North Norfolk with a toddler
Four months after we went on holiday I finally get to finish the blog post. Better late than never! Our holidays have changed over the years. Yes we still like to stay in places that aren’t carbon copy or run of the mill, but we also like quiet places where we can keep ourselves to ourselves and be relatively central to discover the local area.
Last year, for our first family holiday, we stayed in Yorkshire and LB wasn’t quite walking. Oh how different it was this year, she more or less runs and we also had the new novelty of her no longer sleeping in a cot.
I hadn’t been to North Norfolk since a child and wanted to return as so many people said it was great for a little ones. As we visited just before the majority of the country had broken up for the summer holiday most places were either filled with retired people or families just like us.
One thing I learnt – use sat nav, but never trust the predicted ETA. Everywhere seemed to be 45-60min away no matter the mileage. The roads in Norfolk are slow!
Poppyland Cottages – Swallow Cottage, Wickmere
We discovered the Swallow Cottage via Away with the Kids. It has two beds, child friendly and provides many of the paraphernalia required when travelling with a toddler; just what we needed. Phone signal is almost non-existent, but wifi is provided.
The cottage is adjoined to another two bed cottage. While we were there is was filled with a young family of four. We shared a huge garden ending with a field of cows and chickens free ranging the garden. It became part of our daily routine to go and say goodnight to the chickens every night.
The village of Wickmere, where the cottage is, is very much off the beaten track and situated on possibly one of the quietest roads I’ve ever stayed on.
Blickling Estate (National Trust)
As Blickling is just down the road from the cottage this was a perfect starting point. We started the day wet, very wet. Think giant puddles to splash in kind of weather, much to LB’s delight. After some garden serious puddle jumping and lunch in the restaurant we decided to visit the house while the sun burnt through the clouds.
The volunteers here are some of the friendliest staff and volunteers I’ve ever come across, including a legend of a volunteer (whose name I missed) was a very dapper Nicholas Parsons lookalike complete with cravat.
After a treasure hunt around the house the sun was now out, so it was time for run around the garden and try to make sure LB didn’t gate crash a wedding couple’s official photographs.
As the cafe was so good we felt obliged to revisit in the afternoon for what became a holiday tradition – afternoon tea and cake. If you can’t eat cake most afternoons when you’re on holiday when can you?
The Anchor Inn, Morston
I sent a call out to Twitter to find a great place for Sunday lunch and a few people recommended The Anchor Inn in Morston. You always know when somewhere is child friendly place when there is a pile of Ikea Antelop highchairs by the door.
Although we hadn’t booked as we arrived at midday we were found a table in the bar. Full of friendly well trained staff and the first place I’ve ever eaten where the waiting staff have deliberately not put a piping hot plate down within reach of a toddler.
If you fancy something stronger with your food they have a good gin menu.
Felbrigg Hall (National Trust)
Felbrigg Hall is yet another NT property local to the cottage. Quite a bit different to Blickling and we used it a few times as a stop off on the way back home after a day out.
Top marks for child friendliness here. Lots of beautiful gardens to run around in and on the front lawns was a huge basket of toys, balls, hoops and the like to help yourself to.
Bewilderwood, an outdoor tree-top adventure park, was recommended to us by a good handful of people on Twitter. The best way to describe Bewilderwood is a fabulous tree house adventure play park for both kids and adults. Most of the attractions didn’t have height restrictions, it’s up to you as a parent to decide your child’s capability.
When we arrived we were unsure as to how much of the park would be accessible to LB but we soon realised we had a fearless toddler on our hands who was keen to get climbing through the trees. Any place that has toddler zip wires is thumbs up our books.
As she was (just) under the minimum height at the time she was free. So while at first the entrance fee seems quite steep compared to other places we’d visited on the holiday we could easily spend a whole day there and packing a picnic made it cheaper.
Pensthorpe Natural Park
The advantage of holidaying outside the school holidays is how quiet places can be. The glorious summers day we picked to visit Pensthorpe was perfect for us and even with the sunshine we more or less had the place to ourselves for the first few hours before a few other toddler and parents and a small school group arrived.
Pensthorpe Natural Park is primarily a nature reserve with beautiful gardens but as parents what made Pensthorpe stand out was its amazing indoor and outdoor play area, reminiscent of the play parks I remember from my childhood in Germany. Think huge wooden climbing towers, twisting slides, outdoor musical instruments and even a man-made paddling stream.
Indoors there was another great play area. Now admittedly I’m not the biggest fan of soft-play, in fact I usually try to avoid them at all costs, but this one was different. A well designed under-5s area was the perfect refuge when the heavens decided to open. The play areas had not long been open when we visited. Every member of staff we came across were cheerful and helpful. If we lived local enough we would seriously consider a yearly pass.
Holkham and Wells-next-the-Sea
LB’s first trip to the beach last year at Whitby wasn’t successful, she was rather annoyed that she couldn’t eat the sand so this time we decided to give it another go and head to Holkham. Primarily for the beach but also to pop to the Adnams shop to taste some of their Copper House gin.
It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, but beautiful, unspoilt beach none the less. LB would have to wait another day for her bucket, spade and Mr Whippy. You can understand why the beach has been used for filming locations like Shakespeare in Love (you know the stunning beach at the end? that’s Holkham).
As we only had one day left for a traditional beach day, Wells won over Cromer. It turned out to be the hottest and sunniest day of the holiday. A perfect beach day with a seal popping up to say hello, a fish and chip lunch at Plattens followed by an obligatory Mr Whippy Ice Cream. We’ve decided we love Wells and will return.
Norfolk got a huge thumbs up for us and somewhere we’d love to return. Fabulous food, beautiful beaches and lots of things for children.
As for 2017 holiday who knows where that’ll take us? Any recommendations?