abbey every Saturday until the end of September starting on Saturday, June 4, 2016.

The boat will leave Fairhaven staithe at 2.15pm, returning at approximately 4.30pm. The trip will include a 45 minute guided tour of St Benet’s Abbey, led by volunteers from the Friends of St Benet’s Abbey.

The combined trip and tour is not available to wheelchair users due to the unsuitability of the ground at the abbey.

Booking is advisable as spaces are limited. Prices, which include Fairhaven Garden entry and a donation to St Benet’s Abbey restoration fund, are £20 adult and £13  child. For Fairhaven members, the price is  £14 adult and £9.50 child. To book a place, please call 01603 270449, email

Primula one of the Fairhaven Garden boats
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden is at South Walsham NR13 6DZ, nine miles east of Norwich, signposted off A47 at B1140 junction. The garden is open daily all year from 10am to 5pm (closed Christmas Day), and on Wednesdays, until 9pm, to the end of August. Garden entry is £6.50 adult, £5.90 concessions, £3.75 child (under 5 free); free entry to tearoom, gift shop and plant sales.

There is wheelchair access throughout the garden, including a Sensory Garden and an accessible boat for trips on the broad from April to October (additional charge). Visitors requiring special facilities are advised to telephone in advance, mobility scooters available.

Dogs are welcome in the garden on leads; small charge to cover poop scoop.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Murtel Fish Ale New at Maids Head Hotel for Norwich City of Ale

Marcus Patteson, Director Sistema in Norwich, Katherine Renhard, Food Services Manager Maids Head Hotel and Rupert Farquharson, Managing Director Woodforde's launching Murtel Fish Ale in the Maids Head Bar.
The Maids Head Hotel has launched Murtel Fish Ale, a new signature beer brewed by Woodforde’s, in time for the Norwich City of Ale festival, which runs from May 26 to June 5, 2016.

The beer takes its name from the Murtel Fish Tavern, the Maids Head’s predecessor, which was trading on Wensum Street, then known as Cook Rowe, from at least 1287. The change of name to the Maids Head was confirmed by John Paston in a letter dated 2 November 1482, in which he recommended the inn as a good place to stable your horse.

The Maids Head will be supporting Sistema in Norwich, during City of Ale, by donating 20p to the local music charity for every pint of Murtel Fish Ale sold.

Marcus Patteson, Programme Director for Sistema in Norwich said: “It is fantastic to get support from such a high profile Norwich business as the Maids Head. We are trying to get more local businesses involved with Sistema and I’d like to thank Christine Malcolm and her team for working with us.”

Paul Dickson, a City of Norwich Tourist Guide, is leading two historic pub tours during City of Ale on Tuesday, May 31 and Friday, June 3, starting at the Maids Head at 6pm and ending back at the hotel’s bar for a Murtel Fish Ale sampling session.

Find out where Ralph McTell had his first professional gig and where Monsieur du Pain entertained drinkers by dipping his feet in boiling lead, explore Alan Partridge’s favourite Norfolk bar, discover where Parson Woodforde used to drink and much more. Price for the tour, including beer sampling, is £4.50. To book a place t. 01603 272008, or email

Christine Malcolm, General Manager, Maids Head said: “We have had a long and successful relationship with Woodforde’s and are very proud to be serving Norfolk beer in our 16th century Maids Head Bar. Naming a beer Murtel Fish Ale celebrates more than 800 years of hospitality on this site. We are also very pleased to be supporting Sistema in Norwich and hope to have a busy City of Ale festival.”

Rupert Farquharson, Managing Director Woodforde’s said: “As well as brewing delicious local beer, part of our duty is to preserve and promote the rich heritage of Norfolk. The Maids Head as a venue is steeped in charm and history with a unique story to be told. We hope that Murtel Fish Ale helps to keep this heritage alive and captivate drinkers throughout City of Ale and beyond, whilst providing valuable funds for Sistema in Norwich.”

