Ness and Les Scott's Norfolk
Hoteliers Les and Vanessa Scott, of Strattons Hotel in Swaffham in The Brecks, tell us about their Norfolk. Vanessa is a born and bred native, Les moved here from London.
SEE VANESSA IN OUR FOOD & DRINK FILM
What would your ideal weekend in Norfolk involve? Ideally being outside either walking or cycling together. There's so much choice of landscape in Norfolk so it could be a forest track at Santon Downham or the pine belt at Holkham. It would include a run and eating some delicious food with a glass of wine and a crossword!
Your favourite place to eat and why? Very hard to pick a favourite because it depends on mood and occasion. The fish & chips from Mother Hubbard's in Swaffham take some beating. We are currently big fans of Clarissa and Youssuf's 'Unthank Supper Club' which is such a great concept - pop-up dining and one sitting where everyone dines communally. It immediately brings people together to talk about food and everything else. It removes the barriers of restaurant etiquette. People fill their own water jugs and (some) share wine, it has a sense of community about it... without being self-conscious and it's exciting in its intrigue of venue whilst the food is excellent. We love Richard Hughes food so the Lavendar House at Brundall would also be on our list of favourites.
Your favourite pub and why? Castle Acre Ostrich, for its local vibe; the Bedingfield Arms for its welcome and location next to Oxburgh Hall; The Duck at Stanhoe for some great local food created by Ben Hanley. The Dabbling Duck at Great Massingham for its independence.
What do you long for if you've been away? The big skies and countryside, fresh Norfolk asparagus, vegetables from our garden, Binham Blue from Mrs Temple, mussels and Cromer crab, Scott's Field Pork and Maggie's coffee from CoCoes in Swaffham.
What's your favourite Norfolk place and why? Drymere near Swaffham has been a wonderful wild solitude from our busy life at the hotel and easily accessed from the town via an ancient drove road and the rugged Swaffham Heath. It is a place we have run, walked and cycled with our dogs in tow. It adjoins the magical countryside of Beachamwell Warren which was one of many sites where rabbits were farmed from Norman times because of the light sandy soils reminiscent of their native Mediterranean habitat. It is part of an area known as the Brecks which straddles south Norfolk and north Suffolk and was formed during the last Ice Age. We are beginning to learn more about this fascinating land. With the help of over 200 naturalists, the University of East Anglia collated nearly a million records, showing that some 12,500 species have been found in the Brecks. Of these, more than 2000 are of national conservation concern. It's a stunning place to feel at one with nature.
Where would you have a picnic and what Norfolk food would you have? At Castle Acre, which is one of the best examples of a planned Norman settlement and includes significant remains of a Cluniac Priory and mott and bailey castle, now managed by English Heritage. Sheep graze in the water meadows and water voles have been spotted in the Nar which meanders through the village. A picnic would have to include Samphire sausage rolls & pork pie, Ashill pear juice, cakes from Glu-10-3, fresh bread and cheese all from Swaffham farmers' market.
Your favourite Norfolk view? The view from the Green Britain Centre Ecotricity wind turbine at Swaffham is stunning and on a clear day you can see Ely Cathedral way over to the south west. Climbing the three hundred steps is well worth the effort.
Where would you send a visitor to really appreciate Norfolk? We live and work in Swaffham, one of the small Brecks market towns which grew during Norfolk's wealthy medieval agricultural past. Dominated by a huge church, most of the Georgian and Victorian facades hide medieval houses. In its heyday there were theatres, assembly rooms, pleasure gardens and a racecourse and Lady Hamilton preferred to live here because Burnham was too quiet! The town itself sits on a slight rise, elevating Swaffham's two wind turbines and giving visitors a glimpse from afar.
Historically the town was a stopping point for pilgrims going to Walsingham and a funnel for travellers going south from the Norfolk coast. It was also the main market for goods and travellers east and west. Today, you no longer need to hire a guide to take you west through the Fenland landscape but the old drove roads remain, offering unique access to quiet countryside. Peddars Way, the old Roman road, runs north to south through Swaffham linking up the Icknield Way and is now a long distance footpath to the coast. Both the theatre and racecourse closed in the 1840's but it is now possible to enjoy a new theatre at West Acre and the racecourse at Fakenham.
What piece of advice would you give a visitor to the county? You're on it - the Visit Norfolk website! To enjoy the best possible visit it rounds up all the information that you need to experience your own dreams from a county that can give you everything.
What's your idea of Norfolk Big Sky Thinking? Norfolk is the land of the big sky offering up infinitesimal uplifting experiences!