Category Archives: In The Area

What’s going on in the local area

Blues & Booze – North Norfolk Railway Beer Festival

The North Norfolk Railway’s summer season got under way this weekend, with their 11th annual beer festival.  The festival takes place on the platforms and carriages at the Sheringham station amongst the period station fixtures.

The bandwagon

The bandwagon – an open goods wagon does a great job as a stage

With a mixture of jazz, blues, punk, and rock playing on the stage, and locally-produced sausages and hog roast wafting from the catering carriage, the festival was already a welcome assault on the senses before getting to the beer tent.

In The Beer Tent

100+ beers, ciders, and perrys to choose from. Now which one next?

The beer tent offered over 100 beers, ciders, and perrys from around the UK, with a great selection from Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire.



Holt Festival 2012

Holt festival (four miles from Oaktree Cottage) in now in its fourth year, and is once again bigger and more varied than ever…

Holt Festival

Holt Festival - Last week in July

The ‘big names’ for this year include Alan Bennett, Mark Steel, Miriam Margoyles, Andrew Motion, and Courtney Pine, but there is a lot more depth to the festival than the headline acts.

There is also a parallel programme of events for children and teenagers, including workshops for music, craft, dance, and even fencing, all of which are free.

The free and fringe events include an arts trail, book readings, street performers, and even an ‘open mike’ comedy night.

Oaktree Cottage is an ideal base location for the festival – you can be in Holt in less than 15 minutes, but when you want to escape the bustle you can retire to the peace of the cottage.

We’ve been booked for the festival week for some time, but if you’d like to book for the last week of July 2013 the diary is now open!

Playing Soldiers!

It’s a cliche, I know, but these days there is so much to do in North Norfolk that there really is something for everyone.

By way of example, the Muckleburgh Collection just outside Weybourne is a perennial favourite of boys of all ages, and last weekend saw one of the collection’s Big Days with its Military Weekend.  The weekend saw scores of additional volunteers re-enacting scenes from both World Wars, as well as the usual tank demonstrations and exhibits.

The Muckleburgh Collection

The Muckleburgh Collection

The collection does, of course, have wider appeal than a collection of “boys’ toys”.  There has been a military camp on the site since the 16th century, when the main threat of invasion came from Spain, but the deep water just off shore has always made the site a candidate for invasion from the sea.  The collection charts the history of the site through the ages, as well as the social history of those who worked at the camp during the wars.

The main collection consists of 25 tanks, about a dozen armoured cars, and literally scores of guns, support vehicles, and staff cars, and not a ‘do not touch’ sign in sight!  The site has seen a major re-vamp this year, including a larger cafeteria, and a new viewing area.

If your holiday in the cottage coincides with somebody’s special occasion, you could even treat them to a tank driving experience.  Perfect for the man (or woman) who has everything!

Voewood – one of North Norfolk’s best kept secrets

As a child, I used to live in High Kelling, and go to school in Holt.  Every day I would be driven, or cycle, past the entrance to Voewood House, never knowing what was at the end of the drive.

Similarly, if you holiday in the area today, you are unlikely to pick up a leaflet, or see a poster in the Tourist Information office promoting the house.  However, by planning ahead, and booking on a tour, you can look round this magnificent but homely house.

The house was built at the start of the 20th Century at the height of the Arts & Crafts movement, and was built as a ‘butterfly house’ – with a central body and angled wings – to be bright and sunny at all times of the day.  The original budget was £12,000, but an uncompromising attention to detail meant that the final cost was around five times this amount!

As well as the pre-booked tours, the house can also be seen during the annual Summer Garden Party (23rd & 24th June this year) or the Voewood Festival (24th to 27th August) – tickets essential.  This year’s festival has an impressive line-up, including Billy Bragg and Antony Gormley.

For details of the house see Voewood House

For details of this year’s festival see Voewood Festival

More from the guestbook

One of my favourite parts of visting the cottage, is catching up with what our guests have been up to, by reading the guestbook.  You can find previous comments here – both to get another angle on things to do, and to see what others think of Oaktree Cottage.

Some especially heartening comments of late (unashamedly picking the ‘best bits’!)…

….We feel lucky to have found it from the many that are advertised…

…Couldn’t ask for more from a holiday cottage, and we’ve stayed in many…

…What a gem in North Norfolk…

Rainy Days…

We all hope for fine weather on our holidays, but even though Norfolk is one of the driest counties in Britain, the occasional wet day is unavoidable.  Or if you look at the last couple of weeks, inevitable!

So it’s good to know that there are plenty of rainy-day options if you’re staying in Oaktree Cottage.