Murtel Fish Tavern – the inn is first mentioned in Norwich records in 1287/88. The landlord is named as John de Ingham. ‘Robert the fowler stole goods from the said innkeeper at Cook Rowe.’ Edward the Black Prince (eldest son of King Edward III) was entertained at the tavern in 1359 when he attended a joust.            
Sistema in Norwich works to transform the lives of children and young people through participation in music. The charity involves them in learning to play a musical instrument and being part of an orchestra. Sistema in Norwich draws inspiration from El Sistema, the Venezuelan music programme that has more than 30 years experience, of how a music programme can both create great musicians and dramatically change the life of disadvantaged children.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Fairhaven Green Festival Norfolk Broads

Head to Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, at South Walsham in the Norfolk Broads, for a great green day out at the annual Green Festival on Sunday, June 26 from 10am to 5pm. There will be a packed day of entertainment and fun environmental activities on land and afloat.

Normal entry charges apply on the day: adult £6.50, concessions £5.90 and child £3.75 (under 5 free), with some additional charges for boating activities.

Entertainment features music from The Busketeers, The Pedant’s Revolt Morris Dancers, Stevie Spud’s circus skills workshop, children’s clay play and face painting.

Free Spirit Canoe Tours
Activities and exhibitors include Avril’s Glass and Jewellery, Big Skies Food Company, Broadland District Council conservation bus, The Broads Society, Bure Valley Conservation Group, Compassion in World Farming, Forget Me Not Plants, Free Spirit Canoe Tours, The Green Lady Eco Store, Hawking Experience, Helen’s 4 Seasons Plants, Love Spoons Jewellery, Mini Scrapbox, Norfolk Badger Protection Group, Norfolk Hedge Baskets, Norfolk Heritage Fleet Trust (Hunter’s Yard) Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Predator Plants, RSPB and Wild Touch.

Louise Rout, Manager Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden said: “We are really looking forward to our Green Festival. We have a busy programme of family entertainment, with activities afloat and on dry land, along with Norfolk businesses and charities with a ‘green’ focus.”

There is wheelchair access throughout the garden. Mobility scooters are available. Fairhaven offers accessible boat trips. Visitors requiring special facilities are advised to telephone in advance.

Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden is at South Walsham, nine miles east of Norwich, signposted off A47 at B1140 junction, t. 01603 270449,

Friday, 22 April 2016

Maids Head Hotel Restaurant Norwich Awarded Second AA Rosette

The Maids Head Hotel in Norwich is celebrating the award of a second AA Rosette for the WinePress Restaurant, following the annual AA inspection, which rated the food offering at Five Star quality.

The overall Four Star merit score for the hotel across all assessment areas including cleanliness, service, bedrooms, bathrooms, food and hospitality increased to 81% (78% in 2015).

The Maids Head has been privately owned by the Chaplin family since December 2012, which has enabled a return to a policy of local purchasing for food and drink. The hotel has also embarked on a range of sympathetic refurbishment and renovation projects to ensure that the historic building, which claims to be the oldest hotel in Britain, meets the expectations of 21st century visitors and operates in a much more environmentally friendly way.

Christine Malcolm, General Manager the Maids Head Hotel said: “We are thrilled with the award of a second AA Rosette for our restaurant. Head Chef Marcin ‘Magic’ Pomierny and his brigade, supported by Food Services Manager Katherine Renhard and her team, work very hard to design and deliver exciting seasonally changing menus, using the best of local and regional produce.”

“We are also delighted that our overall merit score continues to increase, “ added Christine Malcolm. “Over the last 18 months we have been very busy installing a new environmentally friendly capillary heating system in the older part of the hotel, upgrading the bathrooms in our modern wing, refurbishing the lounges and all public toilets and most recently adding an al fresco seating area overlooking Tombland and completing a full upgrade of The Paston Suite, our most popular bridal suite.”

Maids Head Hotel Wine Press Restaurant
Nick Bond, Head of Tourism at VisitNorwich said:” We congratulate Christine Malcolm and her team at the Maids Head on the richly deserved second AA Rosette for the restaurant, and the continuous improvement of their overall merit score. The hotel’s programme of renovation and refurbishment is superb, focussing on the expectations of today’s visitors, but at the same time emphasising the amazing heritage of the site, serving Norwich for more than 800 years.”

The Maids Head Hotel claims to be the oldest hotel in Britain, based on the site being used continuously for hospitality since the early 12th century. Norwich historian Walter Rye, who also owned the Maids Head from 1889 to 1895, considered it to be: “the oldest Norman site in the city after the Castle”.

Maids Head Projects 2015/16

The Paston Suite has been fully refurbished and redecorated and now includes a roll top bath, walk in shower and his and hers washbasins. Work has just been completed and the first guests were welcomed last weekend.

