Norfolk is the home of Valentine! The earliest known Valentine ever was sent in Norfolk in 1477, in a letter from Margery Brews to John Paston, who she described as 'my right well beloved Valentine'. It was over 350 years later that printed Valentine cards began to appear, assisted with the improvement in postal services and printing methods.
By the 1830s, Valentines were sent in such great numbers that postmen were given a special allowance for refreshments to help them through the extraordinary exertions of the two or three days leading up to February 14th. In Victorian Norfolk more money was spent on Valentines than Christmas! Norwich had its own special celebrations on St Valentine's Eve. People gave each other presents, shops took on extra staff, and shop windows were crammed with gifts.
The best-known surviving Norfolk ritual is Jack Valentine, who enigmatically disappears into thin air after knocking at the door and dropping off gifts on St Valentine's Eve (Feb 13) with the greeting 'Good Morrow Valentine'. It's unclear when this mystery figure first emerged but children are as likely as adults to receive a visit from Jack. In fact, he might be called the patron saint of Norfolk, the county where love spreads to all.
In the 1800s, Norfolk children would sent out before dawn to sing rhymes in exchange for sweets, cakes and pennies. One favourite local verse was:
Good morrow, Valentine,
God bless the baker,
You'll be the giver,
And I'll be the taker.
Here's some Visit Norfolk ideas of how to spend the day with your loved one...
Lose yourself in Thetford Forest
Take a romantic stroll in Thetford Forest
, or hire a bike to explore some of the 20,000 hectares. You'll be surprised to hear that the forest was only planted in 1922, whereas The New Forest in Hampshire dates back to the 11th century! It has its own unique microclimate and the Met Office has said it's the warmest place in the UK! There's lot of other things to do in the Brecks
, including the Pingo Trail
(no, it's a penguin from CBeebies!).
Find solitude in the Broads
Take the opportunity to investigate the Broads
while it's still quiet. Take out a boat, or walk or cycle
– all three are great ways to get away for a spot of romantic seclusion. The Broads is one of the country's National Parks, but the only one with a city in it! There are lots of great places to visit
in the Broads or just gaze at the landscape, and appreciate that it actually came about as a result of inundated peat diggings. Yes, the Broads are man-made
Cuddle up to a spectacular sunset
Discover a brilliant sunset and declare your love in the last glowing of the day. You can see spectacular sunsets at Cromer
, from Mousehold Heath in Norwich
, and also at Burgh Castle, the old Roman
fort near Great Yarmouth
where you can gaze out over the Broads.
Beachcomb for amber
How would your love like a piece of amber? If you love beachcombing, then try the east coast
of Norfolk where you might discover a piece of amber on the shore
. Look along the high-tide mark, particularly after a big storm. Amber is light and is easily loosened from submarine rock layers, so is often brought along by tides from the Baltic to be caught up in frondy seaweeds that sweep the seafloor. Now wouldn't that be a lovely Valentine gift!
Be flaneurs on the city's cobbled streets
Be flaneurs for a day and take a gentle walk around Norwich
, with over 1500 historic buildings within the city walls. The city has 33 medieval churches, more than any other city in northern Europe, and Elm Hill is a complete historical
cobbled street with stunning examples of Tudor buildings and wealthy merchants' houses. And don't miss our Norman cathedral
and its precincts, one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe, boasting the second tallest spire in the country and the largest cloisters in England – pop into the refectory (pictured) for refreshments. Tucked in the Norwich Lanes
you'll find brill boutique shops, delis and tea rooms.
Walk in the footsteps of Gwyneth Paltrow
Discover the tidal creeks, salt marshes and GIGANTIC beaches
of north Norfolk
, not least Holkham
where the end of Shakespeare in Love
was filmed – you know the bit, with Gwyneth Paltrow's lovelorn Viola shipwrecked in Virginia and walking along a seemingly never-ending beach. The other reason to go is that in those tidal creeks and salt marshes and on the chalk reef off Cromer
(yes, Norfolk has a reef!) you’ll find sumptuous crab, mussels, oysters and fish. So take a walk… then find a pub
with a roaring fire and a menu of local food
Discover the Waveney Valley
Be the king and queen of the castle
If your love is a history buff, why not discover one of Norfolk's seven castles
? Imagine you're the king and queen for a day. One that's often overlooked is magnificent Castle Rising near King's Lynn. The huge 12th century keep stands at the centre of massive earthworks with a wonderful view from the ramparts. Norfolk also has wonderful stately homes
Enjoy the Winter Wildlife Safari
There's not a better way to get close than a spot of birdwatching
at one of our great reserves. The Winter Wildlife Safari
is still on-going, so there are some great sights. Try Cley-next-the-Sea, Snettisham or Titchwell in north Norfolk, Welney in the west for swans or Hickling in the Broads.