If you just want to unwind, then you can light the stove, put on a CD or DVD, read a book from the bookshelves, or play one of the many board games from the cupboard.

Alternatively, if you want to get out and about whatever the weather, then Blickling, Felbrigg, or Holkham Halls have plenty to see inside, and if you catch a break in the showers, fantastic gardens too.

Norwich makes another good rainy-day choice, whether you want to indulge in a bit of retail therapy in the Royal Arcade (a Victorian take on indoor shopping malls) or Castle Mall (the modern counterpart), or enjoy a spot of culture and history in the Castle Museum.  The market towns of Aylsham and Fakenham are also worth a look – especially if you catch them on market day.

If you want to keep the kids busy, then you can bowl in Fakenham, or enjoy the tropical leisure pool (The Splash) in Sheringham.

If art is your thing, the galleries of Holt and Cromer could easily fill another wet day, and if you’re in Cromer, then the museum there is also an interesting way to pass a couple of hours, including some fascinating information on the Woolly Mammoth found not far away in the cliffs at West Runton.  Some of the fossilised bones are on display, and give a clue as to just how mammoth a mammoth was.

Or if you’re determined to get out and see wild Norfolk, Pensthorpe and Cley marshes both have hides which will let you stay dry, while looking out on the wildlife enjoying ‘good weather for ducks’!

So, although we hope you will have the weather to enjoy the summerhouse and garden furniture, at least if the weather does its worst, you’ll never struggle to find something to do.

So Much More to See and Do…

One of the most rewarding parts of running Oaktree Cottage is reading your comments in the Visitor’s Book.  One thing that crops up again and again though is that you just don’t have enough time to fit everything in, so when a recent ‘booker’ asked for some suggestions, I really had to think hard about what were the unmissable ‘best of the best’ attractions.

Of course some of this will depend on what you want out of a holiday, but it does come from an ex-local!

Houses and Gardens:
Blickling Hall – Fantastic Jacobean house (owned by the parents of Anne Boleyn), amazing formal gardens, and extensive parkland.  If you’re an NT member then this is probably the one for you.
Holkham Hall – Equally impressive, but in the starker Palladian style.  It is still owned and run by the Coke family who built it, and the deer park, lake, and bygone museum all add to a full day out.
Alternatives – Sandrinham, Felbrigg, Bressingham.

For expansive sandy beaches, with dunes and woods to explore, then Wells and Holkham are hard to beat.  Wells was used for the aerial shots at the start of Kingdom, and Holkham for the closing scene of Shakespare In Love.
If the wind is from the east, then Hunstanton is the place to go (as if faces west), or to escape the crowds then Weybourne, Salthouse, Cley, or Kelling fit the bill nicely.

Norfolk Broads
Three suggestions here:
i) Park at the Bure Valley Railway in Aylsham, and join a Boat Train trip.  You will be pulled by narrow-gauge steam train along the Bure river valley to Wroxham, where there is a 10 minute walk to your Broads Cruise boat.  Leave enough time to explore Wroxham before your return trip to experience Roys of Wroxham – the largest ‘village store’ in the world.
ii) Make you way to Wroxham by road or rail, and hire a self-drive boat for the day, and explore the Broads at your own pace.  Don’t forget your picnic!
iii) Explore some of the quieter and wilder parts of the broads, either on foot or by canoe.  Ranworth Broad nature reserve, the Barton Broad Boardwalk, or a guided canoe trip from The Canoe Man are all options.

Again, you could easily spend more than a day, but don’t miss the Cathedral, Tombland (the area around the cathedral gates), Elm Hill, Bridewell Alley musesum, the Castle museum, or the Royal Arcade (the Victorian’s take on the shopping mall)

Seal Trip & Coastal Villages
Plan you day around the tides, as the seal trips operate for a few hours around high-tide.  Before or after your seal trip from Morston, explore the villages from Wells to Weybourne.  Wells and Blakeney are the busiest towns with shops ranging from bucket & spade emporiums to studio/art galleries.  Frenches chippie in Wells is one of the best in the region, and the fresh fish stall in the harbour car park takes some beating too.  Other highlights along this stretch include the North Norfolk Wildlife Trust centre / café at Cley which has fantastic views out over the marshes.  There is also a remote controlled camera (in the old visitors centre behind) as well as telescopes, so you can see close-up what’s happening out on the marsh.
If you like antiques or interior décor, then stop off at the lamp shop in Stiffkey – you’ll not find a wider range of vintage or antique lighting anywhere.
Finally Weybourne is great for a stroll along the cliff top or beach.  If you set off along the cliffs heading away from the car park for about 20-30 minutes, the cliffs come back down to beach level, so you can return along the beach.

