Norwich in 2022
More photos here

Tuesday 19th

After my first visit to Norwich in 2017 the subsequent visits -  in 2019 and 2020 -  became something of a microcosm of the Covid experience. Eat Out to Help Out was the thing in 2019, which proved to be a big mistake, and no little contributor to the subsequent resurgence and need for more lockdowns that year and into 2020, which we were tentatively emerging from when we visited Norwich that summer, and were still experiencing restrictions and suffered from the pingdemic. This year I'm here on my own for a short spring break, with encouragement added by a sudden obsession with tracing my family back, and having found that the original 19th-century Cottons came to Shoreditch from Norwich, bringing their shoemaking skills with them.

The 11.00 train from Liverpool Street was empty and 12 carriages long, with no children or smelly food eaters in my carriage the whole journey. The habitual why-no-fruitcake conversation was had with the refreshments trolley person, and the Victoria sponge alternative was made do with. I got to the Premier Inn 1.00ish, and as the check-in time is now after 3.00 I was prepared to leave my bag, but was able to check in and settle in to my superior Premier Plus room, before heading off for some initial church visiting, eating a Pret cheese toastie, checking out some churches, finding one churchyard cat, buying a cinnamon donut, three books on Norwich and a very tasteful big mug, and returning to my room for tea and cake and a snooze. Norwich was populated, but not overly or underly so, as it had been during the between-lockdown days, the sun was out and the cathedral and its close were full of spring blossom, daffs and stuff.

In the evening I walked along the river and then over it to explore crannies and find the flinty churches where some of  my 18th-century relations were baptised, married and buried. I'm appreciating these churches more for realising that not finding them open means I can more admire their handsome outside, and the inside will probably be a bit plain anyway and will certainly have no frescoes to speak of. Very few people about, which suited my need to wander lonely.





Wednesday 20th
The breakfast at the Premier Inn is back to buffet, after the Covid-period table service. The continental breakfast is still fine, if not unusual. The croissants were good and fresh. The coffee machine being broken was a bit of a blow, but the instant alternative was acceptable, I quietly confess.

A morning of favourites. To the Rosary Cemetery first, with the spring sunshine, birdsong and complete lack of fellow visitors making for a fine uplifting wander. To the cathedral after, of course, also sunlit and sparsely populated, followed by toastie lunch and a little light book and bun buying. On the way back to the hotel I finally got to sample the gelateria near the castle. Sometimes you choose flavours and sometimes flavours choose you - coconut and hot cross bun! And no disappointment.

Out in the evening over the river again and further into the area where my shoemaking ancestors worked, it would seem, and got christened, married and buried, a lot of them at St Mary Coslany and St Martin at Oak. One is now a book warehouse and the other a music study centre. Both got their photos took in the spring evening sunshine. Back to the hotel for a restaurant booking, made due to the temptation of the vegan Filled Yorkie - veggie sausages, gravy, mash and peas, served up in a large Yorkshire pudding. As a big fan of the Yorkshire pudding back in my meat-eating early years I was keen to revisit a childhood Sunday treat, and was not disappointed.

Thursday 21st
To Great Yarmouth today, to visit the huge Minster church of St Nicholas and also Great Yarmouth's cemetery, which is handily attached to the churchyard. The train from Norwich takes only a little over half an hour, so I was soon making for the church, the streets surrounding which were full of funfair rides. I obviously said the right thing mentioning this to the attendants in the church as they were much discommoded by it washing up to the church, this situation evidently being caused by the market square where the fair usually takes place being redeveloped. The church sure is big - the guide inside, who wrote the book, put it down to excess wealth. The man in the traditional sweet shop I patronised later (for raspberry ruffles) thought that the Bishop of Norwich, Herbert de Losinga, who built St Nicholas in 1101, must have had some major sins to expiate, which got us onto the subject of Jimmy Saville, but enough of that...the cemetery - I concentrated on the older half, and found it lawny and well kept, comparatively, with no big mausoleums, but some nice stones and monuments and vistas.

I then headed towards the centre of town for some lunch. There being no Pret I found myself in a large cafe on the way down to the seafront, which served toasties but was so retro they didn't even offer non-white bread, and only had non-artisanal crisps. But trad can be good, so I also had a stroll along the pier, admired the donkeys, and got myself a vanilla ice cream in a wafer cornet on the way back to the train.

An evening visit to the Cathedral was a solitary joy, followed by a wander in town and then booking myself into the hotel restaurant for 7.00 on my return. I had the veggie burger and skin-on chips this time with, I kid you not, cream soda - another trip down memory lane after last night's Yorkshire pudding.

Friday 22nd
Dithering between a last morning in Norwich and getting home before lunch I finally decided on the latter, caught the 9.30 and was home
soon after 12.00. Getting myself a coffee and a Kit Kat on the train I had to wait for the two blokes ahead of me to get served with many cans of beer, 40-odd quids worth, at just gone 10.00am. It turned out they were part of a stag party, but that's no excuse, I hope you'll agree. The why-no-fruitcake conversation was had again, with the woman serving admitting to many people asking and complaining - and so not just me - one only yesterday.



