East Anglia is a bit different from the rest of England. Out on a limb and untroubled by motorways, it leads nowhere. Should you find yourself marooned on the north coast of Norfolk you could do worse than to take lodgings at Wiveton Hall. There is a wing to rent and it sleeps nine.
Photographs by Kendra Wilson.
Above: The wing, which overlooks a sunken garden. The wing is an Edwardian extension built on to the 17th century house. A map in the scullery details a “Plan of Drains” showing a maze-like route around the ground floor. It’s quite cozy, with the coach house almost next to the parlor–via the harness room, fruit room, gun room, and billiard room.
The outside eating area for the wing is an old farmyard. The farm is very much in evidence at Wiveton and provides fresh produce for the wonderful cafe, as does the walled garden.
Above: The old walled garden has a decidedly French feel. A potager which is honestly tended; a bit wild here and there, not intentionally decorative but ravishing nonetheless.
A French atmosphere was one of the aspirations of the Bloomsbury group and this garden does feel very Bloomsbury. Desmond MacCarthy, the owner of Wiveton, is the grandson of another Desmond MacCarthy, an active, card-carrying member of the group.
Above: A rounded hut in the walled garden, originally a dairy and latterly a fruit store.
There is a lot of flint in Norfolk. It makes up cottages, paths, and walls and sometimes looms large in churches and manor houses. No matter how grand the building style, this vernacular material makes everything look painstakingly handmade, which of course it is.
Above: Oriental poppies. Flint also provides an excellent backdrop for all plants.
Above: A tree peony in the sunken garden.
The north Norfolk coast is worth a meander, with delightful small towns dotted amongst large estates. The beaches are either pebbly or long, wide and smooth. The sandy beach at Holkham is wooded, with riders on horseback a common sight. At low tide you can walk for what seems like miles before getting to knee-length water–which is unbelievably cold.
Above: View of an old barn and the more formal garden from an upstairs window of the wing.
Above: One of the bedrooms. Many of the rooms have vaulted ceilings. There is a classic curtained four-poster and a room for children decorated in old nursery style. Views overlook the marshes towards Blakeney Point and Norfolk’s lovely, windy coast. The North Sea would be a 15-minute walk away if you were prepared to tackle a couple of ditches along the way.
Above: Portrait of a relation in a fair isle jumper. The wing and indeed the estate has a very relaxed feel, while maintaining comfort. Slow restoration takes place but nothing drastic, and all in keeping. This shade of blue is used for the exterior and interior woodwork around the wing.
Above: Plenty of enticing books line the shelves. People book Wiveton a year in advance in August, planning to return at the same time every year. School holidays only last for a few weeks in the UK from mid-July on, so choose your time carefully and Norfolk will be its usual quiet self.
Above: The old tennis court and its pavilion, near the front of the house. The wall to the left is being patched up.
Above: Dogs are welcome at Wiveton though they may have to make do with the utility room. There are chickens and pigs, one of which had escaped on the evening of my visit.
Planning a trip to England? See more hotels, shops, restaurants, and public gardens in our United Kingdom Travel Guide.