There are thirteen National Trust properties in Norfolk including five spectacular coastal sites. However my favourite properties are the estates at Blickling and Felbrigg, situated fourteen and twenty-one miles respectively north of Norwich.
Both Blickling Estate and Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate – to give them their full National Trust titles – are well endowed with attractive gardens and extensive parkland surrounding well-preserved stately homes with fascinating histories.
When I visited in late November, Blickling Estate including the Hall was fully open. However, like many National Trust properties, Felbrigg was suffering from Winter Openings, meaning that the Hall itself was not open.
Blickling Hall is one of the finest houses cared for by the National Trust, with many of its well-presented rooms open to the public. Anne Boleyn’s connection with the Hall adds an extra dimension, as she was born in the Tudor manor house on the site of the present Jacobean Hall. A Holbein portrait of Henry VIII adds to this underlying theme.
Allow plenty of time to wander around the Hall and follow the lives of the many families that occupied the estate, from the Godwinson family in the 11th Century, via the Erpingham, Fastolfe, Boleyn and Hobart families, to the Kerrs who bequested the estate to the National Trust in 1940. I found it fascinating to see the different portrait styles of family members through the centuries.
A curious feature when touring the Hall is the old servant’s tunnel beneath the main entrance, which takes you from one side of the Hall to the other. However this is the one part of the house that does not have wheelchair access and requires an alternative route.
The 55 acres of gardens around the Hall have been landscaped over three centuries and give great views back to the Hall, particularly from the Temple. The Orangery is rather hidden away on the edge of the garden and I almost missed seeing the recently regenerated walled garden as access is only via the East Wing garden.
There are over 4,600 acres of parkland to explore with four marked routes varying in length from 1.9 to 4 miles. I chose a combination of two walks which took me past the mausoleum and back to the Hall via the lake. The final part around the lake was rather muddy, as maybe to be expected in November.
Blickling Estate has three cafés – the Stables café serves main meals whilst the Muddy Boots café and Farmyard café serve only drinks and snacks.
However I opted for a pint in the Buckinghamhire Arms pub just by the car park and enjoyed a real ale in pleasant surroundings.
Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate
As mentioned above, the Hall was not open when I visited. Apparently its fine Georgian interior includes family rooms that are, according to the National Trust, a mixture opulence and homeliness. I made do with admiring the Hall’s external Jacobean architecture, as I explored the gardens and parkland.
The walled garden was colourful even at that time in the year, particularly the area featuring exotic plants, and the massive docecote, which can house up to 1,000 birds, provides a striking feature within the garden. Take care if you enter the dovecote as it still has many resident doves.
If you wish to explore the 1,760 acres of parkland, there are four designated walks varying in length from 1.5 to 4.5 miles and passing features such as St Margaret’s Church, the icehouse and the lake.
I took the Victory V Walk through the Great Wood and past the V-shaped beech-lined avenue which was planted in memory of the estate-owner’s brother who was killed in the Second World War.
Although the main Hall was closed, there was access to a servant’s wing with Victorian kitchen, and the Squire’s Pantry was open for refreshments.
Joining the National Trust
If you visit heritage sites regularly, then Annual Membership of the National Trust can save you a lot of money. See my article: English Heritage versus National Trust – Which to join?
With regard to Winter Openings, see: English Heritage and the National Trust – Winter Openings
POSTED 22nd DECEMBER 2019 by STEVE HANSON. Some of the photographs were taken by BARBARA HANSON.