Hot Spot: Norwich, Norfolk

With Delia now behind the local football team, things are really cooking in this East Anglian city, says Robert Liebman
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The Independent Online

Norfolk's cathedral city has been cooking up schemes to update its image, and the progression from Julian of Norwich to Delia of Norwich City shows the extent to which the transformation has been realised. In the 14th century, a Norwich mystic endured what she called "showings" but what appeared to be a nervous breakdown. When she chronicled her experiences in The Revelation of Divine Love, she was the first woman to write a book in English. Later, she became a hermit at St Julian's Church, where she obtained her moniker.

Norfolk's cathedral city has been cooking up schemes to update its image, and the progression from Julian of Norwich to Delia of Norwich City shows the extent to which the transformation has been realised. In the 14th century, a Norwich mystic endured what she called "showings" but what appeared to be a nervous breakdown. When she chronicled her experiences in The Revelation of Divine Love, she was the first woman to write a book in English. Later, she became a hermit at St Julian's Church, where she obtained her moniker.

Delia of Norwich City values self-indulgence over abstemiousness, now preferring the company of footballers to the rewards of the kitchen. Even if the celebrity chef does not totally renounce the culinary world in favour of Norwich City FC, her head, heart and bank account are with Carrow Road.

The city has itself had an about-face. "A major £40 million re-development programme has created new homes, cafes, bars and a leisure complex alongside the river," says James Hopkins, whose has several developments under his belt. "Until recently, the run-down areas of Norwich, particularly the stretch of land along the riverside, had been left untouched."

The city's blossoming has been evident to Chris Delahunty, who went to university in Wales and settled in Norwich instead of his native Thetford. "In my seven years here, this city has changed for the better. It was a typical provincial city, not really exciting and with nowhere to go in the evening. Now it has more night life and shops. Young people head for Riverside, which has a 14-screen cinema, clubs, restaurants, and houses."

Chris, his partner Cornelia and two-year-old daughter Mia live in a two-bedroom Victorian terrace in Lakenham. "It is a 10-minute walk to Riverside, to work, and to the football ground. Delia Smith turned around the football club. She is a local hero."

Compact cities offer rustic as well as urban amenities, says Chris, a marketing manager for Virgin Money. "Norwich itself is easy to get around, has a lot of parks and is near the countryside." He singles out the new glass-enclosed Forum, "a fantastic massive library with a coffee shop and pizza restaurant. I take my daughter there to read and play." Norwich has been good to Chris in another, crucial way: "I paid £40,000 four years ago, and similar but smaller houses to ours are now selling for £120,000."

The low down

Go Dutch

Cambridge is 75 minutes by train; London, 100. Norwich airport has four flights daily to Amsterdam, and direct flights to Paris, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow and Humberside.

Hit the (medieval) streets

Sights include the cathedral, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery and 32 medieval churches, nine of which are still in use. Bombs nearly obliterated St Julian's church in 1942, but it was rebuilt in 1953.

To market

Castle Mall has department stores, supermarkets and eateries inside a majestic glass gallery. The outdoor covered market operates six days a week. Gentleman's Walk offers pedestrianised shopping near the Jarrold department store, which has served the city since 1823.

Keep active

Norwich has several golf courses, tennis clubs and leisure, health and fitness centres. The Norfolk County Cricket Club is in nearby Trowse.

Show time

Norwich hosts the Royal Norfolk Show in late June/early July, the Lord Mayor's Street Procession in July, and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (concerts, recitals and cabaret) in October, when a beer festival is also held.

Time out

Norwich has two multiplex cinemas and the arthouse Cinema City. Venues for drama, concerts and recitals abound, including the Theatre Royal, Norwich Playhouse, Norwich Arts Centre, Puppet Theatre, The Maddermarket, Sewell Barn Theatre and the University of East Anglia.

First-time buyers

Prices start from £50,000 for one-bed, and £65,000 for two-bed flats. Three-bed former-council houses or properties requiring renovating are available for about £70,000.

New to view

Estate agents Edward Watson are selling city-centre and Riverside flats, houses and townhouses by developers including Oakwood, Derek Ingram, Hopkins and Alcor, from £127,500 for a three-bed townhouse (large flats can be more expensive than small houses). Three units remain in Crown Park Gardens, a Hopkins development of four- and five-bed houses, £320,000 to £350,000; agents are FPDSavills.

Rustic charms

Outside Norwich, the three-bed, double-height Old Hall Barn in East Tuddenham is £595,000 at Brown & Co; the four-bed Old Granary is £395,000 at Jackson-Stops; and the five-bed Monks Barn is £400,000 at Strutt & Parker.

Stately piles

Two flats (£375,000 and £475,000) are available in Whitlingham Hall, the former residence of the Colman mustard family and noted for its massive conservatory; agent is Jackson-Stops. Little Hautbois Hall is a listed Elizabethan pile on 22 acres outside Norwich, $875,000; agent is FPDSavills.

Estate agents

Abbotts Country Houses, 01603 616898; Brown & Co, 01603 629871; Edwin Watson, 01603 619916; FPDSavills, 01603 229248; Jackson-Stops, 01603 612333; Strutt & Parker, 01603 617431.

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