Public Toilets: £140,000 was invested last year in fully refurbishing all public toilets, including the addition of an accessible toilet near the WinePress Restaurant and new gents’ toilets close to the Minstrel Suite, the hotel’s man function room. The hotel won best English hotel loo, in the Loo of the Year Awards 2015.

Capillary Heating System: a £500,000 hi-tech environmentally friendly capillary heating and cooling system has been installed in 40 bedrooms in the 15th century part of the hotel, which will keep rooms warm in winter and cool in summer. The Maids Head is the first hotel in Norfolk to install the system, which features a heat pump recycling water to capillary mats hidden in the bedrooms’ ceilings. The new system is currently being commissioned and will include individual controls in each room.

Bathroom Refurbishment: Forty bathrooms have been refurbished in the modern wing (£420,000 investment); 16 have been converted into walk in showers to improve accessibility for all ages. The showers and baths each feature panels depicting large-scale photographs of views of the historic city of Norwich, chosen from a competition with Archant’s iWitness24.

Public Lounges: the hotel’s lounges have had a contemporary makeover (£120,000 investment).

Guests Services App: guests now have the latest iRiS guest services paper free app in their bedrooms (£50,000 investment). iRiS was introduced at the end of June 2015 and gives guests the opportunity to plan their stay at the hotel, and order food and drink from the restaurant and bar, in the comfort of their room.  Using the iPad based system, also a first for a hotel in Norfolk, guests can book taxis, check airport departure boards, browse the internet, get the latest information on events and culture in Norwich and days out in Norfolk.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Great Days Out in Norfolk & Suffolk - English Tourism Week Launch

Norfolk & Suffolk attractions' mascots racing at Sealife Centre Yarmouth
Norfolk Tourist Attractions’ Association (NTAA) and Visit Suffolk Attractions launched the 2016 Great Days Out in Norfolk & Suffolk booklet at the Sealife Centre and Merrivale Model Village Great Yarmouth, on Tuesday, March 8. The launch featured a mascots race won by Shaky the Shark from Great Yarmouth Sealife Centre to celebrate English Tourism Week.

Norfolk and Suffolk's attractions continue to invest in new projects and events. Sealife Centre Great Yarmouth is opening Turtle Shelter, a themed exhibit featuring turtles in their natural habitat. Merrivale Model Village has installed the Merri Eye, a 12ft high observation wheel for the resident ‘Merrivalians’.

King’s Lynn’s stunning new heritage attraction, Stories of Lynn, opens at Easter, telling the stories of seafarers, explorers, merchants, mayors, magistrates and miscreants who have shaped the town. The project was made possible by a grant of £1,850,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £800,000 from the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, and investments from other funders.  Holkham Hall is transforming former stables and pottery buildings in a £4.5million project to create new and improved visitors facilities including an exhibition telling the story of Holkham’s unique farming heritage.

The Great Days Out booklet features 53 quality assured attractions across Norfolk and Suffolk and £285 of discount vouchers The booklet offers an unrivalled menu of activities from boat trips on the Broads, theme parks, world famous museum collections and country houses and gardens to zoos and animal collections, heritage railways, top draw live shows and much more.

New members in the 2016 booklet are Beccles Lido and Big Dog Ferry, Fakenham Racecourse, Richardson's Day Boats and Stories of Lynn.

Some 400,000 booklets will be distributed across the six counties of the East of England. Great Days Out in Norfolk & Suffolk can also be downloaded from

Martin Dupée, Chairman NTAA and Visit Suffolk Attractions said: “All is set for a fantastic year at Norfolk and Suffolk attractions. The Great Days Out booklet features 53 excellent reasons for day trips and short breaks in the region. Our good news includes the Stories of Lynn at King's Lynn, Holkham Hall's farming exhibition and Courtyard Cafe and Dippy's Splash Zone at Dinosaur Adventure. And we are proud to number Cromer Pier in our ranks, Pier of the Year 2015 and home to Europe's only end of the pier show.”                
“It's great to see both large and smaller attractions continuing to invest in new facilities and innovative events, improving the visitor experience and giving a boost to our £4.8 billion tourism economy in Norfolk and Suffolk.”  

