There are some (uninformed) people who think ‘Norfolk is flat, dull and boring and at the end of the world’s longest cul-de-sac’. Then there are the rest of us who think it’s the best county in the UK and long for the day when we can make it an island and issue visas for entry (don’t worry, they’ll be free and we’ll be as welcoming as ever).
So what do literary giants, and some pop stars and others, have to say about Norfolk? Read on…
I am a Norfolk man and Glory in being so.
You can always tell a Norfolk man, but you can’t tell him much.
Once you get to know Norfolk, there is no better place to live.
My earliest memory is of a holiday on the Norfolk Broads. I was wearing cream and brown Y-fronts and sandals and I was fishing and playing boules. It’s a very happy memory, because the Broads are like heaven on earth and everything that’s good about Britain in one place – honesty boxes and pubs every mile and being able to drive a great massive boat with no licence. Jools and I have taken our kids there on holiday and it’s still the same now.
You either get Norfolk, with its wild roughness and uncultivated oddities, or you don’t. It’s not all soft and lovely. It doesn’t ask to be loved.
What a coast this is, with its salt marshes and lavender, its channels, dunes, bays and crumbling Ice Age cliffs, lonelier and wilder than its Suffolk neighbour, Arctic, melancholic, beautiful, treacherous, with sandbanks and quicksands, storms and floods, and never-ending erosion.
For the traveller in search of the English Heritage, the county of Norfolk is a paradise. It has great cliffs and chalk downs, a history far older than any written documents, delightful rivers, unique still waters, low-lying fens, captivating towns, a historic roll of famous folk and a group of Saxon, Norman, and medieval churches crammed with beauty that makes England the matchless country in the world.
See the mice in their million hordes. From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads.
The charm of Norfolk is not so readily definable as that of some other counties. It has the ungrudging roominess of a kingdom. It is littered with villages but uncluttered by towns.
If the rest of Britain sank beneath the waves, and Norfolk was left alone, islanded in the turmoil of the seas, it would, I think, survive without too much trouble… Norfolk has always stood alone and aloof from the rest of England.
James Wentworth Day
I have lived in Norfolk all my life. It inspires me, the sea, the limitless skies, the mud and the burning sunsets and the freedom of a place where more than 50% of the neighbours are fish.
“I am not a man of Llydaw” said I, in English, “but of Norfolk where the people eat the best dumplings in the world and speak the purest English.”
George Borrow (Wild Wales)
Very flat, Norfolk.
Noel Coward (Private Lives)
I am still reeling with delight at the soaring majesty of Norfolk.
Norfolk is not simply a word that describes a county. “Norfolk” describes also a language, a humour and a way of life. Spoken Norfolk has a stout and uniquely resistant quality and only people born in the county are able properly to penetrate it and repeat it with their own tongues. Just as their language, so also the people of Norfolk are tough, resistant and impenetrable.
This corner of England which once it holds your heart is more lovely than any place on earth. Beautiful with a hint of secrecy which haunts it, as the memory of a dark and tender sadness clouds the brilliance of a summer day.
Lilias Rider Haggard (Norfolk Notebook)
The prevailing wind in Norfolk is onshore; this explains why Norfolkmen invariably speak with their mouths closed.
Old Norfolk saying
All England may be carved out of Norfolk.
Thomas Fuller, 1662
It’s one of the great secrets of England, Gorleston beach. It’s beautiful. It Gorleston reminded me a lot of Liverpool, so it was perfect for a film that tried to summon up the spirit of The Beatles. It was a working port and you still see evidence of that but if you look the other way, you then encounter one of Britain’s most remarkable beaches and I am amazed that no-one seems to know about it.
Director Danny Boyle, on the set of Yesterday
In Norfolk the obduracy of water has been the saving grace for the wildly beautiful north coast, the Broads and the river valleys.
Some counties vaunt themselves in pies and some in meat excel;
For turnips of enormous size Fair Norfolk bears the belle.
The space and light up there in Norfolk is wonderfully peaceful.
Lovers of Norfolk churches can never agree which is the best and I think one is either a Salle or a Cawston man.
Norfolk would not be Norfolk without a church tower on the horizon or round a corner up a lane. We cannot spare a single Norfolk church. When a church has been pulled down the country seems empty or is like a necklace with a jewel missing.
You see, because [Norfolk is] stuck out here on the east, on this hump jutting into the sea, it’s not on the way to anywhere. People going north and south, they bypass it altogether. For that reason, it’s a peaceful corner of England.
If this were the time or the place to uphold a paradox, I am half inclined to state that Norfolk is one of the most beautiful of counties.
Norfolk is not on the way to anywhere, you don’t stop off on the way somewhere else – it’s an end in itself. You have to want to go there.
Norfolk is cut off on three sides by the sea and on the fourth by British Rail.
Norfolk has been a favourite county since childhood. It provides the “still centre” when all around is turmoil.
In that country of luminous landscapes and wide horizons where the wind runs in the reeds and the slow rivers flow to our cold sea, a man may still sense and live something of the life of the older England which was uninhibited, free and natural.
My wife’s old dumplings are Norfolk and good.
The Kipper Family
In the Middle Ages and well on into the eighteenth century, when roads were bad, it was easier to travel by sea from Norfolk to the continent of Europe than to penetrate the Midlands or to visit London. The result of this isolation has been that Norfolk people have become self-reliant, self-supporting and inclined to treat strangers with caution.
Bernard E. Dorman
And a few quotes about Norwich…
Norwich is a very fine city, and the castle, which stands in the middle of it, on a hill, is truly majestic.
William Cobbett (Rural Rides)
What a grand, higgledy-piggledy, sensible old place Norwich is!
For society, of all places I have ever been, Norwich is the best.
Norwich is a fine city. None finer. If there is another city in the United Kingdom with a school of painters named after it, a matchless modern art gallery, a university with a reputation for literary excellence which can boast Booker Prize-winning alumni, one of the grandest Romanesque cathedrals in the world, and an extraordinary new state-of-the-art library then I have yet to hear of it.