Car-free adventures aroundNorwichNorfolk
Centuries of history and miles of watery wilderness are easy to access without a car in Norwich. The city is compact to negotiate on foot or by bus and the countryside has some great little branch lines, running through the marshy Broads national park to the sandy coast. And that's not all: you can see flamingoes and cranes at Pensthorpe natural park with its mix of gardens, playgrounds, aviaries and acres of wild, beautiful landscape. For all these reasons and more, Norwich makes a really good base for a staycation holiday. scroll to the end for more about buses, bikes, boats and places to stay.
1. Explore the city on foot
Arriving by train is easy and there are cheap advance tickets from London via Ipswich or Cambridge (from £10 each way on Greater Anglia trains). If you’re on the railway from Ipswich, look right out of the window, about ten minutes after Diss station, to see where the Roman town of Venta Icenorum once stood in flat fields near the little River Tas. Once you arrive in Norwich, the major sights are an easy stroll away.
- Head diagonally right out of Norwich railway station, cross the bridge and turn right along the River Wensum for a scenic route into the city, passing the medieval Cow Tower.
- At the second stone bridge, turn left up Whitefriars and left again under Erpingham gate to visit Norwich cathedral.
- Walk back through the centre of town and through the Royal Arcade to visit Norwich Castle with its museum and art gallery. The gallery has some lovely paintings by the early 19th-century Norwich School of Painters.
- If you want to go straight to the castle from the station, it’s about fifteen minutes through the city on foot. Several regular buses (including frequent bus 25 towards the university) run from the railway station to Castle Meadow.
- Stroll on through the market and past the Catholic cathedral to reach the Victorian Plantation Garden (£2 adult, under-16s free) in an old chalk quarry. It’s a hidden dell of flowers and fountains among Italianate terraces and winding wooded paths.
2. Ride the Wherry Lines
Several scenic branch lines radiate from Norwich across the Norfolk countryside to the coast.
- The Bittern Line runs north to the seaside towns of Cromer and Sheringham. Outside the window, you can watch miles of wild grassy meadows and windpump-studded waterways spool past dotted with all kinds of wildlife from herons and egrets to galloping deer.
- The Wherry Lines also head through the Broads and end on the Suffolk Coast at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. The River Waveney, along the Norfolk/Suffolk border winds back and forth near the railway line. Look out for the picturesque windmills on the Limpenhoe and Norton Marshes near Reedham station.
- These railways are packed with great places to get off and get closer to the unique wildlife of the Norfolk Broads. It’s a lovely walk from Buckenham (weekend request stop) or from Brundall to RSPB Strumpshaw Fen or from Oulton Broad North to the 1000 acres of the Carlton Marshes.
- You can download a booklet of Wherry Line walks, outlining a range of options: a couple of miles’ stroll from Buckenham to Brundall or a nine-mike hike around Haddiscoe station.
- There’s a Wherry Line Ranger ticket that lets you hop on and off all day if you want to explore. Berney Arms railway station, another weekend request stop, is beautifully isolated with no roads at all. The only way to reach it is by train or on foot. From here, you can walk to Great Yarmouth for tea by the sea. Our feature writer visited the coast nearby in Winter 2021 and wrote about it for the Guardian.