Church Farm, Stow Bardolph is expanding the indoor play area for under 5s in time for Easter and will add a new pedal tractor trail in the outdoor play area by early summer,

City Sightseeing Norwich will be fully accessible for visitors with disabilities from May.

Dippy's Splash Zone at Dinosaur Adventure launches with Dippy's Splash Zone Party from May 28 to June 5.

Holkham Hall: New exhibition opening in 2016 telling the unique story of Holkham’s farming heritage, plus Courtyard Cafe and shop; and in the hall a special exhibition, 'Remembering the 7th Earl of Leicester 1936-2015'.

Norfolk & Suffolk attractions' mascots 'fam trip' to Merrivale Model Village
Merrivale Model Village has installed the Merri Eye, a 12ft high observation wheel for the resident ‘Merrivalians’ and new ‘X-Factor’ stage.

Pleasurewood Hills : new Waveswinger attraction, opening date to be confirmed.The Main Street area of the park is being refurbsihed with improved décor and changes to two food outlets which will be renamed Smokey Joes and Sharkies Fish & Chips. Woodycopters and the Mini Twister have been relocated, complemented with extensive landscaping.

Sealife Centre Great Yarmouth: Turtle Shelter is a new themed exhibit featuring turtles in their natural habitat. The walls will be adorned with interactive and educational elements describing the 200-million year history of these reptiles.

Snettisham Park new for 2016, children's pony treks and rides.

Stories of Lynn: King’s Lynn’s stunning new heritage attraction Stories of Lynn opens this Easter.  Telling the stories of seafarers, explorers, merchants, mayors, magistrates and miscreants who have shaped the town, the exhibition along with the borough archives cover more than 800 years of history.

Set within the atmospheric 15th-century undercroft of the magnificent Trinity Guildhall and parts of the old town gaol, the exhibition features exciting new audio-visual and interactive displays along with a host of artefacts, exhibits and treasures.  The King John Cup, a lavishly decorated 14th-century drinking vessel, takes pride of place, set within the dark, dramatic Treasury.  Housed within Stories of Lynn are the borough archives – a unique collection of documents dating back to the 13th Century which tell their own stories of the townspeople.  The Red Register, the oldest complete paper archival book in England, is the centrepiece of the collection.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Raveningham Gardens Snowdrop Season from Monday 1 February

Raveningham Gardens snowdrops
Raveningham Gardens in the Norfolk Broads opens for the snowdrop season from Monday 1 February to Sunday 28 February, 2016 (closed Saturdays). See drifts of snowdrops in the main garden from 11am to 4pm (dusk if earlier). Proceeds from Sundays 14 and 21 February go to Priscilla Bacon Lodge, a centre for specialist palliative care services in Norwich.

Admission is adult £5, concessions £4.50 and children under 16 free. Refreshments will be available in the tea room.

Raveningham Hall is the home of Sir Nicholas and Lady Bacon. It was Sir Nicholas’ mother, Priscilla Bacon, who added snowdrops to the garden.

The 18th century Walled Kitchen Garden with its large glasshouses will be open and visitors will also be able to enjoy views across the new lake established at the turn of the Millennium and the contemporary sculpture in the gardens.

Raveningham Gardens (NR14 6NS) is 10 miles south east of Norwich, signposted off the A146 at Hales, then B1136, t. 01508 548480.

Fairhaven Garden - Elizabeth Reed Solo Art Exhibition

Candelabra Primulas - Elizabeth Reed
Wymondham based artist, Elizabeth Reed returns to Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden at South Walsham in the Norfolk Broads, for her second solo exhibition of original paintings, from Tuesday, January 19 to Sunday, January 24, 2016, open 10am to 4pm daily. Entry to the exhibition is free.

Elizabeth is a keen gardener and country lover and will be displaying paintings depicting local landscapes and floral subjects, along with prints, cards and craft items. She will be in residence at Fairhaven throughout the exhibition and visitors will be able see new work in progress.

Elizabeth also plays banjo, concertina and accordion in the Fezziwig Ceilidh Band. For more information about Elizabeth and her work see

Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden is at South Walsham, nine miles east of Norwich, signposted off A47 at B1140 junction, t. 01603 270449. The garden is open daily all year 10am to 5pm (closed Christmas Day and closes 4pm during the winter), also open Wednesdays until 9pm from May to the end of August.  Garden entry is adults £6.50, concessions £5.90 and children £3.75 (under 5 free). Free entry to tearoom, gift shop and plant sales.

