Category Archives: In The Area

What’s going on in the local area

Dragon Hall, Pulls Ferry, and Cathedral Close (Norwich)

The first day of our holiday, it’s windy and raining (after a glorious summer), so what to do…

Norwich never disappoints, so on with the waterproofs, and look for something we’d not done before – which today was Dragon Hall.

Dragon Hall - Medieval Merchant's Hall

Dragon Hall – Medieval Merchant’s Hall

Now approached via a fairly nondescript residential and commercial street, this was a thriving trading area in the Middle Ages, situated beside riverside wharfs. The hall was ‘lost’ for many years after being divided into a terrace of houses, but was thankfully rediscovered rather than redeveloped in the late 1970s, and after urgent work to preserve the decaying structure in the 1980s, and full restoration in 2005/6, the hall has been restored to its former glory.

Unusually, the whole merchant hall was owned and operated by a single merchant (as opposed to a guild, as was normally the way) as a sign of his prosperity and financial security, in order to reassure trading partners. This was global import/export 1420s style, at a time when Norwich was the second city of England.

The hall is now open as a museum telling the story of Robert Toppes, the merchant who built the hall almost 600 years ago, as well as the story of the restoration of the hall.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s called Dragon Hall because of the dragon motifs uncovered in the roof beams during the 1970s survey, which were in turn inspired by the Norwich Snapdragon, a much-loved emblem of the city in the Middle Ages (see the Castle Museum for more information).

Dragon Motif in the Rafters

Dragon Motif in the Rafters

As we left Dragon Hall, the weather was brightening up, so we crossed the river by the pedestrian footbridge, walked through the new cinema and retail complex on the other side, before crossing once again into the cathedral grounds by Pulls Ferry. From the early 16th century until 1943, a ferry river crossing operated here, and until around 1820 when the bridge was built, it was the main river crossing in this part of the city. The name ‘Pulls’ comes from the ferry operator from 1796 to 1841.

The 15th century arch is believed to have been the entrance to a private canal, which was used to carry the stone for the construction of the cathedral. The stone was shipped from France, and the canal was used to link the short distance from the river to the cathedral site.

The arch, which has a small room over the top, is now the regional headquarters of the Girl Guides, but also opens as a tea room on weekend afternoons through the summer, offering tea and a cake for a very reasonable £1.50 for Girl Guide funds.

Pulls Ferry on the edge of the Cathedral Grounds

Pulls Ferry on the edge of the Cathedral Grounds

From Pulls Ferry, it’s a lovely walk up to the cathedral through the grounds. As well as the cathedral itself, you pass some lovely old buildings on the way through the cathedral close, originally built to house officials, clergy and even their horses…


Still Flying the Blue Flag…

Despite tougher standards this year, our nearest seaside towns have held on to their Blue Flag awards.  Cromer (below) and Sheringham have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag, while further afield, Hunstanton and East Runton have been awarded the new Seaside Award.

While not all of our ‘wild’ beaches share the same facilities (toilets, lifeguards, etc.) they do of course share the same clean water.

Bathers enjoying Cromer beach.

Bathers enjoying Cromer beach.


Hot on the heals of the Oscars, a bit of glitz has come to Cromer this week as Steve Coogan and crew film the final sequences of the upcoming “Alan Partridge” film.

Love him or hate him, Alan and his bufoonery have been livening up a distinctly chilly Cromer pier this week.

The crew are giving little away about the plot, but what is known is that after a police car chase from his adopted home town of Norwich, Alan takes refuge on the pier preparing for what looks like an armed stand-off with the police!

Norwich Cathedral

Before the Second World War, Norwich could boast a church for every week of the year, and a pub for every day. Whilst much of the city was blitzed in the Baedeker raids, there is still a lot of medieval Norwich to explore, with the jewel in the crown being the Cathedral.

Norwich Cathedral

Norwich Cathedral

Building work started in the 11th Century, and the first phase of building was complete by the end of the 12th Century.  Some of the wall painting survives from this first phase.

The spire was later destroyed by a hurricane in the 14th century, and the roof of the nave was burned down in a fire in the 15th century, so there is now a fascinating mix of architectural styles in the current building.

One final bizarre fact is that the lectern, modelled on a pelican no less, was buried in the bishop’s garden to survive the Reformation.  It was found by chance many years later, and restored to service.

The pelican lectern

The pelican lectern

You can find more pictures of the cathedral on our facebook page.

Seal Pups at Blakeney on Winterwatch (BBC2)

If you missed WinterWatch on BBC2 on on Tuesday, do take a look at the following link

Some stunning photography of Blakeney point, and some really cute footage of the newborn pups. With a record number of pups born on the point this year, it should be a fantastic year to take a boat trip.
Trips are even running now if you want to wrap up warm and see the pups, then warm-up in front of the fire!

Autumn Colours


Autumn Leaves, Oaktree Cottage

Autumn Leaves, Oaktree Cottage


It’s easy to get gloomy about the approach of winter as the nights start to draw in, but we still have a treat in store through October.  The trees around here are just starting to turn, and the early signs are that it’s going to be a good show this year.

We still have one October week, and one November week available, so book now before they’re gone…


BBC Countryfile comes from the North Norfolk coast tonight for their summer special.

Relive you holiday memories, see what you have to look forward to, or just wee what you’ve been missing!


Country tracks

I’m a self-confessed gadget boy.  I’m not a natural navigator, so when Sat-Nav came onto the consumer market I was definitely an “early adopter”.

The trouble is, it’s so easy to get into the habit of leaving it on the “fastest route” option, and end up getting funnelled onto the main roads – efficient, but not always pretty.

While I was on a week’s holiday in North Norfolk myself recently, I decided that I would still use the Sat-Nav (even though I knew where I was going) but to set it to “shortest distance”.  The routes were often rather winding and narrow, but took in some gorgeous lanes and villages that you wouldn’t normally stumble upon.

If you’re planning a visit to Oaktree Cottage, and you use Sat-Nav, give it a go and see what you discover!

Norfolk Diving

When you think of idylic locations for scuba-diving, the chances are that the North Norfolk wouldn’t be top of your list.  And if you’re looking for clear water and easy access, it would probably drop further down the list!

However, look a little deeper (no pun intended, honestly!), and you will find that there are a couple of hundred wrecks within 20 miles of the coast.  A gently sloping seabed means that the depth is still less than 40 metres 25 miles out, so all of those wrecks are within the reach of recreational divers.

Ship Wreck off the Norfolk Coast

Wreck of the SS Minorca – stands 7m from the seabed.

Why so many wrecks?  Well many are the casualties of the weather and treacherous sandbanks, but the majority are casualties of the two World Wars.  During the last war, part of Churchill’s war plan was to ship a two-year supply of coal into London to free up shipping for other tasks later in the war.  This allowed the Axis powers to use E-boats from the Dutch coast to pick off the merchant ships as they rounded the Norfolk coast.

Other interesting wrecks include two submarines (one from each war), several bombers, destroyers, and a paddle-steamer.

The marine life is pretty rich too – with all that plankton around there is an abundance of food, and of course some of the marine life is rather tasty!

Cromer Crab in its natural habitat.

A crab makes its home in a destroyer’s gun barrel.

If you’re plannig a diving trip to the area feel free to get in touch for advice, and if you’re looking for somewhere to stay then Oaktree Cottage is the ideal base.  We have a secure brick-built shed to keep kit safe, as well as an outside tap so you can wash it at the end of each day.