Norwich in 2022
2: September
More photos here

Monday 5th
The 11.30 train to Norwich, and the first class option being pretty cheap when I booked, made for a comfy start to my second trip to Norwich this year, with Jane this time, to make up (a little) for having to cancel our trip to Florence booked for this week. My new-found forebears from Norwich provided extra encouragement, although this will be leading to more focused attention to churches and finding of streets and ex-factories, rather than visits to the record office, yet.

No complimentary trolley service, disappointingly, but the buffet woman asked if I had a first class ticket and so the beverages were free, but not the Victoria sponge slice and packet of Mini Cheddars, disappointingly. In Norwich we left our bags at the hotel, it being 1.30 and check-in being after 3.00, we headed into town, for Pret toasties, a reacquaintance with the scene, and a cake from The Bread Sauce stall, which was anticipated as being a cinnamon bun, but they've started doing Chelsea buns - even better! After check in it was time for tea and said bun, and a siesta.

In the evening Jane went into town to meet some colleagues and I headed along the river, to the back entrance of the cathedral grounds, and into the cathedral, where evensong was on, so apart from the pews under the crossing and the choir, inhabited by the choir and congregation, all was emptiness and divine singing. Bliss! I then wandered around the cathedral perimeter a bit, headed back to the hotel, met Jane, and we had dinner, for me a Yorkie with veggie sausages and a pint of Ghost Ship ale.

Tuesday 6th
As it was overcast (but not cold) today we decided to head off to the seaside - Great Yarmouth. A Google search will tell you that the journey by train takes an hour, but that confusingly includes a (very slow) walk from the station to the beach, presumably. In fact the train takes half an hour, and the walk from the station to the Minster church of St Nicholas (see above) with its attached cemeteries, old and new, took about ten minutes. Talking to a helpful attendant and mentioning my current genealogical obsession leading me to Norwich, and Great Yarmouth, he scared up a booklet listing all the remaining stones from burials in the churchyard, but not in alphabetical order. He offered to scan through the pages looking for Cottons but I advised against that until I'd collected together the names of the actual relations, mostly Cottons, I'm looking for.

We then headed off through the somewhat parched cemeteries, the legacy of an exceptionally hot summer, what with Global Warming and all, discovering that the new half is not much newer than the old half, being still full of Victorians, just slightly younger ones. From the cemeteries we headed towards the sea, and the canal-like string of boating lakes which get compared to Venice, of course, hence the characteristic Venetian thatched-roofed cafe. After a bracing stroll along the beach, and in the sea for one of us, we came across an oddly sophisto beach cafe where we had lunch: a halloumi stack (burger) and fish fingers in a ciabatta. The cafe's pushy but cute little dog wore a fetching bandana with the words Please Do Not Feed Me on it. After lunch we watched some bowls and headed into the centre of town and to the station. At Norwich station I picked up a pre-packed slice thing called a Sultana & Cinnamon Sensation, which didn't quite live up to its billing, and we returned to the hotel for afternoon tea
and a snooze.

The evening walk along the river reached the picturesque and ruin-full old university buildings.

Wednesday 7th
This morning Jane went to the Sainsbury Gallery and I went to the Rosary Cemetery, as I always do. There I found an abandoned new-ish bike, but there was no one to report it to. Many parched-grass photos were taken, though, which is a fashionable look for cemeteries this summer. Then to the Cathedral, which wasn't empty, but wasn't full, and it was a treat that, post-Covid, the treasury had reopened with its impressive wall paintings. Afterwards the Crypt Gallery next door had an exhibition of rather good photographs taken in Norfolk churches. The poster outside used the adjective 'quirky' which was a bit off-putting, but that turned out to be a reference to the photograph of the tomb inscription of Bridgett Applewhaite, which truly deserves the description. One of the photographers was on hand, so I was able to find out where to find this inscription - a church in Bramfield, and also to discuss a very odd-looking church, supposedly based on an Italian model but, we agreed, it was like no Italian church we'd ever seen. It's called St Mary, Burgh St Peter

I then made for St Peter Mancroft, a city-centre church I always find closed, but this time it was open! Unfortunately Ravel's Bolero was playing distractingly loudly, so I told the nice lady attendants I'd come back later, and they apologised, saying it was the music for an upcoming funeral. We agreed at this choice being more than a trifle bizarre. After buying a jar of lime and coconut marmalade, some Norfolk Tea Co. Vanilla Rooibos teabags, and a cinnamon bun, in a shop up the road towards the RC cathedral, I did in fact return to St Peter Mancroft, to admire it's airy bigness and a nice medieval stained glass panel in its treasures gallery. A Pret cheese toastie was lunch, with a coconut gelato after, some bookshop browsing, and a stop off at the cathedral shop to buy a slab of Bishops Lynn fruit cake, a bag of coconut ice, and a bar of orange and rhubarb flavour chocolate. A morning a little heavy on the nibbles, maybe.

In the evening, after the rain had stopped, we casually strolled into town, to the Pizza Express.

Thursday 8th
Having a bit of time before our train we went for a last look and shop in the cathedral - a 2023 Norwich calendar, some biscuits and a Shire Library book about Victorian cemeteries, but we drew the line at buying Christmas cards in September. Our train was delayed by a swan, which may have got under the train as we pulled out of Norwich, so the driver had to stop and walk the length of the train to check underneath. My experiences with large white birds this year means my sympathies were a bit tried, but I've never had an ice cream stolen by a swan, I suppose. No further mishaps followed.





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