Out & About

Norwich the Next Chapter

Summer is back on, so let’s not waste a minute of enjoying ourselves – whilst supporting local businesses too, says Melanie Cook of VisitNorwich

We’ve an awful lot to catch up on. After spending hours gardening, exercising, binge-watching Netflix and baking ñ possibly home schooling too, Norwich and the county are opening up again. And if youíve been working all the way through lockdown surely itís time to treat yourself. Now is the time to re-discover Norwich, the City of Stories. This is Norwichís Next Chapter.

To mark the start of summer and the end of lockdown, VisitNorwich has made a film. A film with local people by local people. A lively, textural film with hope and optimism at its heart. You may well have already seen it, but in case you havenít head to Norwich, The Next Chapter on visitnorwich.co.uk.

Norwich is waking up again. As the weeks go by the streets are steadily getting busier ñ in a good way. The buskers are back, the Big Issue sellers are back, and the welcoming faces of the City Hosts are back. Thank goodness. Familiarity breeds confidence, and there is much in Norwich you will be familiar with. Fish and chips from The Grosvenor, Norwich Market for essentials and supplies, Sir Tobyís Beer for a cold brew and John Lewis, Jarrold, Marks & Spencer, intu Chapelfield, Castle Quarter for everything else. And the list goes on.

But there are inevitably changes too, the impact of Covid-19 has been raw and far-reaching. So, itís more important than ever that ñ this Summer ñ we bring something positive to the table, its important that we get out and about in our communities, supporting local, enjoying the breadth of choice around us. This is something hopeful. Unifying. ​ 

Some streets in Norwich have become pedestrianised to allow for social distancing but also in anticipation of outdoor tables for cafes and restaurants. Watch this space. You will see floor stickers for where to queue and directional chevrons for which way to walk. You will need to do a bit more planning before heading out like checking opening times, days of operation and booking a table. You can no longer try on clothes in store, but you can try them at home. And you need to wear masks on public transport and in shops. But, Norwich is still vibrant, itís still looking good, its still ours to explore and enjoy. 

Waffles, afternoon tea, Indian, light lunches, glasses of crisp white wine ñ or bottles, and cocktails are back on the menu. We can sit in or sit out. And there are now more options than ever for a take-away carried into lovely green spaces or to dive into at home.

Daytime – get back to The Britons Arms with its lush secret garden, the smells of food from around the world at Norwich Market, traditional teas at The Assembly House and Jarroldís Pantry, Wine bar and Chapters Coffee Bar. Day and night return to: Bowling House (though not bowling) ñ donít let that stop you; The Cosy Club, The Ivy, Frankís Bar, The Giggling Squid, Namaste, The Waffle House and Zaks. Now is also the time to try somewhere different too: not going out has given us time to dream about trying something new.  

The cityís green spaces have been buzzing, filled with people socially distancing and catching up over picnics and coffee in areas such as the Memorial Gardens, Chapelfield Gardens, St Gregoryís Green, Castle Gardens and the Cathedral Gardens. Itís been lovely to see peopleís intimate moments, sharing time together once again. There are walkers around Riverside and the University of East Anglia, at Eaton Park, discovering The Marriottís Way, enjoying nature at Whitlingham Country Park.

Of course, you donít need to be a tourist to book an overnight stay or a short-break in our local area. A summer holiday is important to so many of us, and thereís plenty of people who have missed anniversaryís, birthdays and special dates. There is still time to celebrate. 

I always think thereís something comforting knowing that youíre not going too far, for one thing you donít need to pack everything but the kitchen sink. Talking of sinks, whilst self-catering stays will always be popular, weíve heard on the grapevine that for many this year, the top criteria when booking accommodation is that it DOESNíT include a kitchen sink. There are plenty of us that want breakfast in bed made by someone else, and to skip the inevitable debate about what to prepare for dinner come evening.  

And attractions are opening. In the city centre: Plantation Garden, The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Crazy Golf at Eaton Park, Paul Dickson Walking Tours and Norwich Cathedral. 

If youíve missed art, then book a private appointment at Caroline Fisher Projects in the Norwich Lanes to see the latest exhibition ëClay Conversationsí. The Sainsbury Centre has two exhibitions running as well as their permanent collection. Art Deco By The Sea and Art Nouveau: The Nature of Dreams. Both have been extended; to 20 September and 3 January 2021 respectively.

To supplement your craving for art, move online. OUTPOST Gallery is an artist run gallery and studio complex in Norwich and currently facilitates a programme of five exhibitions per year. However due to social distancing they have a Summer Programme showcasing a range of creatives through remote artistic activity between now and September including live-steaming every Thursday evening.

Particular mention must go to Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall. This exciting exhibition has been delayed since March but thank goodness itís been able to open. The headline piece is Sky Mirror, a huge convex mirror set in the grounds reflecting the sky. Constantly changing, it brings the sky to the earth in a spectacular and dramatic way. As does the collection of mirrors in the Stone Hall in colours of cobalt blue, magenta, Pagan gold and apple. The reflections of the hall pick up the intricacy in the ceiling, the marble surrounds and the changing light. 

Nationally, interest to see Kapoorís work has been high so as itís on our doorstep every effort to see it should be made, itís been extended until 1 November. And itís value for money too at £16 per adult and free for under 18s (tickets must be purchased online). Car parking is included, toilets are open, and as well as 29 pieces in the exhibition there are the permanent outdoor artworks to see and acres of gardens and secret areas to explore and run around in. From the permanent art my particular favourite always remains James Turrellís Sky Space.   

Around the county we also have Holkham Hall, Pensthorpe Natural Park, Fairhaven Woodland and Water Gardens, Raveningham Gardens, Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, BeWILDerwood, Amazona Zoo, Banham Zoo, Africa Alive and Roarr! Dinosaur Park. Itís time to get out of the house and make up for lost time.

For updated information, local interviews and stories plus itineraries and ideas for where to stay and visit this summer go to Norwich, The Next Chapter on visitnorwich.co.uk

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