“A fine City”, Norwich proclaims itself, and with good reason. The second city in England in the Middle Ages – and the second richest, thanks to the wool trade. And when the wool trade moved away during the Industrial Revolution it couldn't afford to rebuild in the latest style and so has bequeathed us a legacy of superb historic buildings that give the place a “continental” feel. “A church for every week of the year and a pub for every day” is its other proud boast. More medieval churches, they say, than any other city in Europe. Many of them redundant, of course, in this secular age, but reinventing themselves as arts centres, galleries and theatres – including a splendid puppet theatre. The pubs serve some of the best Real Ale in the country, like the award-winning Fat Cat with its peculiarly Norfolk atmosphere. For we're far enough away from London and the cloying South-East to maintain a distinctly regional character.
And yet Norwich has a cosmopolitan air to it. In its heyday it traded with the Hanseatic ports of Northern Europe and attracted Flemish and Dutch artisans and merchants to set up businesses in the city, building fine merchants' houses that survive today as museums, gentlemen's clubs and an excellent cinema, showing films from all over the world.
The University of East Anglia, one of the most prestigious in England, is a major contributor to the intellectual life of the city. It adds youthful vigour to what could otherwise be a sedate and ageing population. It sponsors lectures by well-known speakers on a wide range of topics as well as attracting famous pop groups. The campus, complete with its own “Broad” (Norfolk for lake), provides both a stimulating and relaxing setting and the students certainly liven up the town at night.
UEA claims to have the sunniest campus in Britain, and moving here 7 years go we were pleasantly surprised to wake up in the mornings to clear blues skies. The prevailing westerlies tend to blow themselves out before they hit Norwich. Mind you, when the wind blows from Siberia we’re the first to feel it. We’ve had snow every winter since we’ve been here! But it doesn’t linger.
Norwich scores highly on every indicator for quality of life, low crime, etc. People are friendly and still have time for you – even “incomers” like us. The rush hour lasts all of 20 minutes, and drivers “let you in”. There’s a natural courtesy here I thought we’d lost after 34 years in the Home Counties.
Come and see us – preferably in a couple of years when the last single-carriageway stretch of the A11 is dualled. Or there’s a fast 2-hour train service from London Liverpool Street. Coming from abroad? We have a friendly little international airport, a short 40 minute hop from Amsterdam. The lovely North Norfolk coast is less than an hour away by car, and the famous Norfolk Broads are even closer. You can hire boats by the day or the week and really get away from it all. The wildlife is fabulous.
Feature written by Euan Pearson