Things To Do In Norfolk – Waterloo Park, Norwich.

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We are very lucky to live in a leafy green city with a range of wonderful open spaces – including Waterloo Park, which is where we spend a lot of time as a family throughout the year.

I knew it was historic  – there’s a sign that says so – but I had never really thought about how or when it came to be. For that we owe a number of people a debt of thanks, including Captain Arnold Sandys-Winsch.

When he was appointed as parks superintendent in 1919, Norwich had Chapelfield Gardens, the Gildencroft, Sewell Park and a few playgrounds but by the time he retired, some 34 years later, it had about 600 acres dedicated to recreation and relaxation.

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The straight-backed former first world war fighter pilot oversaw the creation of much needed green spaces in a city where, in those days, many families lived in less than ideal conditions.

Taking advantage of government grants to fund schemes aimed at providing much needed jobs during the economic downturn following the war, the corporation, now the city council, decided to construct a series of formal parks using land acquired at the start of the 20th century.

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The captain, a passionate gardener who had gained a scholarship to Cheshire Horticulture College, not only drew up plans for the gardens but also every element within the parks – from the pavilions to the steps and from model yacht ponds to balustrades.

Over the years he employed a small army of men, many of whom had returned from the ravages of the war desperate for work but unskilled in any trade.

While Eaton Park, opened by the Prince of Wales in 1928, was the flagship scheme, the captain made sure each of them had its own identity – and these days they all have their own passionate supporters.

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Waterloo Park was already in existence when the captain arrived. It was known as Catton Recreation Ground then and was just an open space but the captain doubled its size to 18 acres and added all sorts of features, such as new bowls and tennis courts, a pavilion and bandstand, formal lawns and gardens, including what is thought to be the longest herbaceous border in the country (looking especially lovely at the moment).

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The name was changed to Waterloo Park when it was reopened in 1933. 

While many parks in the UK fell into decline in the 1970s and 1980s, in the last two decades they have seen something of a renaissance – sparked largely by investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund (BLF). In Norwich, Waterloo, Wensum, Eaton and Heigham parks have all been restored using lottery money.

Waterloo is now one of 23 parks and more than 100 open spaces and natural areas within the city. 

I’d visited the park a couple of times pre-Freya to play tennis but I first started going regularly when I needed to lengthen my running route and wanted to stay away from busy roads.

It became even more important once I’d had Freya; it was my sanctuary. I would pop her in her pram, usually crying it has to be said, and walk to the park most days, whatever the weather. Quite often she would fall asleep on the way and I would just sit on a bench and ponder how people did this motherhood thing.

Those days are thankfully gone but my love (now, our love) for the park has remained strong. I only have to look back over my photo archive to realise how many times we’ve visited in the last nearly four years.

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During each season I think that one is my favourite but then the next one rolls around and there are more things to photograph. We visit all year (although quite often we have the playground to ourselves in winter).

As well as just being a lovely open space with plenty of grass to play on there is also a splash park, which is very popular in the summer, the aforementioned children’s playground, various courts and a circular path to run/walk around.

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The only thing missing for me was somewhere to buy a drink or a snack but that’s all about to change with the launch of a new cafe – I can’t wait to try the hot chocolate!

Even though it feels like we’ve explored every inch of the park we still come across new things all the time.

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This sight literally stopped me in my tracks. Taken in 2012.

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If you’re in Norwich and looking for somewhere (free) to explore or let the children have some fun, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to Waterloo Park.

 

My Sunday Photo – May 21st, 2017.

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Giraffe is one of Freya’s favourite restaurants – although not just for the food.

She is obsessed with the mirror at the top of the stairs and loves nothing better than prancing in front of it like she’s a prima ballerina. This results in approximately 500 trips to the toilets, which are upstairs, throughout the meal. Obviously we don’t want to discourage her from going but, at the same time, we know that nine times out of 10 it will just be so she can see herself in the mirror.

I’ve got to give her credit for taste, it does look rather grand. I couldn’t resist snapping this on my iPhone while she had a little dance (we were waiting for the food to arrive at this point).

Giraffe is so brightly decorated – which is, I think, another reason it appeals to Freya – that I decided to take all the colour out of the photo and just leave her. I still don’t have a proper editor (it’s an extra cost I can’t justify for a hobby at the mo) but I love having a tinker with Fotor’s free elements – coloursplash being one of them. It’s not perfect (I’d like to soften the colour of her face) but I had fun playing. I hope you like it too.

As usual I’ve linked up with #MySundayPhoto. Please click on the camera below to see what other people have been snapping this week.

Wishing you a happy Sunday.

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A Return Visit To The Plantation Garden In Norwich (And Another Wow Moment).

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Surrounded by busy roads in the heart of Norwich, walking into The Plantation Garden feels like how I imagine finding an oasis in the desert would be.

The first time I visited in the autumn I was left speechless, which, as Mark will tell you, doesn’t happen very often. I didn’t think that wow moment could be repeated after the first time but then I went back yesterday… and wow. Just, wow.

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There was colour everywhere and it’s was so vivid, even on a dull, cloudy day – my photos really don’t do the garden justice. If you’re anywhere near Norwich please go and enjoy it while it lasts.

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My parents came with Freya and I for their first visit yesterday (after I saw some beautiful photos on Instagram and suggested we go) and they were amazed too.

It’s nice visiting with them because they are gardeners and can tell me the names of various plants. Freya also enjoys it because you can climb to the top and then walk around the outside along dark paths which she thinks is a bit like being in the jungle.

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I’ve included this final one because I think it’s funny. I was supposed to be taking a photo of my parents and Freya for the family album but then I realised how lovely the tulips were and got distracted.

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It’s that sort of place.