For the Family
While all of the above have interest for all ages, a day at Bewilderwood, the Dinosaur Adventure Park, Wroxham Barns, or Amazona Zoo would certainly make for a great day out for younger visitors.  Again you won’t get the all done in a day, so you’ll have to take your pick!

For the ‘Older Childen’
OK – maybe more for the boys (of all ages!).
The North Norfolk Railway is in my mind the best of the local heritage railways.  All stations are open to look around, with Sheringham and Weybourne providing the most interest.  The foot bridge over the track at Weybourne is a great spot for taking photos too.

The Muckleburgh Collection at Weybourne has one of the biggest collections of vintage military vehicles in the UK, and also runs tank demonstrations through the main holiday season.

Finally, the Thursford Collection has a good collection of steam engines, musical organs (with regular Wurlitzer demonstrations), and fairground rides.


You will find plenty of other suggestions on our website, but I think that once you start looking, your challenge (like mine) will be to prioritise your ‘best of the best’, rather than scratching round for things to do…

Tell us if we’ve missed your favourite!

New Year Late Availabilty Cottage Break in Norfolk

If you are looking for somewhere cosy to celebrate New Year with freinds or family, we still have availability…

Take a short break (30th December to 2nd Jan) for cosy nights by the fire and the chance to enjoy Holt Christmas lights, or a full week if you’d like to check out the sales in Norwich and the local towns and villages…

Sorry – New Year now booked…  Book now for next year !!!

New Year Cottage Break

Oaktree Cottage Reflected in a Bauble

Holt Christmas Lights

The fourth Wednesday of November each year sees Holt transformed…

Thousands of white fairy lights draped over the Georgian buildings pick out the windows and roof lines, turning the town into a winter wonderland.

If you are able to make the switching on ceremony then you will be able to enjoy street entertainment, food, and late-night opening of the shops.  But even if you miss the first night, make sure that you pop into Holt as it’s going dark, and take in the lights.

Christmas Lights in Holt Norfolk

Holt Christmas Lights

Too early to be thinking about Christmas..?

…well not necessarily if you want to make the most of the festivities, and plan a break to get into the Christmas spirit.

Oaktree Cottage is already booked for the week of Christmas, but there is plenty more going on through November and December to provide a good dose of seasonal cheer.

The Thursford Spectacular, now amazingly in its 34th year, still has a few dates available.  More than 130,000 people make the trip every year (including a certain William and Kate last year) so if you would like to join them, time to buy your ticket is running out.  The show opens on 9th November, and runs through until 23rd December.

Later in November (23rd), the switch-on of the Holt Christmas lights is another event not to be missed.  If you have visited Holt, you will know how attractive the Georgian buildings are – but through December, the outline of the gables and windows is picked out in thousands of tiny white fairy lights.  Last year the lights were turned on by Jake Humphries of BBC F1 fame.
To celebrate the switch-on, Holt is turned into something of a festive fair for the evening, with many of the shops serving festive nibbles and drinks, and with reindeer providing sleigh rides!  I’ve seen the lights of Oxford Street and the West End of London many times now, but still think the lights of Holt have a charm that they just can’t compete with.

Also in late November (25th to 27th) you can beat the Royals to their Christmas at Sandringham by visiting the Sandringham Food, Craft and Country Gift fair at the Sandringham estate.  It certainly beats the scrum on the high streets for a bit of quality shopping!

By early December things are in full swing – with the following being some of the highlights:

If you want some hands-on fun, then Sheringham Park is running a Twelve Days of Christmas event on 3rd December, where you can hear the origins of many of our Christmas traditions, and come away with a wreath or yule log that you have made.

At Blickling Hall (see Houses and Gardens) the hall is decorated for Christmas and open 3rd/4th, 10th/11th, and 17th/18th December.  The gardens are lit with Christmas lights, and festive entertainment is laid on.

Felbrigg Hall also joins with the festivities for the weekend of 16th to 18th December, with characters from the past adding to the atmosphere.  On 18th you can join in with carols in the courtyard.

The Christmas Seaside Special on Cromer Pier (Pier of the Year 2011, incidentally) starts on 3rd December, and runs through to New Year’s Eve.

Finally, for kids of all ages, there are Santa Specials running on the local steam railways (See Rail & Steam attractions).
The North Norfolk Railway is running services 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 17th, 18th, and 20th-24th December
The Bure Valley service runs on 26th and 27th November, and 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, and 17th to 24th December.

So, if you fancy something a bit different this year, why not check our availability and book a break with us? Enjoy as much festivity as you can handle, then sit back and relax in front of the fire!