SOUTH NORFOLK & WAVENEY VALLEY
South Norfolk has some of the county's most scenic and peaceful countryside, with winding lanes, thatched cottages, welcoming pubs and picturesque villages and market towns.
quiet countryside to enjoy
Gentle countryside for cycling and walking, great birdwatching and market towns
Nestled between the meandering Waveney Valley, the cultural delights of Norwich and Britain's magical waterland of the Norfolk Broads, south Norfolk is a wonderful location for that get-away-from-it-all break where there is still plenty to see and do.
There are also the welcoming market towns of Diss, Harleston, Loddon and Wymondham – enjoy the warm hospitality while delving in delis and antique shops, buying local produce, or stopping off at a traditional tea house or traditional pub.
The area is also dotted with the rich architecture of Saxon and Norman churches, including Wymondham’s 12th century Abbey, at one end of the Mid-Norfolk Railway. It’s said that wherever you can see the horizon, you’ll see a church tower. Why not try it for yourself.
This area of the county welcomed thousands of brave American airmen and crew during the second world war. Snetterton Circuit was originally fashioned out of redundant USAF runways and Hollywood actor Jimmy Stewart flew out of, amongst others in Norfolk, Old Buckenham, still a pretty community which has the largest village green in the country.
South Norfolk has excellent long and short distance walking and cycling routes, and there's a lot to do for outdoor enthusiasts, anglers and nature-lovers.
The countryside is gently rolling with an abundance of woodland, farmland and narrow country lanes with grassy verges which are filled with wildflowers in the summer. There are 51 conservation areas in South Norfolk ensuring that village greens, historic buildings and ancient woodland are protected for future generations.
Here you'll still see 'narrow' or 'street' commons and greens, a reminder of the linear network of grazing verges that were used to sustain livestock on their way to market.
Highlights of south norfolk
Things to see and do...
Southern Norfolk Broads
Head out on the water in the Waveney Valley, or on the rivers Chet and Yare into Norwich
Explore market towns
Enjoy a stroll and peruse the local shops of picturesque Diss, Wymomdham and Harleston
Venta Icenorum Roman town
The 'town of the Iceni', Boudicca's tribe, can be found at Caistor St Edmund in beautiful countryside
Enjoy the countryside
The gentle countryside of the Waveney Valley is a great place for outdoor activities
The Friendly Invasion
Remember the sacrifices of US servicement at the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum at Thorpe Abbotts
Wildlife at close quarters
The Waveney Valley is a great place for bird and wildlife watching - will you see an otter?
Running along the border between Norfolk and Suffolk, linking the Brecks to the Broads, the Waveney Valley is an unspoilt haven of wildlife, idyllic villages and unique market towns.
Characterised by its meandering river, rolling countryside and wide skies, and with acres of natural habitat, the peaceful and picturesque landscape presents a wonderful opportunity for sightseeing, walking, cycling, canoeing and many other leisure activities.
Steeped in heritage, ancient buildings, and with lively markets still at the heart of the community, each of the Waveney Valley's market towns has its own unique character.
Diss makes the perfect gateway to the Waveney Valley and is host to one of the deepest natural inland lakes in the country, known locally as the Mere. The history of this lovely market town can be traced back to the Domesday Book.
The town has an eclectic selection of medieval, Georgian and Victorian buildings, whilst the Mere Park offers the perfect place to relax.
For a distinctive shopping experience, why not visit Diss Auction House or farmers' market? The Cornhall offers a diverse cultural mix. For an insightful view into the town's history visit Diss Museum.
Visitors can also while away an afternoon browsing the independent shops in the ancient town of Harleston. Old coaching inns, like the Swan Hotel, remain as a legacy from the days when Harleston was on the main coaching route from London to Great Yarmouth and the town was an important trading centre. You can visit many of Harleston's distinctive historic buildings by walking the town's Discovery Trail.
Local traders have always been an important part of community life. Wednesday has been market day in Harleston since 1259, when the town was granted charter status. Harleston remains a vibrant, bustling market town and has been voted Norfolk's town of the year due to its excellent array of individual speciality shops and eating places. You can find out more about Harleston's illustrious history at Harleston Museum.
At the western end of the Valley, between Bressingham and South Lopham, is the stunning Redgrave and Lopham Fen National Nature Reserve. The largest remaining river valley fen in Europe, Redgrave and Lopham Fen is an internationally protected nature reserve. The reserve has a range of distinct habitats including the internationally important saw sedge beds and purple-moor grasslands. Many more waterfowl are using the open water, and marsh harrier are regulars on the reserve. With tracks and guided walks from the visitor centre, the reserve can be visited throughout the year.
Moving toward the coast, six miles north-east of Beccles is Burgh St Peter. Surrounded by the River Waveney and marsh lands to the south and east, the village has a rich history. Built on a staithe, the trading wherries would load and unload their goods, and a ferry took passengers across the river to walk or cycle to Lowestoft fish market.
Today, this foot ferry service has been revived by the Waveney River Centre, providing direct access to the Carlton Marshes nature reserve. Afloat or ashore, if you enjoy being close to the water then the award-winning Waveney River Centre is a must.
market towns to explore
Diss, a thriving and picturesque market town which borders a lovely mere has some beautiful timber framed buildings dating from the 16th century, a Grade II listed Corn Hall, now a thriving entertainment venue, and its market and auction take place each Friday.
John Betjeman famously declared to Harold Wilson's wife how it would be 'bliss, to go with you by train to Diss'. This little gem is part of the Cittaslow 'slow city' movement. Diss is also the start of the popular Boudicca Way walking path to Norwich, which goes past the old Roman town of Venta Icenorum.
Nearby are Bressingham Gardens and Steam Museum and the airfield buildings of the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum at Thorpe Abbotts.
Wymondham (pronounced Win-dum), on the Norwich to Cambridge railway line, is full of ancient buildings including the Market Cross and the ruins of the 900 year old Benedictine Abbey in the Tiffey Valley.
Just outside the town is Kett's Oak, named after landowner Robert Kett who led a peasants' revolt against enclosures of common land in Norwich in 1549. After giving the Kings' men a bloody nose he was eventually captured and executed at Norwich Castle with his brother William. The Wymondham Heritage Museum has an exhibit on Kett’s Rebellion.
The town is also the eastern terminus of the Mid-Norfolk Railway to Dereham. A very different form of transport also finds its home close to Wymondham – the sports car manufacturer Lotus.
Nearby Hingham is a small but elegant town with a variety of Georgian and other period houses overlooking two pretty greens together with a stunning church.
The delightful market town of Loddon is located on the River Chet within the Norfolk Broads, a National Park and Britain’s largest protected wetland.
Centred around the beautiful 15th century Holy Trinity Church, Loddon has many fine Victorian and Georgian buildings, reminders of a time when it was a link between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, and had close ties with Wroxham, Bungay and Beccles.
The town has a good variety of specialist local shops, eateries and pubs.
Nearby is The Wherryman’s Way, a 35-mile walking route that follows the River Yare.