Norfolk people: The Earl of Leicester
THE Cokes have been at Holkham since the 17th century and the 1st Earl of Leicester built the magnificent Palladian edifice, with its awe-inspiring marble hall, in the mid 18th century. The present Earl’s ancestor, Coke of Norfolk, who inherited Holkham in 1776, combined farming innovation with renowned hospitality, his three-day ‘shearings’ the talk of the country. The innovative agriculturalist would be pleased that the house is still at the centre of a thriving 25,000-acre estate. Enterprises include a holiday park, several shops and the internationally acclaimed hotel, The Victoria Inn. The Countess of Leicester is active in bringing events to the house, such as the special Christmas candlelit tours and carols with opera singers.
I enjoyed a day’s shooting there, the keepers in their bowler hats, and we relished lunch in the frescoed Temple. We parked by the newly restored fountain whose recently revived, joyous jets of water symbolise the estate’s renaissance started under the present Earl’s father (01328 710227; www.holkham.co.uk).
I asked the present Earl (below) for his recommendations for enjoying the county:
What do you long for when you’re away? A run along Holkham beach with the dogs into the sunset What’s your favourite Norfolk place? I cycle a lot. There are so many wonderful back roads with very few cars from where you can see our coastal views, our hills (yes, we have them in north Norfolk) or the vast expanses of the Brecks
Where would you have a picnic and what would you eat?
I have an old crab boat at Burnham Overy Staithe, where you can chug or sail out to sea or beach yourself at Gunn Hill or Scolt Head island. We’d have crab sandwiches with home-grown radishes and spring onions and a cold roast woodcock or wild English partridge
What piece of advice would you like to give a visitor to the county?
Park your car, throw away the keys and get on your bike!