Wish you were here - We explore the hidden gems of south Norfolk
ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434
Studded with ancient villages and bustling market towns, south Norfolk has plenty to offer. Reporter Stuart Anderson spent a day discovering the hidden gems of the county’s southern reaches.
100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum, Thorpe Abbotts
It can be hard to believe this site was once home to around 3,000 airmen and ground crew.
The museum is housed in a former aircraft control tower from where US Air Force B-17s were co-ordinated in the final years of the Second World War.
Today you can read stories of individual airmen and pay tribute to those who lost their lives at a memorial.
There are also dozens of items used by air crew on display - don’t miss the jacket which saved the life of Captain Joe Orendorff after a piece of flak hit him just above the heart.
Burston Strike School, Burston
Surely one of Norfolk’s quirkiest museums, the former school was the site of the longest strike in Britain’s history - 25 years, starting in 1914.
The dispute started when the school’s two teachers - husband and wife Annie and Tom Higdon - were sacked after a disagreement with the management committee.
Pupils refused to go to class and instead attended an alternative school set up by the Higdons on the village green, only stopping after Mr Higdon’s death in 1939.
Today there are displays on how the strike developed and village life in the era.
The English Whisky Company, Roudham
Whiskies from around the world as well those made right here in Norfolk are on offer at this spot, formerly known as St George’s Distillery.
Single malt drops are concocted from pure Breckland aquifer water and world-renown barley grown in Nelson’s County.
It is then aged in fine oak casks, imported especially from America for the purpose.
Tours and tastings take place daily, and if you are feeling a little tipsy afterwards, you can amble it off along the lovely river Thet.
There is a cafe, shop and a new restaurant is currently being built.
Redgrave and Lopham Fen, near Diss
Straddling the Norfolk/Suffolk border just a hop away from Diss is this verdant natural wonderland, a so-called ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’.
At 127 hectares it is England’s largest river valley fen and a haven for wildlife including otters, Chinese water deer and 27 species of butterfly.
It is also one of only three places in the UK to see the fen raft spider, which spreads out its legs to float on the water.
There are five separate walking trails including a ‘woodland trail’, ‘Lopham loop’ and a ‘spider trail’.
Dogs on leads are welcome.
Grimes’s Graves, Lynford
Mind-boggling as it is, folk were going down these mines to dig up flint 5,000 years ago.
The crystalline rock was used for everything from axe heads to houses and was one of Norfolk’s very first export industries.
There is a small museum which looks at the lives of the Neolithic miners and how they worked, and you can access a small pit by ladder and explore at your leisure.
Another pit, Greenwell’s, was just opened to visitors earlier this year, and this can be seen on guided group tours after descending by a winch-and-harness system.
Above ground, the area’s lunar landscape is fascinating in itself, dappled with depressions and usually filled with bird song.
The Green Dragon, Wymondham
Just around the corner from the historic Wymondham Abbey is another sacred institution, the 14th century Green Dragon pub.
It is a true ‘locals’ pub’ which hosts regular meetings for all kinds of groups from the Wymondham Ukelele Club to the town’s Rotary group.
There is also a biannual beer festival and regular live music events.
In the winter months there is no cosier place than tucked away in one of the pub’s nooks and crannies or by the fireplace, but at this time of year the best seats are in the tranquil beer garden.
Watch out for the scorch marks on the door - they are said to date back to the great fire of Wymondham in 1615.
Can you recommend a little-known gem in south Norfolk? Email Stuart Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org