Seven spe­cial beaches

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - Do you re­mem­ber these Nor­folk at­trac­tions? What gems have we missed? Share your mem­o­ries and pho­to­graphs with us at nor­folk­ma­glet­[email protected]

We look at some of the qui­eter stretches of the coast


There is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion for the most bizarre by­gone at­trac­tion and this one is well in the run­ning for ran­dom­ness – and sheer bril­liance.

A show made up en­tirely of foun­tains spurt­ing to dif­fer­ent heights and lit in an ev­er­chang­ing rain­bow of coloured lights. Tick.

Small taxi­dermy spec­i­mens in fancy dress, posed in house­hold scenes. Tick.

A range of at­trac­tions, each manned by the same cou­ple, and open on ro­ta­tion with

They call it mak­ing mem­o­ries to­day, but we didn’t use to have to work at do­ing mem­o­rable stuff - it just kind of hap­pened. And for­get the sepia tinge too. Days out were luridly colour­ful, writes ROWAN MANTELL

the op­er­a­tives, pur­sued by the cus­tomers, head­ing from train to merry-go-round to mock vil­lage school­room with pup­pet show, to hel­ter-skel­ter to waltzer. Tick. An olde-worlde saw mill. Tick. Tableaux of strange Nor­folk stuff in­clud­ing a gi­ant. Tick.

A haunted con­ser­va­tory. Yes, a haunted con­ser­va­tory. Tick.

Of all the mag­nif­i­cent at­trac­tions, and there were many, of supreme mag­nif­i­cence, this was my ab­so­lute favourite. Think Al­ton Tower’s Hex, but with the hi-tech spe­cial ef­fects re­placed by a cou­ple of sway­ing benches and a bar­rel-like room, which is then wound, by hand, around the ‘rid­ers’ on the benches so that the walls, floor and ceil­ing ro­tate. Tinies were ut­terly, ut­terly con­vinced it was a white-knuckle up­side-down ride. I was a lit­tle bit con­vinced. This was a gen­uine Vic­to­rian piece of fair­ground fun and long af­ter the

By­gone Vil­lage was closed and its amaz­ing at­trac­tions auc­tioned off, the joy of that haunted con­ser­va­tory con­tin­ues to haunt me.


It was the only place in Eng­land with a 40 me­tre long, two storey high me­dia wall. And a 180° pro­jected panorama film. This was the year 2001, the start of a new mil­len­nium, in the build­ing which only just es­caped be­ing called the Tech­nop­o­lis. In fact Origins did im­press me much. It was the vis­i­tor at­trac­tion part of Nor­wich’s Fo­rum build­ing, all in­ter­ac­tive and tech­no­log­i­cal at a time when such things were still awe­some. My 11-year-old daugh­ter asked for a sea­son ticket for her birth­day. And af­ter play­ing the ma­chines to take a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery through the ram­pages of Ro­mans and Vik­ings, the drain­ing Dutch, and much more his­tory, each visit ended with a ridicu­lously up­lift­ing film swoop­ing over the county’s loveli­est land­scapes, ar­chi­tec­ture and coast. It closed less than 10 years later, but lives on in my heart.


I have fond mem­o­ries of the di­shev­elled huts and hairy man­nequins which may, or may not, have been typ­i­cal of the an­cient and no­ble Iceni tribe – who may, or may not, have lived on land on the Cock­ley Cley Hall es­tate near Swaffham.

By the time it closed in 2014 the mock vil­lage was a mocked vil­lage, but I used to visit in the late 1980s, when I worked in Swaffham, and en­joyed the ran­dom na­ture of this vis­i­tor at­trac­tion. As well as the Iceni vil­lage and vil­lagers there was a barn with horse-drawn car­riages and fiendishly com­pli­cated 19th cen­tury farm ma­chin­ery, and the site in­cluded some na­ture-y bits and a Nor­man church, which may, or may not, have been built on the site of a Ro­man tem­ple.


Hand­some Hun­stan­ton Pier, com­plete with its own zoo and minia­ture steam rail­way, once stretched more than 800 feet out into the sea. The name still ex­ists as a seafront fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre, but the pier it­self has gone, de­stroyed by storm and fire.

The Vic­to­rian marvel opened on Easter Sun­day 1870 and by 1882 hol­i­day­mak­ers could take a pad­dle steamer across the Wash from the end of Hun­stan­ton Pier to the new Skeg­ness Pier.

A pavil­ion was added in the 1890s and the pier was con­sid­ered by many to be the finest in East Anglia. The last of the Eal­ing come­dies, Bar­na­cle

Bill, was filmed here in 1957, star­ring Alec Guin­ness. But 21 years af­ter its big-screen role most of the pier was de­stroyed in a storm. Then in 2002 a fire ripped through the re­main­ing shore­ward sec­tions.

For now Hun­stan­ton has a pier in name only, but there are many who would love to be able to tread the boards out to sea once again.


A lot of places claim to be the Venice of the north, al­though you rarely hear the peo­ple of La Serenis­sima de­scrib­ing their breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful city as the Birm­ing­ham of the east.

How­ever, Great Yar­mouth has its own Vene­tian-style canals – which were not only the height of mid-cen­tury hol­i­day so­phis­ti­ca­tion, but are also be­ing re­stored and re­opened.

From the late 1920s peo­ple would glide along ser­pen­tine canals through the pretty gar­dens of the seafront Or­na­men­tal Gar­den, Vene­tian Wa­ter­ways and Boat­ing Lake.

The at­trac­tion, dug and land­scaped as part of a post First World War job cre­ation scheme, in­cluded twist­ing chan­nels, a lake, bridges, thatched shel­ters and rock­eries.

At first the wa­ter­ways were filled with sea wa­ter, but in the win­ter of 1929 they were re­filled with fresh wa­ter, to al­low the canals to freeze over. Plea­sure seek­ers en­joyed row­ing boats and ped­aloes each sum­mer and ice skat­ing in the win­ter.

By the 1930s there were il­lu­mi­na­tions at night and a model of HMS Nel­son float­ing in the cen­tral pool. A mock vol­cano erupted from the wa­ter in 1950 and later that decade the boats were trans­formed into gondalas with carved wooden an­i­mal heads.

Now Great Yar­mouth Bor­ough Coun­cil, which owns the Wa­ter­ways, is work­ing with Great Yar­mouth Preser­va­tion Trust and the lo­cal com­mu­nity to re­store the canals, funded by a grant of more than £1.7 mil­lion from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund and the Big Lot­tery. Prepara­tory work is un­der­way, next spring the main engi­neer­ing and land­scap­ing will be­gin and the restora­tion should be com­plete by the sum­mer of 2019 with work phased so that the park re­mains open. See you at the Venice of East Anglia!Š

Top Right: Steam trac­tion en­gines at The By­gone Vil­lage, Fleg­g­burgh in 1988

Bot­tom right: Fleg­g­burgh By­gone Vil­lage

Top cen­tre: By­gone Vil­lage, Fleg­g­burgh

Cock­ley Cley Iceni Vil­lage early 1990s

Origins in the Fo­rum

Above: Yar­mouth Wa­ter­ways in the 1950sLeft: Hun­stan­ton Pier, be­fore 1938

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