Cromer Pier Jo's Norfolk
Keen biker Jo Artherton, from Cromer Pier's Pavilion Theatre, the last end-of-pier theatre in the country, tells us about her favourite Norfolk things.
SEE JO IN OUR SUMMER FILM
Where is your favourite place to eat, and why? I recently went to The Lavender House in Brundall and am now a complete convert. Amazing, outstanding food by the very talented and wonderful Richard Hughes. It is a place to go for a real treat so. There's plenty of little gems like this hidden around Norfolk. We are spoilt with choice for top quality restaurants serving locally sourced food, and with excellent service too.
Your favourite pub, and why? I really enjoy the atmosphere of traditional pubs. I would have to say the Recruiting Sergeant at Coltishall is a favourite of mine as it's a few minutes down the road and the food there is extremely popular, but it's not what I'd call a traditional pub. I like the social club atmosphere of The Diplomat on the old RAF Coltishall base. It's handy because I can walk home from there and the regulars are all very welcoming. I like little quirky pubs like the Edith Cavell in Tombland, Norwich and the Ten Bells on St Benedict's Street when it had a red telephone box in it, although I think it's modernised itself recently which is a bit of a shame. I absolutely love the Norwich Playhouse bar. It is as quirky as they come and I feel like a young student again when I go in there! I'm quite happy sipping a hot chocolate on my own and taking time out to read a good book, whilst the bustle of socialising goes on around me. Unfortunately, with work demands and a hobby that requires me not to drink (riding a motorbike) I don't actually get a chance to go out to these places very often.
What do you long for if you've been away? A blast in the countryside! I love getting out on my motorbike and enjoying views that the Norfolk landscape offers. The fresh air does wonders for your sanity and well-being. It makes you feel free and we have everything we could ever wish for in such close proximity. I can reach the sea within half an hour from home. I can also be in Norwich city within 20 minutes. I just long for the freedom.
What's your favourite Norfolk place and why? It changes regularly but right now I love the little riverside walk between Hautbois and Coltishall. The pathway is lined by the most beautiful ancient trees that creak in the breeze. The area is unspoilt and natural and you get to glimpse into the back gardens of some extremely lucky residents whose gardens back up to the river! There's even a Geo-cache along the route. Myself and my partner regularly go Geo-caching, with his children, and I couldn't recommend it highly enough if you like a bit of treasure hunting and exploring areas of the countryside you wouldn't have even known about.
Where would you have a picnic and what Norfolk food would you have? On one of our recent Geo-Cache trips we discovered a beautiful place called Brampton, which is only 5 minutes away from where I live. If you are into Geo-caching you must look up the 'Mermaids Challenge' which is off the beaten track in this area. Lots of little bridges over the River Bure and plenty of perfect picnic spots. It's got to be local produce: freshly-picked strawberries or raspberries; some in-season asparagus, local ham and some Norfolk Chutney (I particularly like Candie's Parsnip & Chilli Chutney) and there's also some lovely Norfolk produced drinks out there too. I make my own Sloe Gin from locally picked sloes, so if I'm not on my motorbike I'd be sipping that too!
Your favourite Norfolk view? It has to be the all-round view from Cromer Pier. I feel very privileged to work on such an iconic local landmark and tourist attraction. The traditional Victorian Pier looks stunning in all weathers. Yesterday as I was walking back to my car the Pier was engulfed in fog. You could see the outlines of the pier structure and theatre and with the traditional street lamp lights glowing along the Pier walkway - the view was breathtaking.
Where would you send a visitor to really appreciate Norfolk? I'd recommend that any visitor should have a slow mooch along the A1062 out from Wroxham/Horning towards Gt Yarmouth, then up along the coast road past Waxham & Sea Palling, joining the A149 along the north Norfolk coast up as far as Hunstanton. These roads are sublime (great roads for bikers!) and there is so much to see along the way. There are plenty of great places to stop for food, attractions to visit along the way and stunning coastal views.
What piece of advice would you give to a visitor of the county? Don't be afraid of discovering things off the beaten track. I'd highly recommend getting into Geo-caching as it's the best way to stumble across hidden gems. You'll get to see rural churches, woodland and riverside walks, fantastic picnic spots and opportunities to get close to amazing wildlife – all the things you wouldn't even know existed!
What's your idea of Norfolk Big Sky Thinking? Get outdoors and absorb everything, like it's the first time you've ever seen it. You'll appreciate it more and come away feeling inspired!