. "Very flat, Norfolk" is the terse comment awarded to this large county in East Anglia by Noel Coward in his play Private Lives, but in fact the land rises steadily from east to west, with an abrupt fall to the fenland bordering Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, while reaching its highest point (and that's only a few hundred feet) at Roman Camp at Sheringham.
. East of Norwich are the shallow waters of the Norfolk Broads, which resulted from medieval digging for peat.
Origin of name: Anglo-Saxon origin, meaning "the place of the North folk".
Name first recorded: 1043.
NORWICH A medieval treasure house, excellent museums - Bridewell, once a prison, houses rural crafts - tea rooms and theatre, and the perfect base to explore the surrounding countryside. Other towns:
BLAKENEY Attracts yachtsmen and women and has a lively quayside scene.
CLEY-NEXT-THE-SEA is actually inland from the sea. It has a fabulous windmill dating from 1713.
CROMER A classic Norfolk holiday town with a memorable end-of-pier show.
DOWNHAM MARKET Small market town awash with pubs and inns.
EAST DEREHAM is in poultry-rearing country and supplies some of the finest turkeys and geese for the Christmas market (Norfolk turkeys rings a bell?).
GREAT WITCHINGHAM Norfolk Wildlife Park founded by Philip Wayre in the grounds of his home.
GREAT YARMOUTH Great rival to Lowestoft over the Suffolk border. Don't miss the Britannia Pier.
KINGS LYNN Once called Bishops' Lynn, the town got its royal accolade because Henry Vlll confiscated the
bishops' land. St George's Guildhall houses a fascinating history of the town.
SWAPFHAM The lavish church in this market town is said to have been paid for by the so-called Pedlar of Swaffham (John Clapham) who, according to folklore, met a man who told him of a dream in which a treasure had been found in the Pedlar's garden. The Pedlar went home and found riches just as he had been told and built the north side of the church.
THETFORD Once the most important cathedral city in East Anglia. The priory's remains are still worth investigation. The Ancient House Museum shows off flint- knapping: shaping tiny flints for use as firearms, it was the capital of the Saxon kingdom of East Anglia.
WELLS-NEXT-THE-SEA A must for wildlife enthusiasts and walkers. Much of the land is National Trust property and there are seal colonies to see as well as plenty of rare waders.
. Attleborough . Diss . Fakenham . Hunstanton . North Walsham . Wymondham
Bure, Yare, Tas, Thet, Waveney, Little Ouse, Wissey, Nat, Ouse, Wensum, Burn, Stiffkey, Chet, Ant.
Roman Camp at Sheringham at 336 feet
. 1st Sunday in August: Blessing of the Broads amid the ruins of St Benet's Abbey at Horning.
. Whit Monday: Cromer Fair.
. July: lively street carnival in Cromer.
. Easter & Christmas: Norwich Fairs.
. 4th week in May: Norwich Carnival and Lord Mayor's Procession.
. 4th week in June: Royal Norfolk Show at New Costessey.
. July: Cottage Horticultural Society Flower Show at Sandringham Estate.
. 1st week in September: English Bowling Association Men's Open Tournament at Great Yarmouth.
. August: Regatta Week at Oulton Broad.
. August: Heacham Lavender Harvest, introduced by the Romans and now the centre of the lavender industry.
. Christmas Day: Sponsored Swim at Hunstanton.
. The county's most famous son. Lord Horatio Nelson, was born in the rectory at Burnham Thorpe.
. Fanny Burney was born at nearby King's Lynn six years earlier in 1752.
. Anna Sewell, author of Stock Beauty, was born in Great Yarmouth.
. Anne Boleyn's childhood home was at Blickling Hall, and the red-brick Jacobean building is said to be haunted by her ghost.
. The 17th-century Melton Constable Hall, now divided into several homes, was the setting for the film The Go- Between, with other scenes filmed at Norwich's Thorpe Station.
. Sandringham contains the country home of the Queen and is the birthplace of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The County of Norfolk has a two-tier local government system: Norfolk County Council and the seven district councils of Breckland, Broadland, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn & West Norfolk, North Norfolk, Norwich and South Norfolk.
DRIVE UP THE All, past expansive Thetford, and the minute you reach Norwich the change is quite dramatic. Norwich is one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of the kingdom. Absolutely enchanting. And its county of Norfolk is pure nostalgia - you feel miles and miles away . . . miles from anywhere, in a sense isolated as you sit out on England's eastern edge, but the ambience leaves you at peace and at one with the world.
One of the five largest cities in Norman England, the county and university town of Norwich grew out of a Saxon settlement set in a sweeping bend on th= Wensum river, and still displays evidence of its important role in history from the Middle Ages through to the Industrial Revolution. Its heart is dominated by the magnificent Norman castle and cathedral, the colourful central market and the soaring 200-foot clock tower of the imposing 1930s City Hall.. Local residents claim their city boasts a different church for each week of the year and a pub for every day, and each new vista appears to confirm it (although some of the churches now have a more secular purpose). Lately an important centre for corn, livestock, insurance, mustard and shoe manufacture, Norwich had 30,000 weavers in the 18th century when its textileindustry was at its height.
The export of woollen goods was also a major factor in the growth of King's Lynn during the 17th century, when it was the third major port in England. This charming town on the northeast coast has been largely rebuilt since the 1950s, but some of its former strong trading links with the Hanseatic empire are reflected in the architecture of the buildings surrounding the two market places and the country's oldest surviving guildhall, built in 1420.
The nearby Victorian resorts of Cromer and Sheringham no longer attract vast numbers of tourists, but midway round the coast, Great Yarmouth has kept its popularity, although the huge herring fleets and their associated industries, which gave us the renowned smoked 'Yarmouth Bloater', finally petered out in the 1930s, to be replaced by support facilities for the off-shore oil rigs and their workers. Inland, tourism and agriculture still bring a measure of prosperity to small country towns like Attleborough and Downham Market and to the boating centres of Wroxham, Ranworth, Potter Heigham and Horning on the Norfolk Broads which cater for visitors on the 10,000 craft negotiating these lovely navigable waterways.
In ancient times Stone Age people extracted flints from over 300 pits at Grimes Graves in the Breckland. The site became the centre for 'knapping' - breaking flints - an industry that continues to this day next door in Brandon, Suffolk. Later the region was dominated by the Iceni, the tribe led by Queen Boudicca, who unsuccessfully led her people against the Romans. Christianity was brought to East Anglia by St Felix in AD617, and by the time of the Domesday Book the region was the most heavily populated in Norman England. King John, travelling from Newark to King's Lynn shortly before his death in 1216, lost his baggage train and most of the contents of the royal exchequer while crossing the Wash.
Economic grievances in 1549 led to Kett's Rebellion, with some 20,000 discontented rebels led by Robert and William Kett of Wymondham (pronounced Windham) marching on London. However, the uprising was defeated and its ringleaders executed. During the Civil War much of the county supported the new parliament, but King's Lynn remained loyal to the crown, and Norwich was one of the first places to welcome King Charles 11 after the Restoration.