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Explore South Norfolk market towns, Naturally

South Norfolk has some of the county’s most scenic and peaceful countryside, punctuated by Norman and Saxon churches, picturesque market towns and villages with thatched cottages, welcoming pubs, vineyards, tea rooms, antique shops and boutiques.

Waveney River Centre Waveney Valley South Norfolk

The River Waveney in south Norfolk.

Nestled between the meandering river Waveney, the cultural delights of Norwich and touched by the Broads National Park, South Norfolk is a wonderful location for a get-away-from-it-all break where there is so much to see and do.

With excellent long and short distance walking and cycling routes across gently rolling countryside, there’s a lot to do for outdoor enthusiasts, anglers and nature-lovers. There are 51 conservation areas in South Norfolk ensuring that village greens, historic buildings and ancient woodland are protected for future generations.

Harleston South Norfolk

Market town Harleston.

On its southern border Harleston is a great base from which to explore the Waveney Valley, a natural habitat that presents a wonderful opportunity for sightseeing, walking, cycling, canoeing and many other leisure activities.

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. In 1620 Edward Fuller set off from Harleston with his family, boarded the Mayflower, and became one of the Pilgrim Fathers, ambitious to build a brave new world in America. You can discover many of Harleston’s distinctive historical treasures and stories 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.

Market town Diss has a delightful Mere.

John Betjeman famously declared to Harold Wilson’s wife how it would be ‘bliss, to go with you by train to Diss’.

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. Diss is also the start of the popular Boudicca Way walking path to Norwich, which goes past the old Roman town of Venta Icenorum, literally ‘the market place of the Iceni’.

Thorpe Abbotts

The Control Tower at Thorpe Abbotts, home of the 100th Bomb Group, focal point of the Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg mini-series Masters of the Air.

For a distinctive shopping experience, why not visit Diss Auction Rooms or farmers’ market? The Grade II-listed Corn Hall offers a diverse cultural experience including film, theatre, and art exhibitions. For an insightful view into the town’s history visit Diss Museum.

Nearby are Bressingham Gardens and Steam Museum and the airfield buildings of the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum at Thorpe Abbotts, part of The Friendly Invasion story.

On the Norwich to Cambridge railway line, Wymondham (pronounced Windum) is an idyllic market town in South Norfolk with a picturesque marketplace, historic market cross, intriguing shops, medieval lanes, ancient meadows, museum, steam train station and the magnificent Wymondham Abbey, all within a few minutes’ walk between each spot.

Wymondham South Norfolk

Picturesque market town Wymondham.

Full of ancient buildings such as the 12th century Becketts Chapel home to the Wymondham Arts Forum, the 14th century Green Dragon and the ruins of the 900 year-old Benedictine Abbey in the Tiffey Valley more information can be found at its central 16th century Market Cross.

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 hanged from the west tower of Wymondham Abbey.

Kett also lends his name to the Kett’s Country Walking Trail. The walk has strong historical significance. It begins where Kett’s Rebellion began back in July 1549. It finishes in Eaton near where Robert Kett crossed with his followers on the journey to Norwich. An exhibit on Kett’s Rebellion can be found at the Wymondham Heritage Museum.

The town is also the eastern terminus of the Mid-Norfolk Railway to Dereham with the arriving and departing steam trains providing the soundscape for the town. A very different form of transport also finds its home close to Wymondham – the sports car manufacturer Lotus.

Wymondham coach leaflet

Loddon River Yare family South Norfolk

Riverside Loddon.

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.

Whitlingham Broad family canoe, South Norfolk

There’s great opportunities for water sports at Whitlingham Country Park.

Closer to Norwich, explore a modern man-made Broad, Whitlingham Country Park, which has an outdoor activity centre, a cafe and camping.

Well served by public transport, South Norfolk is that holiday secret to be discovered. Touched by the Broads National Park, close to beautiful beaches, and Norwich itself, come and enjoy sparkling experiences, the most delicious local food and drink, and glorious market towns.

Best things to do in South Norfolk and Waveney Valley

Norfolk is the UK’s first Good Journey county