There is wheelchair access throughout the garden, including a Sensory Garden and boat trips (April to October, additional charge). Visitors requiring special facilities are advised to telephone in advance, mobility scooters available.

Dogs are welcome on leads; small charge to cover poop scoop.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Palace Street Norwich, The Watts Family and the Maids Head Hotel

Jenny Sadler and her brother Jamie Watts visited the Maids Head Hotel in Norwich last autumn on a mission to rediscover their roots. Jenny was born in 1962 in what is now the Earlham Suite in the hotel, but back then it was her mum Dorothy and dad John Watts’ living quarters. Dad ran a convenience store down below on Palace Street.
Jenny Sadler and Jamie Watts outside what was the shop entrance
The range of buildings that included the shop, which date back to Tudor times, was converted by the Maids Head in the 1980s into a series of function and meeting rooms on the ground floor, with bedrooms up above.

The Watts family had a bakery and shop on Palace Street from at least the late 19th century. Arthur Watts (grandfather) met Mary Anne Wardell, when she was 16. They married and had 14 children. John Watts (1933 – 2013) was the youngest.

The bakery shop late 19th century
“Our last surviving aunt, Margaret Copeman, died in March aged 84,” said Jenny. “Her wake was held at the Maids Head. This was the spur for Jamie and I to stay at the hotel and find out more about our family’s connection with Palace Street. There were eight brothers, most of whom ran Watts Brothers Building Contractors, with an office on the corner of Pigg Lane.

Grandfather Arthur died in 1936 and the bakery closed soon after that, however Grandmother Mary Anne (d.1977) was very entrepreneurial and changed direction. “Nanny opened a convenience store in the old bakery shop and converted the bakery into a function room known as The Bake Office,” explained Jenny. “Dad eventually ran the shop for Nanny until 1965, while she concentrated on The Bake Office. Two of dad’s sisters, Margaret and Queenie and niece Dorothy also worked with him.”
John Watts outside the grocery shop 1950s
“The Bake Office was very popular for local parties and weddings. People also used to pile in there after the Samson and Hercules closed and Nanny would serve up egg and chips all round. During World War II provided accommodation in the function room for American airmen.” 

Jenny has a photograph of her mum and dad's wedding reception in April 1957, which was held in The Bake Office. It also features Mary Anne up on her feet about to toast the new bride and groom.

John and Dorothy Watts Wedding April 1957
“Mum and dad had around 100 guests at their wedding reception, with all the catering done by family members. Mum remembers Nanny very much as the matriarch of the family; anyone who had a problem went to her, she had a heart of gold.”  

“We left in 1965. Mum and dad wanted their own house, and moved to a new property on Dereham Road built by the brothers. Nanny sold up and moved to a bungalow in Sprowston. Dad worked in grocery shops to start with and then teamed up with his brothers in the building business until he retired.”

Do you have memories of Mary Anne Watts, the Palace Street shops and The Bake Office, as Jenny, Jamie and the Maids Head would like to hear from you. Please call Linzi Rawson t. 01603 209955, or write to Linzi Rawson, Sales Manager, the Maids Head Hotel, Tombland, Norwich NR3 1LB.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Fairhaven Garden – South Walsham Art Club Exhibition from January 12, 2016

South Walsham Art Club is staging Reflections an exhibition of paintings at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, South Walsham in the Norfolk Broads from Tuesday, January 12 to Sunday, January 17, open 10am to 4pm daily. Entry to the exhibition is free.

The exhibition features paintings, with a wide variety of subjects and styles, by members of the art class that meets weekly in St. Lawrence's, South Walsham, led by Nicky Arrowsmith-Brown.

Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden is at South Walsham, nine miles east of Norwich, signposted off A47 at B1140 junction, t. 01603 270449. The garden is open daily all year 10am to 5pm (closed Christmas Day and closes 4pm during the winter), also open Wednesdays until 9pm from May to the end of August.  Garden entry is adults £6.50, concessions £5.90 and children £3.75 (under 5 free). Free entry to tearoom, gift shop and plant sales.

There is wheelchair access throughout the garden, including a Sensory Garden and boat trips (April to October, additional charge). Visitors requiring special facilities are advised to telephone in advance, mobility scooters available.

Dogs are welcome on leads; small charge to cover poop scoop.