Summer in the city: Norwich offers secret gardens, mercantile history and a wealth of architecture

With its riverside setting, unexpected nooks and mediaeval crannies, Norwich is a perfect destination for a summer visit.

Starting from the station, a stroll to the oldest crossing over the Wensum River at Fye Bridge will take no more than half an hour. The leafy Riverside Walk offers rewarding views of the 14th-century defensive Cow Tower, the three-arched medieval Bishop Bridge and a ferry house and watergate, Pull's Ferry.

The soaring cathedral spire is best seen from here, the very place where the honey-coloured stone used in the construction of the cathedral arrived from Normandy on river barges in the early 12th century. It is said that men building the great cathedral refreshed themselves at the Adam and Eve pub (Bishopsgate; 01603 667423; adamandevenorwich.co.uk).

With a garden right on the river at Bishop Bridge, the nearby Red Lion (01603 620154) is more friendly.

Discovering the city's rickety byways, flint houses with sagging lintels and Gothic overhangs can best be started at film-set perfect Elm Hill, not far from Fye Bridge. If in need of refreshments, climb the narrow stairway at the back of the Briton's Arms Coffee House (9 Elm Hill; 01603 623367) to discover a charming overgrown garden where you can sit in a jasmine-scented bower to consume carrot cake and cappuccino.

In fact you could spend a happy day tracking down some of the city's other secret gardens. Crossing Fye Bridge you come to picturesque Colegate, lined with houses once occupied by merchants and weavers.

On the north side, the non-conformist Octagon Unitarian Chapel, built in 1756, has a delightfully deserted garden. Relax among the lavender and hollyhocks and examine the footpath composed of memorial tablets to long-lived dissenting worthies.

Secret even from Norwich residents until 1980 was a three-acre Victorian garden not far beyond the ancient city walls west of the city centre. Patient volunteers have been restoring the Plantation Garden (01603 621868; plantationgarden.co.uk) with its water-lily-filled Gothic fountain, mature copper beeches, serpentine paths and Italianate terrace built up the side of a mediaeval chalk pit turned secluded dell. Located behind the Beeches Hotel at 4 Earlham Road, the garden opens 9am-6pm daily. Admission is £2, to be deposited in a Victorian postbox that serves as an honesty box. Teas are served on summer Sunday afternoons or you can bring a picnic – possibly one you have ordered a day in advance from the Cherrytree Coffee House less than a 10-minute walk away at 50 St Giles Street (01603 699955). The café owner will prepare cream teas (£10 for two) or picnic lunches (£15 for two) to be enjoyed in a local park.

Another recent rediscovery is a unique timber-framed merchant's hall built on the riverside around 1430. Dragon Hall went unrecognised until the late 1970s, because the building had been sub- divided into shops, tenement housing and the Old Barge pub. Now restored to its original glory is the 88ft timber roof resembling an upside-down ship's hull with the eponymous dragon carved in a roof spandrel. The hall vividly demonstrates how rich and important the wool trade made Norwich in the Middle Ages. Dragon Hall is open daily except Saturdays, with a superb guided tour on Tuesdays at 2pm (115-123 King Street, 01603 663922; dragonhall.org); admission is £5.50.

More dragons can be spotted among the vigorous roof bosses of Norwich Cathedral. George slays a red-eyed fire-breathing dragon among more than 1,000 images carved at points where vaults intersect, most easily viewed in the cloisters.

Among the saints and Bible stories, pagan green men peek out from carved foliage, a fitting image to end a day of exploring the verdant corners of Norwich, river and city.

Three great days out

The Norfolk Broads

For a taste of the rare and precious wetland habitat of the Norfolk Broads, take a riverbus from Norwich station or hire a day cruiser from downstream to pilot yourself along the River Yare into a world of kingfishers, dragonflies and boat-potterers.

With luck, the river cruiser commentary will point out Charlie the resident cormorant, small vessels that helped evacuate Dunkirk and tell tales of river characters.

City Boats operate within Norwich and from its main base in Thorpe St Andrew three miles east of the centre (01603 701701; cityboats.co.uk). Out-of-town cruises last up to half a day (£12); eight-person picnic boats can be hired for between £40-£90 for two to eight hours.

Gressenhall farm and workhouse

The harsh conditions endured by the rural poor are hauntingly evoked at the Gressenhall Museum of Norfolk Life, 20 miles west of Norwich. The main building is an authentic 18th-century workhouse, and the extensive grounds contain a reconstructed blacksmith's workshop, school, laundry, and chapel. But it is the stories of particular residents told through press-button recordings, videos and displays that bring the whole place to life.

Riverside walks, a working farm with rare breeds, an adventure playground and a good courtyard café make it a great destination for families.

Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse, Gressenhall, Dereham NR20 4DT (01362 860563; museums.norfolk. gov.uk). Open daily 10am-5pm. Admission £8.40 adults, £6 children.

BeWILDerwood

Ten miles north-east of Norwich is a whimsical 50-acre family attraction aimed at children, though family members of all ages will enjoy this un-Disneyfied fantasyland of natural features.

Access is via BeWILDerboat (actually pensioned off Broadland ferries). Aerial walkways, rope tunnels and bridges connect painted treehouses, and pairs of zip-wires cry out for impromptu races.

The middle of the Mudlde Maze is endlessly elusive but there is no doubt which way to go on the near vertical-drop 70ft slide. Care for the environment is obvious at the food outlets which serve locally produced organic food.

BeWILDerwood, Horning Road, Hoveton, NR12 8JR (01603 783900; bewilderwood.co.uk). Open daily 10am-5.30pm. Admission £11.50; £7 for 3-4 year olds.

Suggested Topics
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players