The market is buoyant in Norfolk’s unassuming county town, and Max Davidson can see why
Frustratingly out of commuting range from London, Norwich continues to perform creditably, with the housing market marginally more buoyant in 2006 than in 2005. Top-end properties do particularly well and, at the lower end, there is no shortage of buy-to-let investors. The weakest section of the market is homes in the middle price range. In the city centre, there has been a glut of high-density new developments, not all of them sympathetic, and some experts predict problems with over-supply further down the line. But, for a desirable cathedral city, Norwich offers plenty of opportunities for first-time buyers. You can get a one-bed, top-floor flat close to the city centre for £89,950 with Haart (01603 761600).
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT
Its lack of airs. Where other provincial cities wallow in selfimportance, or develop huge chips on their shoulders, Norwich is happy simply to be itself. Its patron saint is Delia Smith, most unassuming of towns such as Burnham Overy Staithe and Wells-next-the-Sea dotted along the coast. Live in Norwich and you will have riches on your doorstep.
WHAT WE HATE ABOUT IT
Anyone who thinks Britain is in the grip of rampant consumerism will find plenty of ammunition in Norwich. The city centre is awash with so many new shopping malls and multi-storey car parks that it has lost some its old charm. Fair enough, if the malls were balanced were other facilities. But when not shopping till it drops, Norwich often seems to evince a smalltown mentality. For a sizeable cathedral city it has a very limited selection of hotels and top-quality restaurants, and outsiders are tolerated rather than welcomed with open arms. Much more could be done, perhaps by way of arts festivals, to entice visitors to the city.
Norwich shops are more notable for quantity than quality, although there is a huge open-air market and a few decent speciality stores. The heatre Royal has an ractively varied ogramme, while nema City can claim be one of the best thouse cinemas in e country. There are so plenty of ffordable eateries, articularly in the city entre. Football fans ightly take pride in Norwich City FC, or he Canaries, one of he most likeable clubs in the country. Good golf clubs are another plus. you see clones of he all over the city: affable, unthreatening types who are never going to win Nobel Prizes but know how to boil an egg. Norwich is a congenial place, a nice compromise between past and present. Its heyday was in the Middle Ages, and it declined sharply after the Industrial Revolution, but it has found its feet again in recent years.
The centre is an attractive mix of picturesque ruins and modern amenities. There are two cathedrals, Anglican and Catholic, that would grace any city, while the super-trendy University of East Anglia gives Norwich an intellectual cutting edge. And if parts of the inner city feel congested, there are acres of greenery around the fringes, with leafy residential streets and a wealth of pretty country villages. Don’t be deceived by the flatness of Norfolk. It is one of the most beautiful areas of Britain, not just because of the famous Broads, but because of the lovely
BEST PARTS FOR SCHOOLS
Norwich has a wide selection of schools, both state and independent. One of the most soughtafter state comprehensives is Framingham Earl, a specialist sports college, four miles south of the city centre. The City of Norwich School, off the Ipswich Road, is also well regarded. Among the independents, bragging rights are disputed between Norwich School, just east of the city centre, and Norwich High School for Girls, off the Newmarket Road.
BEST FOR COMMUNICATIONS
If you need to use the train regularly, Norwich is a bit lop-sided, with the railway station well to the east of the city centre. An apartment on Riverside might be the best bet. Otherwise, there is a premium on properties to the south of the ring road, from where you can gain quick road access to Ipswich, Cambridge and London. The bus station is also on that side of town.
BEST FOR NIGHTLIFE
By the standards of provincial cathedral cities, Norwich is pretty lively after dark. UEA students know how to party and, in high summer, the city fills up with funloving boat people from the Broads. Most of the eardrum-busting nightclubs are on Prince of Wales Road, which gets pretty feral in the wee small hours, but the Riverside is also a fun place to hang out. For alfresco dining in the summer, the area known as Tombland, just next to the cathedral, is delightfully laid-back.
Many of the best addresses in Norwich –
Past a desira Norw develo River W the pi The R left) w precur many shopp