The mar­ket is buoy­ant in Nor­folk’s unas­sum­ing county town, and Max David­son can see why

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MAR­KET OVER­VIEW

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.

BEST AMENI­TIES

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.

MOST BEAU­TI­FUL

Many of the best ad­dresses in Nor­wich –

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