It seems a long while ago now but, along with my parents, Freya and I spent half term at a caravan in Caister-on-Sea on the Norfolk coast.
We were very lucky with the weather and managed to get on the beach most afternoons. I also nipped out early a couple of mornings to see the sunrise. One of the days it was just a wall of cloud to start with but then it cleared and there was a beautiful golden light.
I love taking photos with the turbines in the background.
I hope you’ve had a great week. To see what other people have picked for My Sunday Photo please click on the camera below.
Quite often when I visit an historic home I admire the grandeur on display, ponder how much it costs to heat in the winter and perhaps imagine myself flouncing up a sweeping staircase in a long silk dress but very rarely do I ever think “Yes, I could live here”.
I’m not sure what it is about Felbrigg Hall because it’s as opulent and impressive as the others but as soon as I entered I just felt…welcome.
It possibly had something to do with the volunteers, who were all so friendly, and the fact that there’s a lovely treasure hunt-style activity for children involving a magnifying glass and a photo book but I think it’s more to do with the feel of the place.
It’s just homely. I felt like I could sit in the library and read a book in my PJs (not when it’s open to the public) or happily enjoy a family Christmas dinner in the dining room (hopefully cooked by someone else).
The 17th century house and the estate were left to the National Trust following the death of the ‘last squire’, biographer and historian Robert Ketton-Cremer, in 1969.
A descendent of the Wyndham/Windham family, who owned Felbrigg for some 500 years, he inherited the house on the death of his father in 1933. There’s a well written history of the hall and some of its fascinating past inhabitants here.
I was quite taken by the tales of William ‘Mad’ Windham (1840 – 1866) who apparently had a bit of a thing for uniforms. Not only did he dress up as a train guard at local stations, which caused a few problems, he also presented himself as a policeman and ‘patrolled’ in London. He seems to have remained quite the character – in later life even buying himself a coach and pinching customers from established routes by offering free lifts between Norwich and Cromer.
He was far from the only intriguing person attached to the house and it was fascinating to discover more as we explored.
There was some controversy (link to a story in The Guardian) surrounding Felbrigg earlier this year but when we visited last month, on a day that started slightly damp, all seemed well.
What can you do there?
Everywhere you look there is something interesting to see at Felbrigg and Freya loved trying to match the photographs to the various rooms. You can tour downstairs and upstairs rooms, including the great hall, with its stunning stained glass, dining room, lovely library and several bedrooms, including the Chinese Room with wallpaper hand painted in China (which required a costly specialist to put up).
We stopped for a bite to eat in the cafe before heading outside to the wonderful walled garden. Because our party had a variety of different ages we only got to see a small section of the garden but what I did see was stunning (my camera was very happy).
There is a fabulous play area for smaller visitors, which includes sandpits to dig in, miniature wheel barrows, forks and what I think might be a willow house with a tree stump table and small wooden benches (here’s Mark enjoying it).
Should you want to go a bit further afield, the estate also has 520 acres of woods, with rolling parkland, a lake and buggy-friendly paths.
What did we think?
Our trip included four generations and they all loved it. Freya was the one I was most worried about but almost as soon as we arrived (and she found some hobby horses to trot around on) she was happy. She loved exploring inside and outside too (as we all did). A great family adventure.
How much does it cost?
A standard charge for an adult (without gift aid) for the whole property is £10.40 and £5.50 for a child. You can also just pay for the gardens and there is a family ticket available. Full details here. Don’t forget to check opening times before you go.
Even though we live in Norfolk and love exploring, last week I realised just how much more of the county we have left to discover.
To celebrate a special birthday, my mother-in-law brought three members of her family from the West Midlands to stay in a fantastic converted barn she rented in the village of Bale, which is about nine miles from the town of Fakenham.
There was even room for Mark, Freya and I and so we used the barn as our base and set about showing them some of the county’s highlights – and, my goodness, did we pack a lot in.
With four generations to cater for I didn’t expect everyone to be happy all of the time but, actually, everything we did had elements that we all enjoyed.
We visited two stately homes, a wildlife sanctuary, the beach, a zoo and, the piece de resistance, my MIL walked alpacas along the coast as her birthday present from Mark and I.
However, it was as we were driving to and from the different places that I realised how much there is still to explore – especially when Mark decided to take little detours off the beaten track (yes, we were lost).
There were some proper “wow” moments, including driving through a picture-perfect village, turning a corner and coming across Binham Priory, looking glorious against the blue sky. Even Freya was impressed (although she thought it was an enchanted castle).
I had heard of the ruined Benedictine priory before but I didn’t know exactly where it was. While we didn’t have time to stop then, I knew we would be back – and in fact we went back three different times.
A potted history.
The priory was founded in the late 11th century – a massive undertaking by a nephew of William the Conqueror, Peter de Valognes and his wife Albreda. It took about 150 years to build so obviously they never got to see it finished. I imagine it must have been an impressive sight, rising up out of the countryside, once it was completed.
While it’s a tranquil place now, it has experienced its fair share of drama, including a siege in 1212 (see the links at the end of this post for a detailed history). It also suffered from:
It was closed in 1539 after the Dissolution of the Monasteries and was sold to Thomas Paston who started demolishing it. Stone from the monastery was reused in many local houses. Apparently, Thomas Paston’s nephew, Edward, started building a new house on the site but a workman was killed by falling masonry and the rest of the men refused to continue.
Today the nave of the much larger priory church has become the Church of St. Mary and the Holy Cross and is still used as a place of worship.
According to myth there is a tunnel running from the priory to Little Walsingham, which is said to have been the site of a strange disappearance. Apparently, one day a fiddler decided to explore the tunnel with his dog, as you do. Villagers could apparently hear his music as he ventured forth…until it suddenly stopped. His little dog came running out but no one dared enter the tunnel to look for him. He was never seen again. The place where the music stopped is now known as Fiddler’s Hill.
I wandered about on my own as the sun set and I have to say I felt perfectly content. It wasn’t eerie at all, just rather inspiring.
I did a short video of our approach to Binham Priory. It doesn’t really do it justice but you’ll get the idea (I’m sat in the back with Freya to get the best view).
There are some great sites with more info about the priory, including opening times.